Unplug from your modern life at one of the many dude ranches in Grand County

Meg soyars
Explore Grand

The dude ranches of Grand County are keeping the heritage and history of the West alive.

“Dude ranching is a unique way to keep the heritage and history of the West alive in the hearts of those who come as tourists,” stated Hannah George, head wrangler of Latigo Ranch, one of the many guest ranches in Grand County. “People who visit these precious mountains have a chance to ride the trails in the tall pines, herd cattle through the sage, dance to the old songs, unplug from the trials of modern life and test their mettle against challenges of the hills.”

C Lazy U Ranch – Granby

Petey was a well-loved donkey at the ranch for 30 years.
C Lazy U Ranch/Courtesy photo

C Lazy U has welcomed guests since 1919. Nestled beside Willow Creek Reservoir and beneath Mount Baldy, C Lazy U runs a herd of nearly 250 horses — plus two Sicilian donkeys. 

Two of C Lazy U’s greatest assets are their hardworking staff and beautiful landscape. This year, C Lazy U was blessed with two additions to these assets — the return of Mackenzie Brenneman as children’s program manager, and the granting of 550 acres into a conservation easement. 

Anyone who has visited C Lazy U remembers how Brenneman made their vacation a little brighter. Now, she helps make memories for a new generation. 

Kids ride horses on miles of trails, tackle the ropes course, participate in cattle drives, take whitewater rafting excursions and more. At the end of their program, kids participate in the “Shodeo,” where they show off their rodeo skills to their family, guests and employees.

C Lazy U also keeps ranching traditions alive through land stewardship. The ranch has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to conserve nearly 3,000 acres on their property. This March, they granted 550 acres to the conservation easement, preserving more open spaces of the American West. Guests on trail rides enjoy views to an endless horizon between the ears of their horse — just as wranglers did centuries ago. 

Drowsy Water Ranch – Granby 

Wranglers carefully handpick a horse for each guest based on their riding ability.
Drowsy Water Ranch/Courtesy photo

“We invite people from all over the world to experience the western lifestyle,” said Gretta Fosha, who helps run Drowsy Water with her husband Justin Fosha. “While they’re here, they are simply cowboys and cowgirls for the week. This atmosphere creates great memories and new friendships with like-minded families.”  

Drowsy Water opened to guests in the 1940s. Ken and Randy Sue Fosha, Drowsy Water’s current owners, have been sharing their love of Colorado’s beauty with guests since the 1970s. 

Their sons, Justin and Ryan Fosha, were raised on the ranch, learning how to bring western traditions to the next generation of guests. 

The ranch owns around 120 horses and a herd of cows, plus chickens, ducks and goats that kids visit at the petting zoo. The ranch is nestled on about 600 acres that adjoins national forest land. 

“While horseback riding is the main activity we offer, we include rafting, hiking, yoga, zip lining, team cattle penning and kids programs,” Gretta said. “Families find they get to spend plenty of time together, but also have the opportunity to make new friends amongst peers.” 

Their horseback riding program accommodates everyone, from expert riders to guests who have never climbed in a saddle before. Since guests are paired with their horse for the week, they can build a bond together. 

A yoga instructor and massage therapist visit the ranch once a week so guests can stretch and relax after hitting the trails. A four-line zip line course offers one of the longest and highest lines in Grand County.  

Rusty Spurr Ranch – Kremmling

Latigo Ranch owns over 70 horses, and wranglers pick the perfect horse for each rider.
Latigo Ranch/Courtesy photo

Han and Connie Smith operate Rusty Spurr, providing daytime rides and cattle drives in wide open country. Guests who want more flexibility in their vacation schedule can pick from one or  three-hour rides. 

“Many of our guests comment on how excited they are to get a quality horseback riding experience without committing to a week-long stay,” Han said.

Rusty Spurr runs a herd of about 50 horses on 10,000 expansive acres. Since their operation is small, the Smiths can offer intimate rides where each person can interact with fellow guests, as well as the wrangler leading the ride.

During Rusty Spurr’s rides, wranglers travel through the group to converse with each guest. Guests can also move more naturally with their horse, becoming more engaged while riding.

“We try to give our guests a taste of the freedom one feels when actually interacting with their horse,” Smith said. “We help them connect with their horse and that causes them to feel connected with the entire experience.” 

Guests on the cattle drives participate in a real ranching tradition as they venture out with the wranglers. They move the cattle to new locations to ensure the grass is managed well.  

The wranglers, guests (and cattle dogs) work together as a team to move the herd, each contributing to ensure the land is protected and the cattle are cared for. 

Latigo Ranch – Kremmling

Draft horses, known for their gentle strength, help pull sleighs and wagons.
C Lazy U Ranch/Courtesy photo

Latigo Ranch began operating in 1927 — Randy and Lisa George became the ranch’s stewards in 1987. 

“Randy and Lisa fell in love with each other and with the land of Grand County at about the same time,” the couple’s daughter Hannah said. “They couldn’t do this without each other, and they wouldn’t want to.”

The couple met working at C Lazy U Ranch in 1982. After getting engaged, they purchased Latigo. Guests fall in love with Latigo the same way the Georges did — many establish a relationship with Randy and Lisa for years afterwards, returning each year for a vacation off the beaten path. 

The entire George family offers guests an all-inclusive stay rooted in western hospitality. Hannah orchestrates the barn and agriculture program. The family runs the kitchens and dining room, offering guests a fine dining experience after their day on the trails. 

The George family runs Latigo in dedication to each other, their staff, guests and land. 

“Everyone who visits their home has a chance to see how to live a different way, in harmony with the mountains, with courage in their decisions, trying to make each day better than the one preceding it,” Hannah said. “How to live the Grand County way.” 

Bar Lazy J Ranch – Parshall

Baby goats get lots of love at the ranch petting zoo.
Bar Lazy J Ranch/Courtesy photo

History runs deep at Bar Lazy J Ranch, just as the Colorado River runs through it. Since its founding in 1912, the ranch hasn’t missed a season. 

Owners Jerry and Cherri Helmicki felt inspired to offer outdoors adventures to guests because of their own love for exploring the outdoors. 

“In 1995, the opportunity presented itself for us to make a change and follow our dream,” Cherri said. “Sold everything, made the jump and purchased the Bar Lazy J. What a wonderful adventure!”

Cherri explained that the ranch’s success is centered around their commitment to providing an experience, not just a vacation. 

“We want to touch people’s lives and give them special memories,” Cherri said. “Our unique setting with the Colorado River running through our ranch, along with maintaining authenticity of the facilities that date back to 1904, sets the stage for their adventure.”

The ranch has remained essentially the same for the past 110 years, preserving history in a tucked away valley. Guests can listen to the sounds of the rushing Colorado River outside their cabin windows, cast a line while fishing on the gold medal waters or take a horseback ride through the aspens. 

Other local venues that offer horseback rides
  • Devil’s Thumb Ranch
  • YMCA’s Snow Mountain Ranch

Contact the venue for more details.


This story first appeared in Explore Grand’s 2023 summer edition.

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