Air Out Your Spirits at the Laramie River Ranch

A vacation away from technology at Laramie River Ranch on the Colorado and Wyoming border, riding horses with Rocky Mountain National Park views.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.” John Muir 

Guest ranches have provided a means for city folks to air out their spirits since the turn of the century, but today they are multi-sport adventures leaping generation gaps and crossing cultural barriers in a single bound. They are perfect for the single parent traveling with a teen, extended families spread across the continent looking for a place to re-unite, mature couples in which one-half of the unit is a horse-person and the other is normal, mature singles who enjoy sharing in a family environment, and anyone who ever dreamed of being a cowboy or girl.

horses coming in from the pasture laramie River Ranch Colorado

Horses coming in from the pasture.

The Laramie River Ranch, on the border of Wyoming and Colorado, provides an authentic western experience with all the comforts of home. Nestled sweetly beside the cooling Laramie River in lush green pastures framed in pine-sheathed mountains, who could ask for more? Bill and Krista Burleigh searched the American West for this spot and settled here in 1995 because of its endless miles of trails with good footing that fanned out to mind-expanding vistas. Krista wanted to offer rides that would excite the most seasoned horse lovers as well as those just coming to the sport.

young cowboy laramie river ranch colorado

A young cowboy at Laramie River Ranch.

This is not a nose-to-tail operation. It is more like riding with a friend on your own well-mannered mount. You don’t have to groom or tack up your horse unless you want to do a little bonding with the one you will be riding for the week. They do offer a 4-night stay if your time is limited and you will get plenty of good riding in that time. Clinics are available for beginners and more advanced riders who want to improve their skills.

The clatter of hooves on the bridge crossing the river—horses coming in from the night at pasture—is your wake-up call. A hearty breakfast with other guests in the dining hall starts off your day’s adventure. It was late June, springtime in the Rockies, when I arrived. After a brief safety orientation, we headed out for our first romp of the sage-littered hills. From a distance the terrain looks plain, but upon closer inspection it is peppered with an abundance of wildflowers. Wildlife encountered on a ride could include antelope, elk, moose, coyote, and the occasional buffalo that has strayed off the neighbors’ 50,000 acres.

Laramie River Ranch

Riding horses with stunning vistas at the ranch.

The ride to Crazy Mountain brought us up to a knoll with a head-spinning vista that takes in the peaks of the Rewah Mountains and Rocky Mountain National Park to the south and the Snowy Range in Wyoming to the north. There are no telephone poles or power lines to mar the sense of being part of the Old West. At one time, Native Americans of the Cheyanne, Arapaho, and Shoshone tribes called this valley home in the summer. I half-expected a noble savage to appear on a ridge holding a feathered staff mounted on his paint pony. The ranch looks like a kid’s toy set from this vantage and is surrounded by BLM land that has not changed in the last hundred years.

The Crazy Mountain Ranch ride

You'll want your camera on the Crazy Mountain ride.

Over a tasty steak dinner, one gentleman told me he had come here with his father when he was 5 years old. He said the lunch stop on the all-day ride was just as he remembered it. He was thrilled to be able to duplicate this experience with his daughter who had never ridden a horse before. To his delight (excepting the complete restoration of the lodge and cabins done by the Burleighs in 1996), the ranch experience was the same stop in time of his boyhood. I’m sure they will be back again. According to the wranglers, his daughter “stuck to the saddle like a spider monkey sniffing glue.”

Lode at Laramie River Ranch Rahwa

Prior to operating as Laramie River Dude Ranch, for over forty years, the ranch was the UT Bar Dude Ranch with some structures today dating back to the 1890s.

No cell service and nary a flat screen brings people together at the end of a riding, fishing, or hiking day. Adventures are shared at happy hour along with some zippy appetizers like jalapeno poppers. Healthy dinner choices begin with fresh greens and end with divine desserts like pecan pie and cheese cake smothered in plump blueberries and sauce to die for. Not that food is all I think about, but the great outdoors does stimulate the appetite.

Evenings are spent listening to a singing cowboy who rivals Willie Nelson or doing a boot-scootin’ boogie for those who have the energy after a day’s ride. I preferred the hot tub under the stars airing out my spirits while soothing muscles for the next big day’s adventures.

How you can go: Laramie River Ranch is located about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Denver via Interstates 25 and 80 to Laramie.

About the author: Linda Ballou, author of The Cowgirl Jumped over the Moon, loves seeing the world from the back of a good horse. Read articles about horse treks, guest ranches she has enjoyed and more about her book at