If your family loves the great outdoors, here’s a chance to connect with your inner cowboy and ride the trails of the Bighorn mountains for real. Gail and her family have visited twice from London – grab your stetson and come along for a ride
How did you get there? Gail: “We flew to Las Vegas then hired a car and did a road trip through Utah and Colorado up to Buffalo, Wyoming where we spent a week on the ranch. After that we drove to Denver airport to fly back to London.
Wyoming is hicky and slow and feels like real cowboy country – it is absolutely huge, very sparsely populated and the roads go straight on for hundreds of miles with barely another vehicle to be seen. Paradise Ranch is up in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains in a phenomenally beautiful spot. It takes a long time to get to by road but that helps it feel secluded and special once you’re there.
Had any of you ridden before? None of us had ridden before and in fact since then, on the strength of that holiday, Lexie and I have been riding in France too. Maybe it’s just me (I learnt to ski in my 40s as well) but I wasn’t expecting to be scared and I wasn’t scared. You are allocated a horse to suit your ability at the beginning of the week and there’s tuition out on the rides – I was cantering by Day Three. Western saddles are comfortable and feel safe; I was a bit stiff for the first couple of days but fine after that. It just felt great: there’s such a variety of beautiful scenery and you build up a relationship with your horse over the week. The children didn’t even seem to feel uncomfortable – they picked it up very quickly.
What do you do all day on a ranch? There are morning and afternoon rides with lots of different routes and you can choose whether you want a gentle slow ride or a long fast one. You can come back for a meal or go out all day with a packed lunch or you can arrange to ride with your friends.
There’s fishing too: John tried it out one day with a guide and says you really can’t not catch anything! The kids club is fantastic – there are always little calves to bottle feed, a pool, lots of games, tie –dye crafts and quite often the children will choose to go and ride together with a wrangler rather than their parents!
What are the highlights for children? The huge sense of achievement in learning to ride and, for Lexie, it was definitely the relationship with her horse as well. It is amazing to have a connection with a creature that size and Lexie was heartbroken to leave her horse at the end of the trip.
And adults? The utter splendour of the landscape and the scenery. In every direction from the ranch you’ll find a different landscape from the mesa to the snow-capped mountains in the distance. I’ve never been anywhere so physically beautiful. And being on horseback gives you a relationship with that landscape as the terrain changes and you move from rocky paths to wide meadows, slopes and streams.
How about the food and rooms? Families stay in individual log cabins. They are all perfectly spacious and comfortable, not deluxe, some of the bathrooms are a bit tired but it didn’t bother me. It’s a little bit rustic because the season is very short – mid June to September – and the whole place is covered in snow in winter so even the owners move off then. The food is good and hearty and there’s lots of it with everyone sitting at communal tables. The children will often go off and sit together for meals and on some nights they have a cook-out over a campfire while the parents have gourmet dinner. There’s a central bar area for the evenings too.
What was the weather like? Las Vegas and Utah were absolutely boiling – but the ranch is up in the mountains at a few thousand feet so a bit cooler, and the weather was glorious.
Best holiday ever? In terms of something every single member of the family loved – yes. It’s the only place we’ve gone back to twice. The children still ask to go again and two other families we know have been on our recommendation.”
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Gail and family arranged their own fly/drive journey to Paradise Ranch in Buffalo, Wyoming, USA
All photos by Gail and family. All rights reserved, photos may not be reproduced without prior written consent.