Colorado's dude and guest ranches are known for amazing family vacations, but they also make for incredible couple's getaways.
Most of the state's ranches offer adult-only weeks, usually in the fall, when the pace slows a bit, the menus are a little more gourmet and guests can be found canoodling in front of glowing fires set amid spectacular mountain backdrops. These all-inclusive retreats welcome you to take part in as many — or as few — ranch activities as you'd like, including hikes, trail rides, cattle drives, fishing excursions and boating, all of which can be tailored to all abilities.
Many ranches also throw in unexpected luxuries like spa treatments, yoga sessions and cooking classes. All of them have incredible home-cooked meals, serene settings and hospitality you can't stop talking about (we're serious about this one — read any online review of these ranches to see people expound on this subject).
Although a week is the standard ranch stay, ensuring guests are really able to unplug and savor ranch life, these adults-only periods are a bit more flexible. Some even open their lodges and cabins to overnight travelers when they're not booked up, featuring B&B services and a la carte activities.
Below is a sampling of the amenities that will appeal to couples looking for romance and relaxation. Visit the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association for more comprehensive listings.
This Gunnison National Forest ranch ranks among the best in the delicious meal category (though couple's massages and guided adventures for two amp up the three-night Romantic Mountain Getaway package). Shade-tree picnics, a world-class wine cellar and private candle-light dinners focus on farm-to-table cuisine, with many of the ingredients harvested from the ranch's own garden.
For couples who aren't on the same page when it comes to communing with nature, C Lazy U has the perfect solution: For one night of your trip, they'll arrange a "luxury campout." A ranch hand will guide you to a campsite with large cozy tent (with a king-size bed inside!), s'mores kit, firepit and other delights. Back at the ranch, deluxe rooms have a stocked mini-bar, plush robes, fresh-fruit baskets and options like jetted tubs and fireplaces.
A prestigious Relais & Châteaux property, Home Ranch offers three- and four-night stays for adults each August and September. Live music, roaring campfires, fall-color hikes or horseback rides, and Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing on a private section of the Elk River keep guests busy — even as the in-ranch chef's haute mountain cuisine tempts them to loiter around the dining room.
4UR sets itself apart from the outset with one major amenity: its very own natural hot springs. Those who can find their way out of the mineral water and into the elegant accommodations will also enjoy a cozy little bar and an Adirondack-style porch perfect for stargazing. Seven miles of private tailwaters on Goose Creek, long trail rides and food and wine from a Cordon Bleu-trained chef aren't so bad either.
Toward the end of September, Vista Verde hosts an adults-only cattle gather, which is a remarkable experience on its own, but becomes even more so amid changing leaves and crisp fall air. You'll definitely feel you've earned the hot-tub soak and three-course dinners that follow. Cooking classes and wine tasting are just a few of the off-horse activities to choose from.
This ranch also has a perfect-for-couples fall cattle drive; this one ambles through a secluded river valley. Additionally, Laramie River has a naturalist program to help visitors explore the area through wildflower hikes, birdwatching, stargazing, orienteering and more. Three-, four- or seven-night adults-only stays are available in September.
Lost Valley refers to its accommodations as "Levi luxurious with cattle baron comforts." The cabins, complete with stone fireplaces and porches with lounge swings, are nestled in the pines overlooking the valley. Adults-only weeks in September and October feature cattle drives and rides through golden aspen stands and a long list of activities that can be totally ignored by those who prefer to just laze around this peaceful ranch.
Photo: Courtesy of the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association/Home Ranch.