Top 9 dude ranch escapes

Unplug your smartphone and reconnect to the backcountry at our favorite dude ranch spots

Peter Fish, Mackenzie Geidt, and Haley Minick

The Wild Horse Sanctuary, Shingletown, CA. This isn't your typical dude ranch--it's a wild mustang ranch! Hundreds of wild horses roam 5,000 protected acres in the foothills of Mt. Lassen, and summer overnight rides help support the ranch. Catch glimpses of the herds on an all-day trail ride up to camp at Vernal Lake, where cute cabins, a hot shower, and the cookhouse await. Starry nights by the campfire are made for storytelling and s'mores. 2-to-3-day rides from $435/person;

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, Solvang, CA. Proof that you don't have to head to the Rockies to find a ranch with cowboy cred: This 10,500-acre Santa Barbara County spread will saddle you up for breakfast rides ($75), hay-wagon dinner rides, and even a rodeo if you're feeling brave. Still, this is the Santa Ynez Valley--if your muscles get too sore, take a breather and do some winery touring. From $495; 2-night min.;

Eatons' Ranch, Wolf, WY. In the 1880's it was Howard Eaton who came up with the idea of luring Eastern-ers west to spend vacations pretending to be cowboys. So Eatons' is both a genuine historic landmark and a terrific place to spend a summer week. Cabins are simple but comfortable, the ranch setting is stunning, and Sheridan is one of the most appealing small towns in the West. From $210/person/night; 3-night min.;

Tanque Verde Ranch, Tucson, AZ. Tanque Verde opened as a working ranch smack-dab in the Rincon Mountains in 1868, but turn-of-the-century ranchers would puzzle over today's incarnation. Guests get a taste of Old West during trail rides, then hop out of the saddle for such modern comforts as hot stone massages, or blueberry pancake cookouts and happy hours with homemade prickly-pear margaritas. From $165/person/night May-Oct;

Rancho De La Osa Guest Ranch, Near Tucson, AZ. History buffs, beware: You may never want to leave this ranch. The adobe hacienda survived an attack from Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution, and guests can touch a Mexican cannonball pried from the walls for the main buidling. Ranch chefs honor the place's historic roots with fusion fare, and beer is served all day. Don't want to ride horses? Try the Hacienda Rate (from $225/person/night; 2-night min.) for a high Sonoran weekend of hiking, biking, and bird-watching. From $300/person/night; 2-night min.; 

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