The sun’s barely up and you’ve already groomed and saddled your horse, gathered and sorted a few dozen cattle, and started the fire for branding the calves later in the morning. After lunch, you’ll ride out north to check on the fences, make sure there’s enough water in the stock tank, and check for strays. And last week, you were just another desk jockey sitting in a cubicle.
Located in a remote corner of northern Colorado, the Colorado Cattle Company offers city slickers the chance to spend a week in the old West. A shuttle service is available from Denver’s Stapleton airport. Once they arrive, guests are shown to their accommodations at the bunkhouse, a 19th-century structure—and one of the original buildings at the ranch—that’s been updated with modern conveniences like wireless Internet service and air-conditioning.
Life at the Colorado Cattle Company isn’t your typical high-end silver-plated dude ranch—this is a 5,000-acre (2,023-hectare) working cattle ranch that allows only a few guests at a time, so folks who show up are given the full cowboy treatment—riding, roping, and rodeos are on the schedule just about every day. You’ll be expected to put in some time in the saddle, so you should come prepared to do so: Pack cowboy boots, boot socks, a long-sleeved shirt or two, plenty of sunscreen, and a cowboy hat with a stampede string in case you need to do some hard, fast riding. Some folks also recommend padded bike shorts to prevent saddle sores.
Tough as it is, life as a cowhand at the Colorado Cattle Company isn’t all work and no play. The folks there are happy to help greenhorns who want to practice the fine arts of barrel racing, roping, and auctioneering. There’s also a well-stocked fishing pond, an indoor swimming pool, and a sauna for relieving aching muscles. The cooks can accommodate special requests like vegetarian meals, and after a long day in the saddle, what could be better than bellying up to the ranch’s bar for a nice cold beer?
Help work the cattle at the Colorado Cattle Company.
Colorado Cattle Co. & Guest Ranch ( 970/437-5345; www.coloradoduderanch.com).
When to Go: Apr–Nov.
Denver (67 miles/108 miles).