Ranch Vacation Tips: Dude Ranch versus Guest Ranch

What is a dude ranch? Why do you call it a dude ranch? How do you define a dude ranch? Is it dude ranch or guest ranch? Well, let Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch answer that for you!

by Kelly Burns

First, let us tell you a little about the history of ranch vacations. In the late 1800s, ranchers in the Dakotas began opening their homes to visitors from back East. They let visitors partake in hunting, fishing, riding, and other ranch activities. As their numbers grew, visitors realized they were pushing the limits of western hospitality the ranchers were offering. Visitors started offering to pay for room and board and, consequently, the seeds of a new industry were born.

Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch guests

Guests get ready to ride at Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch.

As a result of these vacations, it was found that ranch work made the guests physically healthier. In addition, ranches being located in remote and scenic settings made visitors mentally healthier. When ranching was no longer possible due to the fading cattle market, ranchers began to dedicate themselves solely to hosting “dudes”. Being called a “dude” was synonymous with being a city dweller from back East. In the early 1900s, the expansion of railroads and the growing preservation of western lands expanded the number of ranches across the west. Due to this, the Dude Ranchers Association (DRA) was born.

The newly formed association worked with railroads to increase the number of passengers while promoting dude ranches as destinations. As the populations of the East and Midwest increased, visitors were drawn to the wide open spaces and remoteness of the west. Over the past 100 years, more and more people continue to be drawn to the West. Ranches continue today as places where visitors (be they dudes or guests) enjoy “the beauty, natural resources and the original western ranch experiences that attracted its first visitors.”

So is it dude ranch or guest ranch? What really is the difference between a dude ranch and a guest ranch?

Is it dude ranch or guest ranch?

As best we can gather, it is just wording. The term “dude” may have faded from the popular vernacular due to its negative connotations of believing naïve Easterners wanted to be turned into rootin’ tootin’ cow folks. Both are places that invite guests to come share in the Western lifestyle (or Southwestern in our case). For ranches that are members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association (as Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch is), that means ranches offer an all-inclusive vacation that immerses you in the lifestyle of the owners. The Dude Ranchers’ Association has more than 100 members calling themselves either dude or guest ranches. Is there a difference between a dude ranch or guest ranch? Most of all, it really comes down to personal preference.

Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch canyon rides

Riding through canyons with Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch.

At Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, we personally define the dude ranch or guest ranch difference by its capacity and flexibility. By defining ourselves as a guest ranch, we feel that indicates a more intimate experience with no lines or schedules. Our maximum capacity of 16 guests ensures a much more personalized experience as compared to a “dude ranch” that caters to over 100 people. As well, we offer flexibility in the number of nights you can stay. Dude ranches tend to have a structure and schedule for a fixed number of nights (typically six). Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch has a three-night minimum but you can stay anywhere from three up to seven nights.

Geronimo Trail guest Ranch cat

After you finish brushing your horse, don't forget to brush Clementine!

Final answer: dude ranch or guest ranch?

In conclusion, we welcome all visitors with open arms (regardless of how you define a ranch). Ranch owners want to share their unique livelihood with all who are open to it. The horses, the history, and the outdoors are our passion. No matter how long you can stay for, we will welcome you into our home so you can experience it for yourself. Contact us today and experience Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch for yourself.   

Learn about Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch on their website, Top20Ranches and in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide