by Janet Malin
Nestled in the secluded Elk River Valley in Northwest Colorado, Vista Verde Guest Ranch is the ideal destination for a luxury all-inclusive family vacation packed with genuine Western hospitality.
Seemingly remote, yet easily accessible from the nearby town of Steamboat Springs, guests at Vista Verde feel more like part of the family than paying visitors. With a guest count limited to around 40 and a 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio, staying here is an intimate experience tailored to each person’s preferences and desires.
That old adage that applies to many ski towns across Colorado and the west — that people come for the winter and stay for the summer — certainly rings true for visitors to Vista Verde. The varied activities offered throughout the year are designed to take advantage of the seasons. From snow shoeing and sleigh rides in the winter months, to mountain biking and fly-fishing in the summer, there’s plenty of family-fun to be had here year round.
The Kids and Teens Program is open all summer and offers the flexibility for families to participate in activities together or to go in different directions. The Kids’ Cabin is the launching point for the fun and kids’ “wranglers” lead scheduled activities throughout the day. While the kids are exploring the property on a trail ride or competing in a scavenger hunt, parents have some time on their own to participate in a cooking class or perhaps take a photography lesson. In the winter months, the Kids and Teens Program is open during the holidays and around spring break. Daily sleigh rides through the pasture are a highlight of the schedule, and the spontaneous kids versus staff snowball fights are a favorite, too.
After a full day of action, guests gather in the stunning Great Room in the main building of the property to swap stories while the kids hang out by the fireplace and play cards. There’s a nightly Happy Half-Hour where staff and guests mingle over a beer or a glass of wine and arrange activities for the next day. With plans made for more fun, everyone settles into the communal dining room or heads out to the patio for dinner with a view of the Rocky Mountains.
Once a week, after dinner, the staff hosts an energy-filled Barn Dance in the loft of the barn. Cowboy boots, bandanas and plaid are in order as staff and guests get down to country classics and kids learn line dancing moves and square dancing steps. A day of new experiences comes to an end and guests walk back under a star-filled sky to their cabins for a restful night’s sleep.
If a luxurious vacation packed with family fun, terrific food and genuine hospitality is on your wish list, then Vista Verde Guest Ranch has you covered. A family getaway here may not be easy on the wallet, but the experiences gained make it worth every penny. Vista Verde is a once-in-a-lifetime destination where service, amenities and activities make lasting memories and keep families coming back year after year.
Our Editor Loves
- Creative kids' programs
- Luxurious, fully equipped accommodations
- Fresh made cookies each day
- All Inclusive Rates
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Whether you chooseÂ to stay in a private cabin or a deluxe lodge room, accommodations at Vista Verde are top notch. Furnished with western art and handmade log furniture, the rooms are spacious and comfortable and the lodge pole pine beds with luxurious linens make getting a great night's sleep practically guaranteed.
Guests of the ranch are encouraged to truly disconnect from the outside world, so you won't find any TVs or phones in the cabins or rooms. Cell phone reception can be spotty in the some of the cabins, and wireless internet is available and dependable only in the Main Lodge of the ranch. Each cabin has a snack bar and mini-fridge that are restocked daily, and a coffeemaker is provided, too.
Connecting rooms and cribs are available; rollaway beds are not.
The ten luxuriously appointed cabins range from one to three bedrooms and all have spacious living rooms, wood burning stoves and private hot tubs perfect for taking in the stars. Named after the local mountains, the cabins are unique in their furnishings, but all offer brilliant views of the surrounding hills. When arranging your stay at Vista Verde, the ranch's staff will fit you with the cabin that offers the right amount of space for your group.
With room for up to six people, this two-bedroom, two-bathroom cabin backs up to a forested hillside and is a perfect sanctuary after a day of adventures. The master bedroom has a king bed and a wood burning stove, and the second bedroom is upstairs and has a queen bed, as well as two single beds.
In this two-story cabin, the master bedroom with king bed is on the ground floor. The kids have their own place to gather upstairs in the open second bedroom, complete with three twin beds and plenty of room to play. Located close to the Kid's Cabin and barn, this cabin has enough room for up to five people -- perfect for traveling families.
This two-bedroom cabin is suitable for up to five people and has a beautiful deck overlooking the meadows and pond on the property. The master bedroom with king bed is tucked into the back of the cabin with a view of the forested hillside. The second bedroom is upstairs and has both a queen bed and a twin daybed.
Named after the second tallest peak in the region, this two-bedroom and two-bathroom has enough room for five people and backs up to a slope of Aspen trees. The master suite, with a king bed, is tucked in the rear of the ground floor and offers privacy and a view of the hillside. Upstairs, the second bedroom has a queen bed, a twin daybed and its own bathroom.
