If you grew up reading Louis L’Amour books about the Wild West, your romantic notions about the Lone Star State might run more towards dusty cattle drives than the bright, cosmopolitan lights of San Antonio. So when it comes time to make that trip to Texas and weed through a long list of Texas hotels, we have a suggestion: get yourself (and your hoss) to the nearest dude ranch. Not only can you hone your skills horseback, but you’ll also get fresh perspective on the likes of chuck wagon races and rodeos. Forget typical Texas hotels? That’s right y’all.
Despite the state’s cattle-concentrated roots, there’s a surprising shortage of dude ranches within Texas lines, we’re talking less than ten. Of the bunch, a good half-dozen are located in Texas Hill Country, a pretty stretch of central Texas flocked with sweeping oak trees and punctuated by rugged hillocks. It’s only about an hour from San Antonio, which makes it an easily accessible area to boot. There’s also a luxury hotel cum ranch near Marfa, Texas, convenient if you’re hoping to see the Marfa lights (Cibola Creek Ranch), and a ranch near Dallas, Texas with bunkhouse rooms available (Rocking L Ranch) but otherwise, Bandera, Texas is the best base for dude ranch action.
While the list of amenities on offer can range from luxury to low-key, there are some things you can reasonably expect of your ranch stay. Like horses. If everyone in that family but you likes a good gallop, don’t be put off - there’s usually more to do on a dude ranch than trot. However, horses do feature prominently. Plan for daily trail rides and hearty cowboy breakfasts to set the pace. But, depending on where you bunk for the night (and the season), you might also find a swimming pool on hand, a fishing hole, hay wagon rides, hiking trails and even, at Silver Spur Guest Ranch, a fossil pit. Others, like the Rancho Cortez, offer cattle round-ups, overnight camp-outs and even fitness classes, lest you shake something loose on that final trail ride. Access a registered masseuse and hunt for arrowheads between rides at Dixie Dude Ranch, or snag if you can a saddle for a real-life cattle drive at the Running-R. Yee-haw? Yes, we should say so.