Choose a ranch vacation to learn horsemanship in an authentic  setting, explore pristine wilderness areas, fish wild and scenic rivers and relax in Western style.

Here are five destinations to consider: 

ft Winter at The Home Ranch

The Home Ranch, Clark, Colo.

A visit to this mountain retreat near Steamboat Springs, involves decision making. Will you choose rocking on the porch, listening to the rustle of Aspen leaves, multiple massage sessions or curling up by the stone fireplace with your favorite book while the kids sharpen skills in the corral under the watchful eyes of resident wranglers? (The children and teen programs will keep the youngsters in your group plenty busy.)

Or, you can join the family for fly fishing on a private stretch of the Elk River, (it's Orvis-endorsed) morning hikes, afternoon trail rides, day-long outings into nearby wilderness areas, yoga classes and post-dinner music, barn dances and star gazing. During the winter months, snow shoeing, Nordic and downhill skiing and horseback and sleigh rides are all possible.

You’ll enjoy exceptional cuisine, fine wines and well-deserved slumber in the comfort of cozy lodge rooms or rustic yet well-appointed cabins, tucked within a tree studded landscape. Pack your schedule with active pursuits or relax your week away. Either way, it’s all included. 

Contact: www.HomeRanch.com.

Westgate River Ranch, River Ranch, Fla. 

You'll be just an hour from Orlando but feel a world away when you arrive at the largest dude ranch east of the Mississippi. Situated on 1,700 acres of wilderness in Florida's cattle country, the ranch offers a menu of lodging options that include glamping-style tents, lodge rooms and two-bedroom cabins. Opt for horse and pony rides, airboat excursions, miniature golf, nature hikes and zip lining. You'll want to take in the Saturday night rodeo, campfires, cookouts, hayrides and a weekly street party.

Contact: www.wgriverranch.com

Latigo Ranch FamilyTravel.com

Latigo Ranch, Kremmling, Colo. 

Choose your season and relish the peace and tranquility you'll find at this historic ranch. With never-ending views along the Continental Divide, choose from snowshoeing, tubing, cross-country skiing and fat biking in pristine winter conditions. The summer months offer top-notch horseback riding on over 200 miles of trail, cattle drives, hiking and mountain biking for the active members of your family. For those eager to relax, settle in on the porch for a card game, in a meadow or near a crackling fire with a book or puzzle at the ready.

Contact: www.LatigoTrails.com

Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, Mont.

Just a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park’s northwest border, in the shadow of Lone Peak, you’ll find a cluster of hand-built cabins. Authentic and luxurious, the historic accommodations, tucked creekside, in the pine trees or in meadows,  help visitors conjure the days when the property was a working cattle ranch, operating in untamed country.

Then, like now, the region is home to stunning vistas, and abundant wildlife including grizzlies, black bears, bison and wolves.  In the company of guides or on your own,  adventurers have the  chance to fish Blue Ribbon trout streams and explore the last best place via horseback, Nordic and downhill skis, snowshoes and on the many hiking trails in the area. 

Contact: www.LoneMountainRanch.com  www.VisitMT.com 

White Stallion

White Stallion Ranch, Tucson, Ariz. 

Family-owned and -operated, this working cattle ranch is known for award-winning service, exceptional riding opportunities and a family-friendly atmosphere. Ride amid towering saguaros and enjoy moonlit bonfires, hay rides, fat tire biking, cowboy entertainment, astronomy shows, Western dance lessons and a weekly rodeo where family members can admire the roping, barrel racing and steer wrestling skills of local wranglers.

Contact: www.whitestallion.com

Resource: www.DudeRanch.org

Published in Top Stories

Great places and great experiences are best when shared with people you love.

That’s the philosophy of the pros at Troutstalkers, a fly fishing outfitter that specializes in Montana and Madison River Fly Fishing Trips. Their business is based on sharing a passion for the outdoors, their fly fishing knowledge, and a long history of meaningful experiences with friends and clients.

“We approach every day with a sense of exploration and discovery, and never stop learning,” explains owner Joe Dilschneider. “Often in this sport, just when you figure something out, everything changes. That’s what keeps it interesting.”