Perhaps the quintessential log cabin, Zirkel is named after the tallest peak in the region. This cabin has plenty of space for family of up to six people -- there's 1,500 square feet -- but the exposed, rough-cut logs on the walls give this three-bedroom space a cozy feel. The master suite, with a custom log king bed, is nestled in the back of the cabin facing a hillside of Aspen trees. There's plenty of room for a family to spread out, with two additional bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. One room upstairs has a queen bed and the other has two twin beds, while both overlook the Main Lodge and Elk River valley.
An intimate, three-bedroom cabin, Farewell's master bedroom and private bathroom are located on the second floor loft area. There's a lovely queen bedded room off the living room downstairs that shares a bathroom with a snug third bedroom with a single bed. This cabin accommodates a family of five comfortably.
This two-bedroom cabin is named after nearby Saddle Mountain and is nestled into an Aspen clad hillside. With room for up to five people and a split-level design, the cabin's living area is on the lower level with large windows and a wraparound wooden porch. The large master bedroom with a king bed and spacious bathroom are on the second level. Stair step to the third floor and you'll find one more bedroom with a queen bed and two single beds, and a private bathroom, too.
With three spacious bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a dining table large enough for a family of six, Sand is one of the largest cabins on the ranch. The master bedroom, with a king bed and small sitting area, is located on one side of the single story cabin. Two bedrooms, one with twin bunk beds and one with a queen bed, share a bathroom on the opposite end of the cabin off the living room. The highlight of this cabin is the beautiful large windows in the main living area -- providing guests with sweeping views of the ranch's pasture in the front and the beautiful hillside Aspen grove in the back.
This four-bedroom, three-bathroom cabin was originally built as the owner's residence and is the largest cabin on the ranch with nearly 2000 square feet to spread out. The master suite, with a king bed, is located on the ground floor, along with another queen-bedded suite and spacious living area. Upstairs, there are two bedrooms that share a bathroom and both have two twin beds. Lost Ranger is spacious for a family of up to six people and is equipped with a washer and dryer -- a bonus for any traveling family.
Cozy and intimate, this one-bedroom and one-and-a-half bathroom cabin has plenty of light and overlooks the winter horse pasture. The master bedroom has a king bed and sitting area and there's a twin daybed in the sleeping nook that's perfect for a child.
The three lodge rooms have been recently remodeled and are named after nearby lakes. Located upstairs in the Main Lodge, each room has a king bed, private bathroom and a small sitting area. The lodge rooms are comfortable and spacious for up to two people.
by Steven T
The ranch is beautiful, the food incredible, the activities too numerous to count and all five star. Take all that away and I'd still come back to Vista Verde Ranch for one simple reason. The people.
My memories of VVR will always be filled with horseback riding, mountain biking, fly fishing, yoga and superb dining, but mostly I will remember my time spent with the staff. Their care, concern and passion for guests, each other and what they do is self-evident from the moment you walk through the lodge on your first day to when you regrettably have to say 'goodbye' on your last.
When we started looking at dude ranches to visit, the one thing that stood out about VVR were the number of repeat visitors. We met 2 groups during our stay that have come to VVR numerous times (1 couple this was their 27th visit - yes, you read that right - 27th visit!!!). At the end of our visit, I understood why.
To Ben, Charlie, Ben (adventure center), Charlie (executive chef), Sam, Kayla, Metta, Stephanie, Isaac, Cawood, Annie and the other staff who made our stay so incredible, I can only say 'thank you'. Thank you for making us feel a part of your community. Thank you for your authenticity and character. It was obvious to see, even at times I'm sure you thought no one was watching.
We look forward to our next visit in 2020 and while I'm sure some of the staff faces will change, I've no doubt the sense of community that is so evident at the ranch will remain. I feel blessed for being a part of the community, even if only for a short time.
For 9 years we've spent one week a year at Vista Verde, and we start counting the days to our next visit as we drive away from our current stay. For starters, the cabins are warm and cozy with luxurious linens and thirsty towels, and a hot tub on the porch. Upscale soaps, gels, lotions and shampoos line the vanities. My husband and I have coffee each morning in our small but spacious cabin, often with a fire in the little stove....with no thought of anything except what kind and how much fun we can have that day....no dishes, no dusting, no laundry. I do love those Housekeeping Fairies! I also love the wranglers, the front desk staff, the Executive Chef, the Pastry Chef, and kitchen staff......and the list goes on and on. Every employee is friendly, proficient, and ready to help. They truly mean that you've only to ask, and they will do their best to meet your needs. If you wish to ride, I can tell you that the horses are well trained and somehow stay sweet and friendly, despite their many riders. We've made great friends during our stays, many of whom return the same week that we do, and we have grand reunions. The food is exquisite....one night at a formal dinner our table of 8 went into raptures over our selections....lamb chops, chicken breast, and risotto.....truly equal or better than any 5-star establishment If you love the outdoors, and want to do it with great guides skilled in guiding, safety and first aid, you won't find better. Vista Verde is the Best of the Best, and each year, yes, it gets better.
