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DENVER (July 25, 2013) – Visitors seeking a chance to unplug and experience the Western lifestyle will find rejuvenation in the abundance of skill-based activities at Colorado’s more than 40 working dude and guest ranches. From local wine pairing demonstrations and harvesting produce from the garden to cattle herding and butchery classes, guests will find truly authentic, hands-on experiences that help further establish human connection to animals and the earth. Below is a sampling of Colorado’s unique dude and guest ranch experiential offerings.

Zapata Ranch prides itself on the authentic and extensive program it offers its guests to experience life on a working cattle and bison ranch while enjoying high-end amenities and gourmet food. Situated in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, the ranch hosts weekend workshops that include butchery classes, charcuterie making, cheese making and guided foraging hunts. Chefs instruct guests how to properly butcher and cure different cuts of ranch-raised pork and bison and how to cook gourmet dishes. Visitors also have the opportunity to go on a guided foraging hunt for local wild mint, cow parsnip and berries, and they can bake homemade breads and pastries that include herbs from the ranch using bison sweet grass and cactus fruit.

High Lonesome Ranch on the Western Slope of Colorado offers big game hunting, fly-fishing and wing shooting guided programs. Guests may partake in field dressing their mule deer or elk to learn more about the animal’s anatomy following their guided hunt. Once hunters select their jerky marinade of choice, the bounty of the hunt is then sent home with them after the animal has been processed. Guests may also select produce from the ranch’s large garden to be included in the day's meals, and their head chef also offers tailored cooking classes to guests using freshly harvested produce. 

Wilderness Trails Ranch near Durango offers a real cowboy and cowgirl experience. Guests have the opportunity to participate in handling cattle, horseback riding and cattle drives. The ranch’s herd of 20 yearlings assists visitors in learning basic skills during Cattle 101, such as blocking, herd work, driving and cutting. Guests will learn how to effectively move a herd through mountain terrain during an authentic cattle round-up day or overnight trip.

Home Ranch, just beyond Steamboat Springs, has extended what was typically a short growing season with a kitchen garden to almost year-round fresh produce from their greenhouse. Early May marks the start of harvesting greens and spring veggies, and the season lasts through December with root vegetables. Guests may harvest the fresh produce and learn about gardening during their stay, as well as take cooking classes with freshly plucked products from the greenhouse to help prepare the evening’s meal. The Home Ranch owners teach their guests about the history of the Elk River Valley and the heritage of agriculture in the region over wine during harvest meals on Thursday nights.

Smith Fork Ranch, located in the fertile valley of the Smith Fork River, boasts a rich history of hunting and growing. Smith Fork Ranch has embraced the land’s history and started an organic farmstead that is nurtured with organic waste from around the ranch. Guests can visit a local winemaker and then enjoy regional wines expertly paired with a locally sourced meal, help chefs gather fresh-laid eggs and harvest vegetables from the garden. Smith Fork Ranch’s gardener encourages guests visiting the garden to pick and taste the variety of fruits and vegetables to help visitors establish a stronger connection to the land.

Vista Verde Ranch is a luxury dude and guest ranch in northwestern Colorado that strives to establish and nurture a connection between human and horse. Their extensive horse program and horsemanship clinics instruct guests how to better understand and communicate with horses. The in-depth program teaches visitors how horses think, and they even invite guests to help gently familiarize newborn colts with people.

Chico Basin Ranch, on the high prairie southeast of Colorado Springs, is a rustic family-managed working cattle ranch with cozy accommodations with two bedrooms. The ranch has five spring-fed lakes that are home to an abundance of bass and bluebell. After fishing during the day, guests may have their fish prepared that evening, where they’ll learn how to debone their catch of the day and help cook the meal with the chef.

Colorado Cattle Company in the northeastern corner of the state is an adult only, working cattle ranch that’s home to more than 70 horses and 800 head of cattle on thousands of sprawling acres. Guests are bound to get their hands dirty here as they participate in all the ranch chores right alongside the cowboys. Guests may further their ranch education by participating in Cowboy School, which includes branding, penning, roping, sorting, gathering and doctoring the cattle. Colorado Cattle Company offers guests a real taste of western ranching, as six or more hours are spent on horseback per day, while canyons, buttes and ravines provide beautiful backdrops.

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, 13 national parks and monuments, and 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet. 

For more information or a copy of the 2013 Colorado Official State Vacation Guide, visit or call 1-800-COLORADO. Follow Colorado on TwitterFacebookInstagramPinterestGoogle+FoursquareFlickr, Tumblr and YouTube.

Media are invited to visit the Colorado Media Room for story ideas, news releases, image gallery, and other resources. 

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Contacts:         Roland Alonzi / 646-442-6765, [email protected]

                       Carly Holbrook / 720-289-9366, [email protected]