The Troutstalker pros can’t think of a better way to spend time with the grandkids than fly fishing.

Why?

“Fly fishing is life! The parallels to the important aspects of life are almost endless,” explains  Dilschneider.

Troutstalkers believe that guiding is based around shared interests and curiosity, mutual respect and friendship. Their goal is to provide every client with the best leadership, coaching, companionship and knowledge possible. They commit to giving 110% to make your experience with your family members safe, enjoyable and educational.

Based in Ennis, MT., Troutstalkers offers guided day and overnight trips on the Madison, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Ruby, Yellowstone, Missouri, and Gallatin rivers. They also can help families plan a trip to other world-class destinations including Montana's Smith and South Fork of Flathead Rivers, Florida Keys, Bristol Bay Alaska, Bahamas, and Argentina.

For more information:   www.MontanaTrout.com

Troutstalkers is a member of the FamilyTravel.com Grandparents Travel Collection.

If you would like additonal assistance planning or booking a family trip, we can help.

 

Published in Uncategorized

During a recent outing I was reminded why they call one of my favorite sports “fishing”.

And not “catching”.

Published in Adventure

Mountain towns offer fresh air, music under the stars and active pursuits for all ages.

Here are five to consider for your next family vacation:

Vail, CO.

Check into a guest room or one of 25 private residences within the Arabelle at Vail Square and you’ll be perfectly located to enjoy a high altitude stay in one of the country’s most popular and family-friendly resorts. Hop on to the Eagle Bahn gondola just outside the hotel to access mountain top hiking, biking, snow sports,  Adventure Ridge family activities, music, dining and jaw dropping sunsets. During the summer, Fly fish Gore Creek or cool off on a kayak or raft trip. Coming soon: a 1200-foot zip line. 

Contact: www.Vail.com; http://arrabelle.rockresorts.com.

Sun Valley, ID.

Adjacent to the vast expanse of Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness, this vibrant high altitude enclave serves as an ideal base camp for exploring the beauty of the Sawtooth Range and the nearby mountain lakes and trails. Then return to town where activities from horseback riding, mountain biking, fly fishing, tennis, golf and shopping will keep your clan engaged. When planning, check dates for outdoor summer concerts, plus art and music festivals. Don’t miss the weekly ice skating shows at the Sun Valley Lodge featuring world-class figure skaters and Olympic medalists.

Contact: 1-800-786-8259; www.sunvalley.com.

 Stowe, VT.

Learn how cider is made. Hop aboard a dogcart, (a sled on wheels), and take part in sled dog training.  Consider bungee jumping, canoeing, the alpine slide and carriage rides during a summer visit to this storied New England playground. You’ll also find hot air ballooning, mountain biking, mini-golf, zip lines and swimming available for family fun in the 200 year old village that is also home to Mt. Mansfield, the state’s highest peak. Lodging options, from quaint bed and breakfasts to more modern hotels, abound.

Contact: 1-877-GOSTOWE.com; GoStowe.com.

Flagstaff, AZ.

Just 80 miles from the Grand Canyon and close to seven other parks and monuments, this college town offers a long list of options for family travelers.  At 7,000 feet, you’ll enjoy hiking and biking amidst Ponderosa Pines, comfortable in the cool mountain air. Tap into the history that combines the nostalgia of Route 66, the historic “Mother Road” that bisects the town, as well as the rich legacy of the old west and the Native American culture. Don’t miss a tour and exhibits at the Lowell Observatory, the astronomy research center where Pluto was discovered.

Contact: Lowell.edu; www.FlagstaffArizona.org.

Brevard, North Carolina.

Visit this Blue Ridge Mountain wonderland for lively music festivals, kayaking, biking and the chance to check out more than 200 waterfalls in the region. Notably, the Brevard Music Center offers a wide range of concerts throughout the summer, offering performances that include mountain songs, classical and opera. Many are held outside and are free.  A portion of the film The Hunger Games showcased the beautiful landscape and waterfalls in the nearby DuPont State Forest.

Contact:   1-800-648-4523; www.visitwaterfalls.com. 

