From this distance—not so far, but not so near—it is impossible to hear the hooves kicking up the dry earth. But soon, a silent stream of horses appears through the roiling brown cloud, heading down the chute from their pasture on the hill for another day of work. Once the dust comes to rest, just beyond the pond, a range of low, green summits returns to mark the far horizon. The only things moving now are the fast flickering leaves of the aspen. The last of my coffee had cooled. It’s time to make my way to the barn.
When it comes to vacations, there’s nothing wrong with a week stretched out poolside, where rolling over is the height of exertion. But the best getaways are bookended by sitting still and scarcely sitting, by lounging and getting the lead out. There’s something to be said for going to bed bone-tired—or at least feeling a day well-spent. And at the Home Ranch in Colorado’s Elk River Valley, turning in after a day of riding and hiking is one sweet satisfaction.
Situated in the shadow of the Rockies, 18 miles from Steamboat Springs, this 4,000 acre, Relais & Châteaux-designated property combines a rustic vibe with all the top-drawer touches any world traveler could want. Need a massage? Check. A bottle of Chateau Lynch Bages for dinner? No problem. The Home Ranch has earned a Wine Spectator Award of excellence for the past four years. And speaking of dinner, they ain’t slinging hash at The Home Ranch. Thanks to Executive Chef Jonathon Gillespie, think tortellini filled with fava beans and English peas, or cornmeal crusted steelhead trout kissed with a blueberry and jalapeño reduction and served with roasted purple turnips and smoked mashed potatoes.
Although these creature comforts are welcome, you’ll really feel you’ve earned them after a day in the saddle or a yes-I-can ascent of the 12,000-foot Mount Zirkel, a twenty-minute drive from the ranch. Which isn’t to suggest you’ve got no choice on how to spend your days here. Sometimes, hearing a distant neigh is about as close to a horse as you want to get. And while working your way to a peak along a trail punctuated with Columbine and skunk cabbage can be a soul-changing experience, there’s something to be said for just sitting and watching a Mountain Bluebird dart and weave against a cloudless sky, its path making a robin’s flight at home seem like the futile hopping of a parakeet stuck in a cage.
Whether you’ve ridden all your life, or don’t know a spur from a stirrup, you will have no trouble finding your groove at The Home Ranch, where all activities are geared to one’s experience and comfort level. And depending on the time of year you visit, the menu of things to do is pretty rich, from fly fishing, white water rafting, and rock climbing to skate skiing and snowshoeing. With only 14 guest rooms (and a highly personable crew whose professionalism epitomizes hospitality). The Home Ranch exudes the aura of a private family compound. There are campfires and barbecues, barn dances and sing-a- longs. It doesn’t take long to sink into the rhythm of life here, or to feel, somehow, that you’ve known your wrangler forever.
In addition to its regular roster of activities for families and individuals, The Home Ranch offers specially curated getaways throughout the year. Keyed to the seasons and various aspects of ranch life, these offer guests a thoughtfully focused way to enjoy the wide-open country of the West. Here’s a sampling:
Christmas Week (December 20-27): Enjoy winter wonderland at The Home Ranch for a Christmas to remember. Revel in exquisite luxury dining and festivities or just relax and watch the snow fall from the comfort of the lodge or your own snug cabin. Walk out your front door and enjoy almost every winter activity imaginable—20 miles of Nordic skiing, sledding, tubing, snowshoeing, and sleigh rides. With caroling and music, it’s the perfect holiday setting for every taste and generation. (Five-night minimum stay)
New Year’s Week (December 27-January 3): Continue the winter wonderland fun into the new year. This and other holiday vacation packages include shuttle service to and from Steamboat Springs airport, valet ski shuttle service, private hot tubs, and 30 kilometers of groomed, Nordic trails at your doorstep. The New Year’s package includes a special bonfire celebration. (Five-night minimum stay)
January 18-21: Winter & Whiskey
March 2: Home Ranch Round-Up Ski Race (With Boulder Nordic Sports)
March 20-26: Spring Horse Warm Up
March 26: Ranch closes until May
Ranch Work Week (May 14-19): Perfect for those who always need something to do (even when on vacation), this springtime offering lets you get your hands dirty repairing fences, clearing trails, planting seedlings, and generally helping the team prep the property for the summer season.
BOOK YOUR STAY
Winter rates range from $805 to $990 per night for two people. Weekly summer rates range from $8,800 to $11,190 for two people. The average rate for a family of four is $17,000. Prices include:
• All meals
• Experienced wranglers, hiking guides, fly fishing guides, mountain biking, ski guides, gear, and equipment
• Your horse, equestrian lessons, and natural horsemanship clinics • Fly fishing
• Cross country skiing, skate skiing, backcountry skiing, and shuttle to Steamboat Ski Resort
• Comprehensive children’s activity program
• Shuttle service to and from Hayden Airport (HDN) or Steamboat Springs, Colorado
For reservations or more information, call 970-879-1780, homeranch.com.