Everything?s bigger in Texas, or so the saying goes. Well these cowboys sure know how to do hospitality. Live the Texan life at a dude and guest ranch on your next trip to the Lone Star state with our round-up of the best spots in the Texas Hill Country near Austin.
Cowboy ranches, or rather dude ranches as they are more commonly known, are the beating heart of the big ol? state of Texas. After all, Texas holds the title for the most farms and ranches in the USA, so this is the place to go if you want an authentic cowboy experience. Alas, as the second largest state in the USA it can be difficult to know which area to visit. Whilst Houston, Dallas and Austin are obvious choices, you?ll need to head out into the Texas Hill Country if you want to find the best dude and guest ranches. Bandera, often referred to as the ?Cowboy Capital of the World? tops the list, but there?s also great ranches in nearby areas such as Tarpley. And, since most are a short drive from Austin, it?s easy to include it in a USA road-trip (check out our insider info on New Orleans, San Francisco and Chicago for more inspiration).
Expect top class southern hospitality, a jam-packed schedule of organised activities which include horseback riding, hiking and fishing and of course extra-large portions of the hearty, delicious food Texas is known for (hello pecan pie).
So come on ya?ll, it?s time to put on your cowboy boots and hop in the saddle to discover the best dude and guest ranches in the Texas Hill Country.
DIXIE DUDE RANCH, BANDERA
- Address: 833 Dixie Dude Ranch Rd, Bandera, TX 78003
- Distance from Austin: 2 hours 25 minutes drive
- Accommodation: choose from a cottage, cabin or lodge room.
- Facilities: large pool with hot tub, fishing pond, gift shop, onsite massage therapists.
- Best for: those looking for an authentic, all-inclusive ?cowboy? experience complete with horseback riding, home-cooked meals and rustic lodgings.
If you?re new to the world of dude ranches, stay at Dixie Dude Ranch in the heart of Bandera. Set in 725 acres of land in the Texas Hill Country, Dixie?s Dude Ranch is a working ranch with longhorn cattle, Spanish goats and pigs, which has been running for over 75 years. Its resident cowboys compete in rodeos when they?re not tending to the cattle or taking guests on picturesque horseback rides.
Stay in one of the cute cottages or cosy cabins for an authentic ranch experience. The 40?s and 50?s decor has been maintained in many of the rooms, with additional amenities and small updates accommodating modern needs. Enjoy outdoor barbecues where you can munch on BBQ ribs, pork sausage and brisket or dine at the big chow hall where guests come running when the chow bell rings. Don?t forget to make time for a few horseback rides ? the sunset option is a must.
MAYAN DUDE RANCH, BANDERA
Photo credit: Jonathon Talley, Mayan Dude Ranch
- Address: 350 Mayan ranch rd, Bandera, TX 78003
- Distance from Austin: 2 hours 20 minutes drive
- Accommodation: individual western native rock cottages.
- Facilities: two horseback rides a day with each booking, tennis courts, summer activity schedule, convention room.
- Best for: for those who love a Western movie ? the rooms are decked out with iron beds, stone walls and patterned quilts.
Set across 348 acres of land, the Mayan Dude Ranch resembles a mini village with an array of cottages scattered around the site, along the edge of the Medina river. There?s also an outdoor ?Cowboy Breakfast Area? where you?ll feast on eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, grits and oven-fresh biscuits every day. In the evening the Riverside Gazebo hosts barbecues or head to ?Hicksville?, a make-shift on-site Western town, for steak, drinking and dancing with live country music.
The Hick family who run Mayan Dude Ranch pride themselves on top class customer service, or ?Horsepitality? as they call it. They have a long list of daily activities on offer to guests which include: hayrides, horseback rides, swimming, roping, country dancing and hiking. Not only that, mealtime is a big deal no matter what time of day, so expect large portions and lots of choice.