Published in Gather

 First time casters and veteran anglers enjoy the natural places that enable a fly fishing vacation. Test your tippet deep in the wilderness or perfect your back casts on the resort lawn. 

Gather your gear. Then enjoy the beauty and art of fly fishing: 

Gore Creek Fly Fisherman. Vail, CO.

 Give your kids (and perhaps yourself) a taste of this lifelong sport during daily casting clinics offered each day in the scenic Vail Village along the Gore Creek Promenade. When you are ready for more, book a half or full day walk and wade trip or sign on for a float trip through Rocky Mountain beauty.

Contact: 970-476-3296; www.GoreCreekFlyFisherman.com

LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School. Freeport, ME or Columbia, MD.

  The knowledgeable instructors at LL Bean can jump start your family into the wonderful world of fly fishing with their one or two-day introductory courses.  You’ll learn about fly-tackle, delve into knot tying, fly tying, and fish-food identification, then move outside to practice casting skills in a nearby pond.  Continue the analysis and improvement at home once you’ve viewed their video of your newly acquired skill. Contact:  LL Bean experts are available for fishing advice on their hotline between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m EST every day; 1-800-347-4552. 

For class registration:  (888)-552-3261); www.llbean.com/outdoorsOnline/odp/courses/flyfishing/fly-fishing-essentials1-maine.html

Chetola Resort. Blowing Rock, NC.

The only Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge in North Carolina has plenty to offer the entire family. Pack a rod for a half day trip to “The Refuge” on Boone Fork Creek, a destination deemed ideal for beginners and families.  When not casting a line, check out the children’s camp, a heated indoor pool, fitness center and nearby rafting and golf.

Contact: (800) 243-8652;  www.Chetola.com

Match the Hatch. Livingston, MT.

Spend a day on the Yellowstone River with Eric Adams and your family members will go home with more than basic casting skills. His educational background in ecology means you’ll learn to “match the hatch”, fish pocket water from a raft and how to maximize a day on the famed Yellowstone River or nearby spring creeks. You are sure to enjoy time on the Yellowstone, the longest stretch of blue-ribbon trout habitat in the nation. 

Contact: 406.223.2488; www.MontanaFlyFishingGuides.com 

Fishing on the Farm. Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN.

With two ponds and a stream on site, plus more than 700 miles of fishable trout streams in the neighboring Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this gem of a property offers the novice or experienced fly fishing family the opportunity to enjoy great water as well as a sea of additional activities. Horseback riding, mountain biking, cooking schools, the Farmhouse Spa and charming accommodations on 4,200 pastoral acres, combine to create a picturesque haven for a gathering clan. Contact: (800) 648-4252; www.BlackberryFarm.com. 

Published in Adventure

For many families, summer is a time of transition. Family schedules and structures take on new shapes and sizes. When September rolls around, will there be more school supplies to buy? Or will the nest soon be emptying? This year, the warm summer breeze reminds me of an adventure we experienced years ago. 

Not far down the sandy bank, I could see my 18-year-old son Alex rhythmically casting his fly into the Salmon River, intent on luring a trout. He was tanned and relaxed. His smile came easily as his angling efforts paid off.

 I was looking for some uncomplicated time with my middle son before he went off to college. Perhaps selfishly, I wanted his full attention. Not those moments diluted by phone calls or text messages, the lure of the evening’s social activities or side glances to catch the latest on ESPN. So off to the wilderness we went.

  Our backcountry choice was the Salmon River, referred to as the River of No Return by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. What we found in Central Idaho was a river corridor of exceptional beauty meandering through two million acres of wilderness, exciting whitewater, calm river pools, white sand beaches, and traces of American history not likely found in any other river valley in North America.

I was more than willing to share our time on the water with my youngest son Ted, who was about to miss his older brother as much as I would. From Boise, we climbed aboard a plane so small it felt like a bathtub toy. And we seemingly floated into Salmon, Idaho after enjoying up close and exhilarating views of the rugged mountain wilderness near Stanley and Sun Valley.

