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The National Dude Ranch Association (DRA) has over 10,000 trail rides throughout the Western United States and Canada. Travel across National Forest, BLM, private acreage and hundreds of miles of waterways that traverse high and low altitude, valley and mountain, desert and coast, with the wranglers of the DRA. However, of all these options, which is truly the wildest in 2018?
Border Ride—THE WILDEST RIDE
Rancho de la Osa, Sasbe, Arizona
It’s both scenery and the current political state of the country that makes this ride at the remarkable ranch, quite possibly, the most WILD in the West! Rancho de la Osa houses Arizona’s oldest continually used building, constructed in an Indian village around 1720 by Jesuit missionaries.
In 1812, the ranch was part of the Ortiz Brothers Spanish land grant and with Mexican independence from Spain, the ranch became part of Mexico. In 1916, Pancho Villa raided and attempted to take Rancho de la Osa and a cannonball from the attack was found embedded in the adobe wall of the Hacienda, which is on display today.
Once you’ve taken in the enormous breadth of Rancho de la Osa’s history, saddle up and choose the Ranch’s U.S.—Mexico Border ride. Yes, you read that correctly, guests of all riding abilities can see and even touch The Wall.
Start on horseback through wooded mesquite trails and low sandy washes. Next, the wranglers will take you past the Ranch’s cemetery, dating from the early 1800s. From here, the horses leave the ranch, cross into La Mirador Ranch and continue to the border with Mexico, about a 20-minute ride. You travel directly to the fence separating the countries. There, wranglers can describe the scenery that unfolds. They can explain the reason for the black jugs piled feet high in some places, the blankets, clothes and more.
After all questions are answered, and there are many, wranglers will continue on with the ride reemerging at the ranch. For those who are curious, the wall ends abruptly in the desert. Draw your own conclusions, but history and reality are present, evident and relevant!
The Other Border Ride
Bar W Guest Ranch, Whitefish, MT
For the second wildest ride, the DRA is going to take you to our northern border with Canada. At Bar W Ranch, there is a full-day horseback ride that will take guests to an extremely wild site. Throughout the day the terrain changes and riders can walk, trot, or lope through open meadows and lush forests before exploring Lake Koocanusa. Riders think they’ve entered a postcard with a majestic mountain backdrop and long sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. Lake Koocanusa signifies the cooperation between two friendly neighbors, “Koocanusa” is an abbreviation of Kootenai River and the first three letters of Canada and USA.
The “wildest” part of this ride is traveling along the three-wire fence separating the two neighbors, USA and Canada. The fence can be seen for miles stretching in a straight line across rolling hills before disappearing into the distance. A small stone obelisk distinguishes the border and makes for a prime photo opportunity for guests who dare to put a leg on each side and claim to be in two countries at once.
Get lost in the lower 48’s largest protected wilderness
Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, Winston, New Mexico
The Gila National Forest expands over 3.3 million acres, is the largest federally protected landmass in the lower 48, and is also the first wilderness area designated in the United States.
The terrain is wild, and the history won’t disappoint either. In one canyon alone, Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch takes riders through 1,000 years of history from Mimbres to Apaches to Basque and tin miners. Aptly named Dwelling Canyon, this location has been a geologically unique stopping place for years marked with pictographs, cliff dwellings, Basque structures, and mining equipment. Sitting in a cave that demonstrates humanity for thousands of years, now that’s wild.
The ranch will also take you on rides through Taylor Creek Canyon, Beaver Canyon, Whitewater Canyon, Hoyt Canyon, just some of the spectacular canyons that are truly awe-inspiring and jaw dropping. Gaze up at canyon walls as you ride through creeks fed by warm spring waters.
Wild for Wildlife
Private Elk Pastures
Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge, Flathead Lake, Montana
Horseback ride through a 500-acre Montana elk preserve. Guests are led into the ranch’s private elk preserve where they will be able to view mature bull and cow elk in their natural habitat. Depending on the time of year riders view the Lodge’s heard in full velvet or mature growth. In the fall guests can watch from a distance as the bull elk spar with each other testing their strength for the rut.
Moose in Moose, WY
Gros Ventre River Ranch
Grab a cup of cowboy coffee and a glance at one of America’s largest mammals along this wild breakfast ride. Gros Ventre River Ranch in Moose, WY, has riders leave by 7 am from the barn to get the best in at dawn when wildlife is active before bedding down for the day. Exciting sightings include moose, elk, and eagles. The Jackson Hole area is notorious for iconic wildlife and this particular ride allows guests to see the ranch’s valley during a serene time when most are still sleeping.
The final destination is a picnic spot by the Gros Ventre River. There, breakfast is prepared in cast iron pots over the fire. The menu includes biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, fruit tea, juice, hot chocolate, and, of course, more cowboy coffee.
Lazy L & B Ranch, Dubois, WY
There are a few spots left in America where you can view wild horses. Luckily, the horses on staff at Lazy L & B Ranch know where to find them. The ranch offers a three-hour round trip ride where wranglers will bring you atop a mesa behind the ranch. The view is spectacular, and more often than not, guests will have the opportunity to see at least one of the herds of wild horses that inhabit the area. It’s remarkable to be on a horse and take in the noises and sights of their wild cousins.
Have you ever considered a dude ranch for your next family vacation? Be sure to check out a full list of Dude Ranches and Guest Ranches at the Dude Rancher’s Association.
Tonya Denmark is a busy mom of two children. She loves planning travel, road trips, 80’s movies, and coffee. She’s been detail obsessed for as long as she can remember and brings her best finds and travel advice to the Detail Oriented Traveler.