Regardless of the season, the highlight of any visit to Vista Verde is the wide array of activities included in your stay. The knowledgeable guides tailor each adventure to compliment the interest and ability of the individual guest, and while most chose to partake in the fun, others appreciate some downtime, too.
The summer season at Vista Verde runs from June through September with programs designed specifically for visiting families in June, July and August.
With over 100 horses in their herd and a full-size indoor riding arena on the property, horseback riding is a major activity at Vista Verde. Guests are paired with a well-trained horse that matches their ability and comfort level and activities range from horsemanship clinics to adventurous trail rides through the mountains.
Guided hikes into the surrounding Zirkel Wilderness are offered regularly and families enjoy trekking through the clear mountain streams and crossing the fields of wildflowers they encounter along the way.
The ranch's Adventure Center is stocked with top-of-the-line full suspension mountain bikes available to those looking to explore the hundreds of miles of trails in the area. Work with a guide in the terrain park to learn new technique, or enjoy a peaceful ride through the forest on a well-marked trail.
Guided tours are offered regularly to the surrounding mountain lakes and streams.
Rock climbing, kayaking, white water rafting and yoga are available for guests during their stay. There are also regularly scheduled cooking and photography workshops on the property. The ranch has a modest pool on the property that is heated and open during the summer months only.
A peaceful alternative to the chaos and crowds of the big ski resorts, Vista Verde is a winter wonderland of fun for traveling families. With over 300 inches of snowfall annually, there are endless outdoor adventures to be had and lasting family memories to be made.
Back Country Skiing
Take a breathtaking guided tour through the backcountry. Adventures are tailored to the guest's ability and level of fitness and are fun for the whole family.
Cross Country Skiing
Guests can take a lesson from a skilled and patient guide or head out on their own and explore the rolling meadows surrounding the property. The 15 kilometers of meandering trails around the ranch are smoothed out for guests to enjoy skate or classic skiing.
Guests can grab a pair of snowshoes from the Adventure Center and hit the groomed trails or head out into the powder with a guide.
Much like in the summer, guests are paired with a well-trained horse that matches their ability and comfort level. Families love the daily trail rides around the property's snow packed trails. Horsemanship classes are available at the heated indoor riding arena for those interested in developing specific skills and abilities.
Join the wranglers on the feed sleigh each afternoon as they toss hay bails to the ranch's herd of over 100 horses.
Take advantage of the ranch's tubing hill -- an adventure for kids of all ages. Being pulled up the hill with snowmobiles is almost as fun as the ride!
There are regularly scheduled cooking and photography workshops on the property. Dog sledding, snowmobiling and spa treatments can be arranged through outside vendors, but are not included in your stay.
The culinary-institute trained chefs prepare gourmet menus for the adults and separate, kid-friendly options for the kids, too. While the children are welcome to partake in the more sophisticated food options, staples like grilled cheese sandwiches, spaghetti and burgers are readily available. Meals are served either in the ranch's dining room located in the Main Lodge or on the patio outside of the dining room with a view of the mountains.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Free Wi-Fi is available in the Main Lodge.
There's a well-equipped fitness center complete with cardio machines and free weights.
Off property activities, such as rock climbing and hot air ballooning in the summer and dog sledding and snow mobile riding in the winter, can be arranged for an additional fee.
The Art of Smart Timing
Vista Verde Guest Ranch is a true year-round vacation destination with adventure, entertainment and fantastic food always on the menu. While the activities vary depending on the season, there's no shortage of fun to be had regardless of when your family visits the ranch. Capacity and rates are higher in the summer, but not to worry -- it never feels crowded on the property.
Denver International Airport (DEN) is a 3.5=hour drive to the ranch through beautiful Colorado landscape. All major rental car agencies operate out of the airport and shuttle service can also be arranged. Tip: If you are driving in on your own, make sure to use this address in your GPS: 58000 Cowboy Way, Clark CO 80428
The best option for a visit to the ranch during the winter, when roads from Denver can be snowy and difficult to navigate, is to fly into nearby Yampa Valley Regional Airport (HDN) in Steamboat Springs. A staff member from the ranch will be happy to pick you up but if you prefer to rent a car and head to the ranch on your own, Hertz, Avis and Budget rental car companies operate at the airport.
Ranch staff is happy to transport guests to all activities and into Steamboat Springs for shopping or for a day of skiing at the resort. While guests certainly do not need a car while at the ranch, some enjoy the flexibility of having their own vehicle.
For Mom and Dad
Intimate, adults-only dinners are arranged several times each week at Vista Verde. While the kids enjoy some fun of their own, mom and dad are given the chance to enjoy a sophisticated meal and adult conversation.
Couples massages can be arranged for an additional fee, and wine tastings, cooking classes, yoga and photography classes are offered regularly.