7 CANYONS RANCH, TARPLEY
Photo credit: 7 Canyons Ranch
- Address: 1160 Seco Pass Rd, Tarpley
- Distance from Austin: 2 hours 30 minutes drive
- Accommodation: 4,000 square-foot lodge sleeps up to 28 people or separate Hunters Lodge sleeps four.
- Facilities: fire pit, fully equipped kitchen, a grotto-style cave and observation deck.
- Best for: those simply seeking ?Texan? style lodgings.
7 Canyons Ranch was once a gaming ranch but nowadays resides as traditional Texan style lodgings for those passing through western Texas Hill Country. Whilst you can no longer horseback ride or hunt for game, the tranquil, secluded surroundings are ideal for those looking to escape the fast pace of modern life and enjoy a few weeks of relaxation (where do we sign up?).
The interior has everything you?d expect from a ranch ? a large fireplace, stone walls, leather sofas, stuffed animals and wooden furnishings. The dining hall, which can serve up to 50 people, is ideal for groups, meaning the ranch is a great spot for intimate parties or weddings. Book a stay here if you?re looking for a place to unwind ? the cosy outdoor grotto and observation deck is the perfect spot to read a book, enjoy a drink or simply sit back and take in the breathtaking scenery.
RANCHO CORTEZ, BANDERA
- Address: 872 Hay Hollar Rd, Bandera
- Distance from Austin: 2 hours 15 minutes drive
- Accommodation: Lodging options ? family suites, bunkhouse, Navajo-style.
- Facilities: Indoor and outdoor pools, hot tub, cowboy/girls horse camp and a fitness boot-camp.
- Best for: those wishing to shed a few pounds ?cowboy? style and horseback riding instruction for all ages.
For a dude ranch that will suit the entire family, head to Rancho Cortez. This ranch is not only home to traditional horseback riding and instruction, it also runs a Cowboy Fitness Farm that helps guests lose weight and maintain a healthier lifestyle (no big Texan portions here).
The Dude Ranch offers a variety of Western-style horseback riding and instruction packages which include trail rides, access to heated pools, feeding longhorn cattle, hay wagon rides and roasting marshmallows around a campfire. For kids there?s a ?Boys Cowboy Camp? and ?Girls Horse Camp? where they can learn how to care for horses and livestock whilst improving their riding and roping skills.
The Cowboy Fitness Farm describes itself as ?practical, affordable, and results oriented? ? participants are encouraged to work hard to achieve results by adopting a healthier mindset and way of life. With most physical activities taking place outside in the Texan countryside, it?s a lot easier to stay motivated and focused (goodbye treadmill). Healthy meals are provided for the duration with additional talks on nutrition for guests to implement at home.
2E TWIN ELM GUEST RANCH, BANDERA
- Address: 810 FM 470, Bandera
- Distance from Austin: 2 hours 20 minutes drive
- Accommodation: choose from the Bunk House, the Pioneer House, the Travel Lodge or cabins. Camping options also available.
- Facilities: camping and RV options, horseback riding and a ranch store.
- Best for: hardcore cowboy fans who want to brush shoulders with world class rodeo stars.
If you?d like to stay in one of the oldest dude ranches in Texas Hill Country, book a cabin at 2E Twin Elm Guest Ranch. Located a few miles from the ?Cowboy Capital of the World? Bandera, this ranch has been home to a number of rodeo start champions so you know you?re in safe hands.
Enjoy daily activities such as hour-long horseback rides, bird watching and tubing along the river. Head to Bandera for some traditional Tex-Mex food for dinner before returning to the ranch for a night of fun around the campire, with roping and branding demonstrations as well as music and dancing. 2E Twin Elm Guest Ranch also host special weekly events nights including rodeo and team roping, so you?ll get a real taste of life as a cowboy. Be sure to stop by the ranch store to grab a cowboy hat ? you?ll want to look the part.
Have you ever stayed on a Dude Ranch? Share your experience with us on Twitter @travioor or post a comment on Travioor?s Facebook page.
Originally published at www.travioor.com.