New Mexico guest ranches serve up the cowboy West in a variety of flavors, and welcome families, couples, and solo visitors (aka mavericks) who are game for adventures both wild and mild.
You never know what the day may bring at the Burnt Well Guest Ranch in southeastern New Mexico. Since it’s a working ranch, you might herd or brand cattle or help fix a windmill. “People pick us because they want a real working-ranch experience,” says ranch co-owner Patricia Chesser. On the Burnt Well’s 15,000 acres, up to eight guests at a time stay in a Territorial-style house accented by pine beams and cowboy memorabilia. As Chesser plays the fiddle, guests feast on ranch cooking served family style, including ranch-raised beef and lamb. Roswell; (866) 729-0974; www.burntwellguestranch.com
Eighty-five miles from the nearest stoplight, on the edge of southwestern New Mexico’s 3.3-million-acre Gila National Forest, the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch offers glorious canyons and sprawling meadows. “We focus on horses and magnificent scenery,” says Diana Esterly, who runs the ranch with her husband, Harry, and daughter, Meris. Year-round, guests may practice equestrian skills in the arena, visit Native American ruins, or ride trails through forests that once hid Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and Geronimo. Three ponderosa-pine cabins house a total of 12 guests, who convene for Western-style meals in the Cantina dining room. Evening brings stargazing, country dancing, and crackling campfires. Winston; (575) 772-5157; www.geronimoranch.com
If you believe that life begins outside your comfort zone, the 30,000-acre Double E Ranch and Cowgirl Camp, in southwestern New Mexico, is just the ticket. “We recently had a guest who had never touched a horse. By the end of the week, she was all over the place—grooming horses, running barrels, and trail riding,” says Debbie Eggleston, who, along with her husband, Allan, owns the ranch. Here guests, who are welcome year-round, become part of the crew, helping feed horses and calves. They also rope, barrel race, and ride through canyons and creek beds to Native American ruins. Guests may choose to stay in rustic cabins or the original bunkhouse, and dine on hearty meals such as grilled chicken or beef with vegetables and home-baked desserts, served family style at the Egglestons’ dining-room table. Gila; (575) 535-2048; www.doubleeranch.com
Set in northeastern New Mexico outside Cimarrón, the 180,000-acre Express UU Bar Ranch offers custom horse vacations in luxurious Western-style accommodations. A typical day at the ranch might include herding cattle, fly fishing, or riding with an outfitter into the mountains to spot wildlife.
Guest rooms feature breathtaking views, original paintings and bronze sculptures, refrigerators, and flat-screen TVs. UU Bar Executive Chef Ralph Knighton, the former chef for Oklahoma’s governor, has prepared meals for three presidents. He serves prime steaks, seasonal vegetables, and house-made ice-cream in the Main Lodge, where guests, after hours of outdoorsy enjoyment, often rub elbows with this huge working ranch’s cowboys in their dusty spurs and hats. Cimarrón; (575) 376-2035; www.expressuubar.com
Most Like Summer Camp
For 65 years, Cimarroncita, now a guest ranch in northeastern New Mexico, served as a boys’ and girls’ summer camp. Though today it offers a more refined experience, it still exudes a sense of play.
From June 1 through September 30, guests come to fly-fish, hike, and ride horses on 2,500 lush acres of meadow and mountain land. Custom programs may include a leisurely two-hour ride in the lowlands, or a more advanced trek into the backcountry.
Guests stay in an early-1900s lodge or a log cabin, both outfitted with generous porches perfect for lounging. Meals may include a lunchtime sandwich by the river, hot meals in the historic Frijoles dining hall, or a cowboy cookout with steak and potato salad. During cocktail hour, adults kick back with cognac and cigars while kids enjoy s’mores. Ute Park; (866) 376-2482; www.cimarroncita.com