Experience Colorado’s Cowboy Heritage and Western Ways

Colorado is steeped in the legacy of the Wild West – a rugged and romantic history of grand adventure, exploration and settlement. Today, the state’s western heritage is engrained in elements of daily life from modern cuisine, to adventure excursions, colorful historical characters, ranching, rodeos, horse bloodlines and craftsmen.  Whether in the saddle or with boots on the ground, unplug, explore and experience a bit of Colorado’s heritage and western ways.
Dude and Guest Ranches
Across the state more than 30 dude and guest ranches offer the grit and adventure of the old west, mingled with modern charm and comfort. From luxury family ranch vacations that include riding programs, mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing, kid and teen programs, cooking classes, wine tasting, rock climbing and more, to working ranch vacations including calving, branding nights filled with county western music, square dancing and just plain ole’ conversation, these ranches provide the best in Western hospitality and genuine authentic experiences. If your vacation time is limited, several ranches offer “dude ranch lite” stays of 3 to 5 days.
Cowboy Craftsmen
The rugged ways of the old west resulted in some crafty trades and traditions; try your hand at blacksmithing at The Fort in Morrison, leather working at Smith Fork Ranch, or taste chuck wagon and Dutch oven cooking at Doc Jones' Cookoff. For leather crafting, admire a saddle from world-renowned craftsman, Rusty May, who has been refining saddle and leather accessory techniques for more than 40 years. Learn to paint or master your technique in a horse painting class at Zapata Ranch.
Museums: History, Horses and Heroes
Museums attest to Colorado’s proud cowboy heritage. The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame for foundation stallions recognizes Hayden, Colorado as the home of the Quarter Horse sire bloodlines of Old Fred and Peter McCue. In the Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley, visit historic schoolhouses and rail yards at the Gunnison Pioneer Museum and the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum, originally a blacksmith shop, for a glimpse of what life was like in the early days. Outside La Junta, visit Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, a reconstructed 1840s adobe fur trading post on the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail.  In Denver, History Colorado Center is a must see for locals and visitors who want to experience early life on the prairie dustbowl and across the state.
Boots, Spurs and a Hat
Colorado-Western casual attire carries on its roots in long-time retailers across the state. In Colorado Springs, head to Lorig’s, originally established in 1932, for quality and style that originated with the Lorig family’s business selling to mining camps and trading posts. F.M. Light and Sons in Steamboat Springs boasts a long history of outfitting the town since 1905. Visit third generation Rockmount Ranch Wear in Denver, the creator of the first western shirt with snaps. Discover cowboy hats constructed on vintage equipment using centuries-old, hands-on craftsmanship techniques with Master Hatter Nate Funmaker at Nathaniel’s in Mancos.
Outfitters and Trail rides
If your love of horses involves multi-day excursions in the backcountry, experience Colorado like the early explorers did, when horses were the fastest way to travel. From iconic landmarks hidden deep in Colorado’s public lands, to rocky vistas above the Continental Divide, horseback outfitters offer day rides and packed multi-day adventure. Every ride is an unforgettable trip into the backcountry and a memorable nod to the cowboy lifestyle. Colorado Outfitters Association members are professionals who are registered, bonded and insured for your protection. Their many years of experience will enhance the safety and enjoyment of your outdoor experience.
Rodeos, Fairs, and The Stock Show
Colorado’s Western spirit is reincarnated at rodeos across the state from the National Western Stock Show, to the Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo,  to State Fair in Pueblo and every rural county fair in between, where tradition transpires through activities like bull riding, steer wrestling and livestock competitions. Many, like the Steamboat Pro Rodeo or Gunnison’s Cattleman’s Days, are more than 100 years old and feature professional events and kid-friendly activities like calf or ram scrambles, mutton bustin’, livestock shows and country home dances.
Work, Sit, Stay
On every working ranch, there are hard working ranch dogs that are a cowboy’s loyal companions. Stock and sheep dog trials test the agility, speed, style and teamwork of working dogs and their owners. Attend the National Cattledog Finals in Steamboat, or the Meeker Championship Sheepdog Trials, and witness the skills of some of the top cattle and sheep dogs hard at work moving and protecting ranch animals.
Festivals and Events
Coloradans love an excuse to celebrate, especially if it means flashing back –in costume, culture and content – to the Old West. Enjoy chuck wagon dinners at the Bar D Wrangler Chuckwagon, tunes and tales at Cowboy Poetry Festivals across the state, the Wild Wild West Festival in Pueblo, or Buffalo Bill Days in Golden. Step into the past at a historic saloon and find traces of gunshots, saloon girls and ragtime music at the Diamond Belle Saloon in Durango.
In the Movies
Rugged terrain, steam locomotives, and dramatic scenery were just some of the things that drew film makers to the Centennial State to shoot Westerns like: “City Slickers”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “The Lone Ranger”, “True Grit”, “How the West Was Won”, “The Searchers”, and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush”. The Rochester Hotel in Durango pays tribute to the movies filmed in Southwestern Colorado with an extensive collection of original movie marquee signs and rooms inspired by movies shot in the area.
Sought for its riches and wild territories, Colorado finds its wealth in the history and heritage of those who made their homes in the majestic mountains, high deserts and grass prairies of the Centennial state. A visit to Colorado isn’t complete without experiencing the Old West; the history is so intertwined with the present in Colorado that a visit to the past is a seamless addition to modern-day travel.
Colorado is a four-season destination offering unparalleled adventure and recreational pursuits, a thriving arts scene, a rich cultural heritage, flavorful cuisine, and 25 renowned ski areas and resorts. The state's breathtaking scenic landscape boasts natural hot springs, the headwaters of seven major rivers, many peaceful lakes and reservoirs, 11 national parks and monuments and 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet. 
For more information or a copy of the 2014 Colorado Official State Vacation Guide, visit www.COLORADO.com or call 1-800-COLORADO. Follow Colorado on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramPinterest, Google+, Foursquare,  Flickr, Tumblr and YouTube.
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