The home-cooked food is where most luxurious guest ranches shine — ample helpings of beef, pork, chicken and many other basics are available either buffet-style or in family-style serving dishes ready for guests on the table.
Most ranches offer all-inclusive rates that include lodging, food and activities, and sometimes unlimited horseback riding. These are not especially cheap vacations, although the all-inclusive aspect does mean you’ll spend money on nothing else during your stay. Prices for a week at a guest ranch can run from $800 to $1,400 per person, per week, depending on the season and whether horseback riding, taxes and gratuities are included. Daily rates are available at some ranches while others require a one-week minimum. Also ask for family or group rates, which may save you money if you’re taking a family.
There are several luxurious guest ranches located in various parts of California, most situated in mountainous, wooded terrain but easily accessible by car. Here are three examples of California guest ranches:
Greenhorn Creek Ranch — Located near Quincy, California about 70 miles northwest of Reno, NV, this ranch has been catering to California travelers for many years. For the last five years, Ralph and Trish Wilburn have operated the ranch, steadily building clientele and adding amenities. This heavily timbered part of California is known for its many lakes and streams, and ranch guests are always impressed by the area’s overall beauty. The ranch can accommodate up to 80 people in 16 cabins and 12 lodge rooms. A week-long stay at Greenhorn begins with a one-hour riding lesson and basic orientation that matches each guest with the appropriate horse. Throughout the week, guests can get additional instruction and ride on various terrains ranging from gentle slopes to dirt and gravel roads to trails. Other ranch activities include trout fishing in the ranch’s own pond, swimming, frog-racing, square and line dancing, hayrides, bon fires, golf, hiking and even a rodeo. For more information, phone 800-587-2418 or visit www. greenhornranch.com.
Coffee Creek Ranch — This is another Northern California vacation hotspot and is about 72 miles northwest of Redding and located in the heart of the Trinity Alps. This mountainous location is quite wooded and has long been known as an outdoorsman’s favorite. Alicia Ryan is a third-generation owner of the ranch and has put together a variety of activities including horseback riding, swimming, gold panning, archery, skeet shooting and target practice, fly fishing, tubing on a local creek, kids’ games, hayrides, bon fires, line and square dancing and even a talent show. All horseback rides take guests into the high country and many include meals or overnight stays. There is about one ranch employee for every two guests, and typically the ranch will accommodate around 50 people. Hiking trips can be planned, and mountain bike trails parallel the wilderness area. Summer youth programs are specially designed by age group. The ranch even has its own musical group, the “Rattlesnakes,” to entertain guests. For more information, phone 800-624-4480 or visit www.coffeecreekranch.com.
Circle Bar B Ranch — This is a Southern California vacation alternative, located in the Santa Ynez mountains near Santa Barbara. It’s just three miles from the famous Reagan Ranch, where President Ronald Reagan lived, worked and played. Owner Kathy Williams and her family have been entertaining guests for many years not only with the ranch and its activities, but with a dinner theater that was started 34 years ago. Pat Brown, Kathy’s brother and ranch co-owner, has busied himself building cabins and renovating rooms to the extent that the ranch now has an overnight capacity of 45 guests. Outside the main lodge is a swimming pool, set in a grassy area amongst the oak trees that populate many parts of the property. Not far away are the barns and corrals, and a group of mild-mannered horses that, several times each day, take guests onto many miles of nearby trails and roads. The rides at Circle Bar B are gentle. The terrain is generally easy for their well-trained horses and allows for good footing and enough space between horses so that you don’t run into problems even if one of the animals becomes a little spirited. The hearty meals at the Circle Bar B are family style and the ranch owners mingle with guests at almost every meal. For more information, phone (805) 968-1113 or visit www.circlebarb.com.
OTHER DESTINATIONS: If a stay at a guest ranch is your idea of a great California vacation, be sure and check out other California Weekend articles on river rafting, Lake Tahoe and Twain’s California.
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