If you haven’t noticed yet, my daughter Lizzie loves horses. To say she is obsessed would be an understatement. So when we had the opportunity to visit a Dude Ranch, she was so excited.
The Pine Ridge Dude Ranch is located in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The ranch just underwent a million-dollar renovation and has been listed as one of the top ten Best All-Inclusive Family Vacations in the USA.
It was about a three hour drive for us, so the kids were really happy to arrive. Once we checked in, we had a bit of trouble finding our room. We were in 136, which turned out to be on the second floor and there was no elevator. My 80-year-old mother sat with the kids while I did several trips up to the room. If you have any mobility issues, be sure to keep this in mind and request a room downstairs.
Our room was huge, which was great for our large family. The rooms sleep up to 7 people. We had a king size bed, a full size bed, bunk beds and a crib that they set up for us. Bunk beds are always a hit with my kids.
We headed to the outdoor pool just as a huge boom of thunder rang out through the sky and sent everyone running for cover. A torrential rain quickly followed, so we tried for the indoor pool but the rest of the hotel had the same idea and it was a bit too chaotic. The boys loved the arcade and the snack machines everywhere.
The storm dissipated as quick as it had appeared, so we headed over to meet the horses. We visited with the chickens and really sweet goats in the petting area.
The weather was still looking sketchy, so we hit up the general store in the lobby and the kids each picked out a toy to play with in the room.
At 5:00, we headed to the lobby to sign up for the horse riding for the following day. Each guest receives a ticket to ride for each day they are there. I would advise you show up early for these signs ups so that you get the best times before they fill up. Children have to be at least nine years old to go on a trail ride. Nine years and under can do a pony ride.
Dinner was supposed to be an outdoor barbecue but since it was raining, it was moved inside. After dinner, we watched people doing karaoke in the lobby and then went out to the campfire. They brought a really sweet, calm horse out for a meet and greet and my daughter loved petting him. I was really impressed with the animal welfare. They took very good care of the animals and put their needs first.
I woke up early and was so happy to have a Starbucks in the lobby! The kids went to the breakfast buffet in PJ’s (and coyboy hats, of course).
The weather had finally cleared up and the kids were chomping at the bit to get over to the dude ranch (see what I did there?).
Since my kids are all seven years and under, they each did a pony ride. There were helmets provided and the horses were very sweet. Since Lizzie was so small, I had to walk beside her. I am constantly in awe of how brave she is around these huge animals. There is a professional photographer there to take photos of each rider and you can purchase them in the lobby later that day.
The pony rides lasted about 10 minutes each. My mother took the kids back to the room while my sister and I went on a trail ride. My sister has special needs and they were great at matching up horses to the skill level of each rider. You can choose to go on a trail ride where you just walk or a trail ride where you canter. The ride was about 45 minutes long and it was nice to go out for some scenic views of the Catskills.
There are some specific rules to the trail rides which are meant to keep you and the horses safe. They are pretty standard: no cameras, no backpacks, no open-toe shoes, and no phones. Sounds simple, right? Well, being an hour north of New York City, there were a lot of city slickers. And that’s fine! But follow the rules, people! I kid you not- on our trail ride, we had a guy get in trouble for texting and riding. And another woman quit 10 minutes in because she was “melting.” We all had to wait in the woods while a ranch hand rode out to find us and bring her back (insert eye-roll). Through it all, the staff remained super patient and understanding.
After riding, we tried our hand at archery. There was a really fun competition where the kids had to try to pop a balloon. Harry was the first one to do it and he was SO proud. He was awarded “Pine Ridge Bucks” that he could use to buy something in the General Store. There were games and competitions going on throughout the day where they could accumulate prizes.
The kids also loved the giant bounce pillow in the back field. They played on that until the rain returned and they had to shut it down (it becomes slippery and dangerous when wet). BUT there was no lightning, so they were still allowed to swim in the pool. There is nothing more fun than swimming in the rain!
After we came in to dry off, we joined everyone in the lobby for a game of Bingo and the kids had a lot of fun with that. Andrew even won a game! So it was back to the general store with their “Pine Ridge Bucks.”
This was my favorite part of the trip. I set my alarm and woke the kids up really early. We snuck down to the ranch in our pajamas just as the sun came up. The horses spend the night out in the fields, but in the morning they come in for their grain. Once the back gate is opened, a stampede of horses comes running down the trail to the barn. It sounds like thunder. I totally get it. I am the same way with my coffee in the morning.
We had one last pony ride before setting off. The weekend flew by. There is a private lake with paddle boats that we never even made it down to. The kids had such a great time and are dying to go back.
Lastly, I can’t say enough about how wonderful the Pine Ridge Dude Ranch staff was. Everywhere we went from ranch hands to waitstaff, they were kind, patient and welcoming.
What does all-inclusive mean?
All-inclusive generally means that prices include meals, accommodations, facilities, activities and entertainment.
On the day you arrive, check in is at 2:00, although your room may not be ready until 4:00. You will be given a free dinner. The following day, you will be given breakfast lunch and dinner. On the day you check out, you are given breakfast and lunch. No alcohol is included. One trail ride or pony ride per day is included. Check out is at 11:00, but you can check out of your room and then use the facilities until 4:00 that day. Gratuities are not included.
To book your stay at the Pine Ridge Dude Ranch, click here.