We were met by our charming host Wayne Johnson, owner of Salmon River Rafting, who would eventually impress us as a jack of all river trades. He informed, organized and otherwise herded us from our Salmon hotel to the water’s edge.                                                                  

 We were in the good company of a father, his son and two grandsons from Michigan, a couple from Minneapolis and our guides Wayne, Steve and Megan. Once afloat, our group of ten was dispersed among two kayaks, a rubber raft and the swift boat that carried our supplies down river.

Some of us were eager for the extra challenge (and exercise) provided by the kayaks. Others were just as content to relax in the boat, enjoying the near perfect weather and the surrounding Frank Church Wilderness. That is until we heard the rumble of rushing water ahead.

salmon river rafting familytravel.comFrom the beginning, our guides carefully coached us to take the white water seriously and keep our feet first and down river should we end up in the drink. And it was a good thing!

fishing

Over the course of five days, rapid after rapid, we screamed, splashed, strategized and steered our way in and around giant boulders, swirling holes, and foamy waves that crashed over our heads.

My kayak partner Mark and I high-fived in pride for having stayed right side up more often than my two muscular teens traveling in tandem.

Evenings were spent enjoying hearty food prepared by Wayne and his capable crew, then stories and poems around the campfire, and the company of our fellow adventurers. The biggest decision of the day was whether to assemble the tent or enjoy a peaceful night under the stars.

Wayne Johnson is a veteran of the river, having spent most of his adult life guiding through this wilderness corridor. His love for the flowing water, the natural surroundings and the significant history provides tremendous added value to the trip. As travelers on the Main Salmon River we found ourselves immersed in an historical gold mine with Wayne as our guide, telling tales of hermits and homesteaders, while leading us past grave markers and abandoned log cabins. We saw Indian pictographs and happily immersed ourselves in hot springs considered medicinal by the early Indian settlers.

On our final afternoon, Alex and I headed up a small creek from our campsite and spent the afternoon gleefully catching the most colorful trout either of us had ever seen. It was one of those magical afternoons, suspended in time, only the wilderness can provide.

!

Published in Adventure

ft yell grizz

A Yellowstone Grizz ambles near Lake Yellowstone. ( Photo (C) Lynn O'Rourke Hayes )

Unspoiled natural places, authentic cultural experiences and distinctive communities draw travelers from around the world to America’s “last best place”; Montana. 

Jump start your plan to visit Big Sky country here:  

Visit your National Parks.

With Yellowstone to the south and Glacier National Park on the northern border, this Big Sky state offers the perfect launching point to explore two of our national treasures. Visit stops along the Lewis and Clark trail while you’re at it. 

Colorful history.

Take a stroll back in time as you observe remarkable living history demonstrations, dine in century-old structures, enjoy ice cream in an old-fashioned parlor, and ponder tales of ghosts said to drift along the boarded sidewalks in Virginia City and Nevada City. City tours via fire engine trolley, carriage rides and a follies stage show make for a vintage flavored getaway. 

Arts abound.

Helena, the state’s capital city with a rich mining history, is designated one of the country’s best small arts towns. The Montana Historical Society, founded in 1865, houses one of the country's most important collections of Charles M. Russell art as well as the work of noted frontier photographer F. Jay Haynes. Don’t miss the Archie Bray Foundation, established in 1951 on the site of a brick factory. Tour the studios and grounds of this unique endeavor in the ceramic arts that attracts artists from around the world. Ask about summer programs for adults and children.

Big Sky bonanza

 Nestled in meadows and surrounded by forestland, Big Sky is an outdoor lover’s paradise. A year round playground, this mountain town is home to Big Sky and Moonlight Basin ski resorts as well as fishing, mountain biking, golf, and rafting just to get the list started. Hiking is popular in the nearby Lee Metcalf Spanish Peaks Wilderness. 

ft cattle drive montana 7-7-2010 9-45-51 am

Cowboy Up.

Attend a rodeo, stay at a guest ranch, participate in a round up. Ride horses into the hills, visit a stock yards. Throughout Montana, you’ll enjoy the chance to see real cowboys at work and learn about the rich culture that provides a time tested and colorful strand in our national tapestry.

Find out more: www.VisitMT.com.

Published in National Parks