What is a Dude Ranch and how did they become popular?



Photo: Dude Ranch Association

A dude ranch is (in the western US) a cattle ranch converted to a vacation resort for tourists. Guest ranches arose in response to the romanticization of the American West that began to occur in the late 19th century. While there were guest ranches prior to the 20th century, the trend grew considerably after the end of World War I. In the early 1920s guest ranching became popular in Texas.

Photo: Dude Ranch Association

The Dude Ranch industry was growing so rapidly that in 1923 a dude ranch opened in Hawaii, modeled after those in Wyoming. In 1926, the Dude Ranchers Association was founded in Billings, Montana, to represent the needs of this rapidly growing industry. During the Great Depression the industry continued to expand, likely as an alternative income source as real cattle ranches were experiencing financial troubles.

Photo: Jackson Hole Historical Society

In 1935 the industry boomed, and Western railroad companies advertised destinations to paying guests. Airlines and travel bureaus also began to enter the business in this period. The University of Wyoming began to offer a degree in recreational ranching, and one could take a four-year course in dude wrangling.

Photo: Bar W Guest Ranch

Throughout the 50s and 60s the Dude Ranch boom leveled off but in recent years excitement about these ranches has started to pick up. With the advent of social media and adventure travel, Dude Ranches have seen a resurgence in the 2000s.

Photo: Bar W Guest Ranch

Different Dude Ranches offers different experiences. At the Bar W Guest Ranch our main focus are our horses but we offer a variety of other activities like shooting, boating, archery, fishing, line dancing, amazing food and so much more. You will leave with lifelong stories of how you were a cowboy/cowgirl for a week. We offer a few different packages. We have family weeks, adult weeks, cattle drive weeks, and a 2-hour horse back riding adventure for those who aren’t staying with us the entire week.


We hope to see you soon!

The Bar W Guest Ranch

Published on 5/8/2023 (1 years 16 days ago) Blog

The Bar W Guest Ranch

2875 Highway 93 West
Whitefish MT 59937

Phone: (406) 863-9099

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The Bar W Guest Ranch - Whitefish Montana - Dude Vacation Ranch