SETTING IS STUNNING
The setting of Tarryall River Ranch is absolutely georgeous. Beautiful hills accented with interesting rock formations set against the blue as blue can be Colorado sky couldn’t be more perfect. I couldn’t wait for our first trail ride to explore this vast and picturesque landscape. However, what truly makes Tarryall special are the people. The Tesch family runs Tarryall River Ranch and bring an extraordinary brand of hospitality. Amazing home cooked family dinners greet you at every meal. Even before you arrive, they take great care to find out what your particular needs are and go to great lengths to accommodate each guest. It’s clear that the Tesch Family loves welcoming their guests to their slice of heaven and it shows.
In the summer, Tarryall River Ranch offers an all-inclusive dude ranch vacation, but in the winter, they function more like a bed and breakfast with limited trail riding opportunities. It’s a great place to get away to during the winter season. Being just 45 minutes from Breckenridge Ski Resort, it can also be a less expensive place to stay away from the craziness of the ski areas if you plan to only ski for a day or two.
ACCOMMODATIONS ARE RUSTIC BUT CLEAN AND COZY
Each log cabin at Tarryall is a little different and they can accommodate families of many different sizes. The set up is perfect for family reunions because some cabins are connected and most are in close walking proximity from each other. Most cabins have a queen bed and at least a couple of bunk beds. There are no kitchen facilities because all your meals are catered. Although the rooms were rustic, they were full of ranch charm. We stayed at the stampede cabin right next to the horse barns. I was really impressed that despite being so close to the horses, when we arrived, our cabin was spic and span. If you’re sensitive to dust, you might want to request one of the different cabins though because the horses do kick up quite a bit of dust throughout the day. As for us, our kids loved waking up and watching the horses as we got ready for the day
BIG THUMBS UP FOR THE HOMECOOKED RANCH MEALS
When it comes to ranch stays, you never know what you’re going to get in terms of food. But, after a day of horseback riding or river rafting, everyone loves coming back to a hearty home cooked meal. Tarryall’s homestyle meals were delicious! We enjoyed the freshly baked bread at just about every meal and some of the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted. The steak at the cookout was grilled to perfection. Tarryall is a small ranch, but their meals are big on flavor. The 40ish guests and ranch staff dine together at all the meals around big round tables. The family dinners gave us an opportunity to get to know other guests and the truly wonderful staff. I also loved that such a lot of effort was put towards giving guests a wide variety of dining experiences from BBQ cookouts, to cowboy breakfasts on the trail, and even a fancy dinner for mom and dad.
At each meal, there was basically one main meal with a few sides. We found that the meals were easy for kids to appreciate. If you have a particularly picky eater, I think you'll find enough options for him to pick at. Otherwise, the kitchen staff would be happy to make your child a PBJ sandwich. Before you arrive at the ranch, you're given the opportunity to communicate any food preferences and allergies too. We were impressed with how well Tarryall catered to the individual needs of their guest. Just call ahead to communicate what your needs are.
Coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and fruit are also available throughout the day in the dining hall. There is a guest refrigerator if you need to bring special food for your kids, and the staff is happy to heat up anything you need.
GREAT HORSEBACK RIDING
Tarryall River Ranch offers all-inclusive dude ranch vacations. The 2 hour long horseback riding sessions in the morning and afternoons are included in your stay, but if there is room on the trail rides, you can sign up for a ride even if you’re not staying at the ranch. Summer rides are often full, but in the fall, winter and spring, you’re likely to find an open spot.
Tarryall offers rides for any skill level from beginner rides all the way to advanced galloping rides. Riders are often divided up by skill level and each day, you can choose from a variety of different destinations. The wranglers at Tarryall were such a warm friendly bunch. While the Tesch family guide many of the rides themselves, in the summer, they hire students from across the country to work at the ranch. We were so impressed with all the wranglers. The hiring process is vigorious at Tarryall and it shows! And as guests, it made all the difference in the world to be spending a week with wranglers who were loving every minute of their time at Tarryall.
