Vacation Ideas for Summer 2014: Family Fun Cowboy Style at the Rainbow Trout Ranch



Hey Howdy Hey!  Well, that’s how you and your family will be greeting each other for a few days or weeks after you return home.  I wanted to do a quick write up on the Rainbow Trout Ranch. My husband and I love to fly fish and several years ago were in the Conejos River area fishing and staying at a family friends cabin near Antonito, CO.  It’s such a beautiful area and is very low key and not crowded.  It’s the anti Vail/Aspen scene but with all the beauty and outdoor fun you come to expect from Colorado.  On our way back from fishing with our kids near Spectacle Lake, we came across a sign that said Rainbow Trout Ranch.   We had heard about the place and decided to stop.  It’s rugged and casual main lodge, with sweeping wrap around porch, is the first thing to greet you.  We gathered some information, looked around a bit and went on our way.

A few years later, my husband’s family wanted to do a family trip that incorporated everyone.  This is no small feat considering there are 12 grandchildren and 14 adults that need accommodating.  My husband immediately suggested looking into a trip to Rainbow Trout Ranch.  After planning and coordinating with everyone and the lodge, we booked our first trip, rummaged out our cowboy boots and hats and were on our way to Colorado this past June.


Boot Box



View of RTR property that backs up to the the Natl. Forest


Rainbow Trout Ranch is located in Southern Colorado, just north of the New Mexico border.  It’s about 84 miles northwest of Taos and 25 miles west of Antonito, CO.  The Ranch, which is adjacent to the National Forest, is very private and not bustling and full of tourists.  We stayed 1 night in Taos, NM on our way and you really change landscape drastically on the drive. You begin your drive through classic southwest style landscape, crossing over the amazing Rio Grande Gorge and bridge.  This is a must see sight that will truly take your breath away and give you butterflies to boot.  You can also venture to Taos during your stay at RTR if you are interested in rafting excursions.  It’s a full day through the gorge area and there is some time for exploration in Taos.  This excursion as well as others can be planned once you arrive at RTR.  After passing through Antonito, you will travel another five miles and see the Colorado Mountains start to take shape.  It’s really a “viola” type of moment.  Boom, your in Colorado.  The Ranch is not far and once you find the turn off you venture up the hill, passing the Hey Howdy Hey wagon on the way.


Sweet Jane Van Berkum



Your week at RTR is a true family experience.  You are welcomed by Doug and Linda Van Berkum who run the ranch and promptly escorted to your cabins nestled close by in the trees.  They are not air conditioned, but the nice weather makes this absence tolerable and not a necessity.  You just keep your windows open during the daytime and at night use the fireplace and space heater for warmth.  Close your windows though at night, it gets pretty chilly!  The cabins are rustically appointed and although not 5 star by any means, they are equipped with everything you would need to be comfortable and they are cleaned daily.  I personally liked the cabins casual feel and felt it was good for the kids to help straighten up every day.  Once every guest is settled, everyone gathers on the expansive front porch to visit and attend the riding orientation.  Doug and Linda’s son David and his wife Jane, work and live at RTR full time with their three children.  They run the horse operations of the ranch and are in charge of the wrangling staff.  Their knowledge of horses is vast and their guidance during your stay is priceless.  Your safety and that of your family is paramount.  They have protocols that they follow religiously and because of that, everyone has fun and feels safe on their horse.


Beautiful porch at the main lodge.


Swimming pool and picnic area.



Once your days begin, the activities you can participate in are endless.  You can truly, and I mean truly, learn to ride a horse at RTR.  The kids are in a camp like environment during most of the day and are divided into groups based on age.  They have their own counselors and venture out on their own horse daily.  Everyone learns to ride their own horse for the week. You get the same horse everyday so you can learn on that horse and have consistency, same goes for the kids.  They get to know and love their horse by the end of the week and they truly take ownership in their riding experience.  Because of the type of activities on horseback you will be participating in, I cannot stress enough the importance of proper gear.  Cowboy hat, check. You need it to block the sun, it’s must.  Cowboy boots with a riding heel, check.  You want good boots, and you want them to fit well and be comfortable.  Don’t cut corners with your boots. Jeans and cool long sleeve shirts, check.  It’s hot and sunny on the ranch when you are out riding, but in the shade of the aspens it can also get cool.  It’s just best to be covered from the sun and good outdoor shirts work well.  They dry fast and are comfortable.  Think fishing style shirts.  Don’t be afraid to let your inner cowboy or cowgirl emerge.  You will be in the minority if you leave your western duds at home, it’s a promise.  Rain gear, check.  The Colorado weather is unpredictable and everyday the wranglers will tie your rain gear on your horse in case it rains during your ride.  Check with the staff for other items needed for your trip.  Their suggested packing list is a good one.

IMG_2246 - Version 2

Barrel racing on my horse in the ranch rodeo.


Riding my horse in the ranch rodeo.



Fishing, getting a little dirty, having the time of my life on the Conejos.


Oh yeah, the fishing!  Well, let me just say if you like to fly fish, you’ve come to the right place too.  I did ride, but I think I fly fished more.  This stretch of river is amazing. It’s coveted by all the local guides who do not have access to it.  RTR does have two guides on staff to assist you with any and all fishing needs and they can work with novice fisherman as well. You can bring your own gear or borrow what they have, although their gear is not top of the line.  Conejos River Anglers and the Fox Creek Store is also a short drive for any gear you might need or want to purchase.  All the fishing guides and stores are knowledgable and very helpful.  My husband and I love to fly fish, so this was a treat for us.  The kids would venture off during the day for their ride and we would head down to the river.  Really beautiful!  The kids also get to fish one day and boy did my kids have some luck.  My daughter caught a 22 inch rainbow trout.  Amazing!

The food at the Ranch was good old fashion comfort food.  It’s classic homestyle cooking and dining, all of the guests around big tables and served family style.  They can accommodate different dietary preferences as well.  Another aspect of the Ranch that I like is the blend of adult time and family time.  The kids get some independence and the adult get theirs as well. You’re not on top of each other all the time which is nice.  Adults can ride together in various size groups in the morning and swim in the pool after lunch with the kids.  You can also go for family rides together.  The staff accommodates any style day you wish to set up.  Towards the end of your week stay, the adults even get a candlelight dinner in the lodge while the kids go out for a picnic and hayride with Doug and the wranglers.  It’s a great end to a great week.



Out on my trail ride on the Natl. Forest

One thing of note about the ranch, like many dude ranches, is the comfort factor.  You really need to understand it’s a ranch lifestyle.  The staff do not come do your laundry (although washer/dryers are on property to use), there’s no air conditioning, you will get dirty and exert yourself etc etc.  They are there to teach you to ride, fish, serve you meals and help you with anything of course.  However, you need to be good at tending to your own knittin, as my Dad used to tell me.  It’s an outdoors experience and a family bonding vacation.  You don’t/can’t watch TV or cruise the internet in your cabin or even use your phone easily.  You unplug and reconnect with each other, not the outside world.  You will square dance, ride, fish, eat, laugh and have memories for a lifetime.  I promise, your kids will love every second and be begging you to go back.  Hey howdy hey, check it out for Summer 2014!  For more information visit  Tell them sent you!


Hubcap, the 3 amazing legged dog!


  Pin It

Leave a Comment