Before visiting the ranch, guests are asked about their previous riding experience. Based on your skill level, you’re paired up with a horse that matches your ability. I was thrilled that our timid 6 year old was paired with a slow and steady horse named Jedd. He is usually very nervous about new experiences, but warmed very quickly to his horse. I had many proud mommy moments watching him grow more and more confident each day. What a hoot to see him strutting around with confidence on Rodeo day when it was his turn to show of his horsemanship skills.
NEVER A DULL MOMENT
The trail rides at Tarryall take you through a variety of beautiful pine and aspen forests. Each ride is a little different, so it keeps things interesting. The kids loved knowing that one day they’d be heading up to lizard rock for amazing views, or into the woods for a cowboy breakfast cookout. One day, I snuck along with my boys on a kid’s PBJ ride. They had so much fun tying up their horses by the creek and clambering up to the top of some boulders. (Shhh....don't tell them that I could barely make it up myself in cowboy boots.) At the top, they sat around making up stories and playing games. Anna, the kid’s counselor was amazing at giving the kids little tips to improve their horsemanship and I learned a thing or two myself.
At Tarryall, the kids under 5 have a different program. They do a variety of activities – crafts, petting bunnies, and pony rides to name a few. The school age kids and teens are also separated into different groups so that the rides and activities can be tailored to their interests and abilities. If your kids are shy about leaving you, they are also welcome to go on a family ride. Although, the under 5’s cannot go on trail rides yet. The ranch also offers babysitting for little ones during the morning and afternoon ride times (included in the price of your stay for ranch guests). So, don't let having a little one keep you from enjoying a Dude Ranch vacation.
KIDS ROAM FREE!
One of our favorite things about staying at Tarryall River Ranch was the freedom we felt to allow our 6 and 9 year old boys to roam freely. Living in an urban area, we don’t afford our kids such freedoms very often. It's something, I really wish were different. The grounds at Tarryall are very well maintained. The wide open spaces allowed us to watch and hear our kids from a distance. There was a playground area, basketball court, beach volleyball court, horseshoe pit and a petting zoo that they loved exploring on their own. The pool area was separate and had a fence around it although it wasn’t fenced in completed, so you’ll need to remind your kids not to go into that area without your supervision. There is of course a creek that runs through Tarryall River Ranch. It’s great for fishing. It is set apart from the other activity areas, so there’s little danger that your kids will accidentally find their way there on their own.
THE COMPLETE COWBOY EXPERIENCE
One of the ways that Tarryall River Ranch is so special, is the full cowboy experience they offer. It’s more than just horseback riding camp which can be the case in some ranches. Instead, your week at Tarryall River Ranch immerses you fully in the cowboy culture. A trail ride is an excused for a cowboy breakfast. Want to get a feel for being a working cowboy? Try your skill at penning some cows. Then at the end of the week, gather together with all the guests and staff for a rodeo starring, none other than all the guests and wranglers. Even the youngest of riders will get to show off their newly learned horsemanship skills and cheer on the wranglers as they race against each other in the Pony Express race.
You might wonder, how you could possibly ride horses for an entire week…oh, let me assure you that at Tarryall River Ranch, there is never a dull moment. The staff have found a way to keep the rides fresh and make available a whole host of other activities like fly-fishing lessons, whitewater rafting, trap shooting, ranch style games, and barn dancing. Our family had a particularly good time learning to square dance. All the ranch hands dressed up in their cowboy finery and lead the dances. It was so great to have half the room know what they were doing. (Ahem, no comment on hubby's square dancing abilities...: )
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Our stay was almost perfect, but there were a couple of suggestions we had for Tarryall. The sturdy wooden bunk beds didn’t have a security rail on them which wasn’t so great for our boys who have an uncanny way of rotating 180 degrees in their sleep. The pool area is lovely, but by late afternoon, a lot of leaves and such had found their way into the pool. Jumping into a nice clean pool after returning from our afternoon trail ride would have been absolutely divine.
*Disclosure: Tarryall River Ranch hosted us for a complimentary stay, however, all these opinions as always, are entirely my own.