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For a refreshing getaway, escape to swathes of open land with farm animals and rejuvenate your mind and body in the fresh air. Ranches offer all that along with comfortable accommodations so you can have a unique stay. To know all there’s to know about ranches, keep reading this extensive guide, which also includes the top destinations with the best ranches.

What are ranches?

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Ranches refer to expansive tracts of land primarily used for farming purposes. Taken care of by ranchers and foremen, ranches include plenty of farm animals, such as horses, cattle, chickens, goats, and sheep, among others. Bred, reared, and grazed, these animals are used as livestock and also to maintain the farm.

All ranches feature a dwelling, and more and more ranches these days have started hosting guests in these accommodations. Ranches make for a refreshing break from day-to-day life and offer tourists a unique experience of staying on a farm amidst animals. It also guarantees some one-of-a-kind experiences.

History of ranches

Even though humans have been raising animals for livestock since the Middle Ages, it was done on a large scale for the first time in Spain. As the Spanish started colonizing, they also took their cattle and developed ranching traditions in Mexico based on their knowledge and expertise. The practice was then adopted by settlers and herders in the US, where it was particularly successful because of the availability of endless open land suitable for raising livestock on a large scale.

Main responsibilities of ranchers

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  • Herding animals

Collecting the animals in herds and taking them out for grazing on the pastures is among the primary jobs of ranchers. One of the best ways to ensure that such large numbers of animals stay fed is by herding and grazing.

  • Breeding animals

Ranchers are always on the lookout for breeding animals and creating offspring with desirable traits. It allows ranchers to control the qualities that are required in an animal.

  • Caring for animals

Apart from herding and breeding, farm animals require plenty of care. Ranchers ensure that animals such as horses and cattle stay fed, for which they prepare hay and other mixtures. To ensure that animal products are clean, hygienic, and healthy, ranchers keep the animals groomed and also conduct regular checks to prevent and treat diseases and illnesses. Another major responsibility is assisting the animals in birthing along with veterinarians if required.

  • Keeping the ranch clean and functional

Apart from taking care of animals, running ranches involves plenty of work, including maintenance and cleaning. Ranchers ensure that the ranch is functioning properly and that every piece of equipment is up to date.

Difference between ranches and farms



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A ranch is primarily used for raising livestock on a large scale. Ranchers take care of all the needs of the animals on the land, engage in breeding them, and procure animal products for sale. While a ranch may have a farming area, its main focus is raising animals.

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A farm’s primary function is agriculture. Farmers busy themselves with growing and maintaining crops, which involves activities such as sowing, weeding, irrigating, mowing, and more. You may find a few animals on farms, but they’re not primarily treated as livestock.

Types of ranches

  • Game ranches

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Instead of using animals for livestock, game ranches keep animals for trading and recreation purposes. Game ranchers involve themselves in raising and breeding animals for hunting. Some game ranches perform completely different functions - these are used to keep animals for wildlife conservation, while also taking care of endangered animals.

  • Livestock ranches

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Livestock ranches rear animals for using them for produce, including dairy, meat, and wool. The day-to-day activities at livestock ranches include rearing, herding, and collecting produce. Other tasks include breeding animals with careful selection.

  • Dude ranches

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A characteristic feature in the US, dude ranches are guest ranches that make for an authentic Western experience. While staying on a dude ranch, you can engage in activities such as horseback riding, hunting, and range shooting, among others. You may also learn about all the tasks and activities of cowboys and foremen.

Why should you choose a ranch stay?

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  • Solitude

Usually set away from the commotion of the city, ranches make for a secluded stay. Apart from ranchers taking care of the farm, ranches only have animals and trees to keep you company. The stillness and solitude that ranches offer make for an introspective time in nature.

  • Proximity to nature

Surrounded by swathes of lush pasture, ranches put you close to nature and allow you to refresh your mind and body with some greenery and clean air. Apart from the expansive fields surrounding the ranches, you may also find landscaped gardens just outside your ranch dwelling.

  • Opportunities for caring for, feeding, or grooming animals

If you like working with animals, then you’re in for one of the most memorable stays on a ranch. With plenty of different animals on site, such as horses, cattle, chickens, goats, and sheep, among others, you’ll have a great time making new animal friends. Moreover, you can feed, groom, or care for these animals..

  • Opportunities for horseback riding

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If you have always wanted to learn horseback riding, then make sure to book a ranch with horses. These ranches usually have professional cowboys who can teach you all there’s to know about horseback riding.

  • Wide open outdoor spaces

Surrounded by expansive open land, ranches allow you to admire the outdoors and make the most of the countryside. In these wide open spaces, you can also gather with friends and family or engage in fun outdoor activities such as hiking and picnicking, among others.

  • Fresh products for consumption

Home to farm animals, ranches allow you to savor fresh animal products such as eggs and milk. Apart from animal products, you can also pick out fresh ingredients for your recipes if the ranch comes with a vegetable or fruit farm and have a farm-to-table experience.

  • Learning opportunities for kids

Ranches are also ideal places to take your kids as they offer a fun and adventurous learning opportunity. Ranches can teach your little ones all about farm animals and how to care for them. It will also allow them to play with the animals safely.

  • Eco-friendly

If you’re an environmentally conscious traveler, then you’ll be glad to know that ranches are usually eco-friendly and follow many sustainable practices, including farm-to-table recipes. Ranchers also know and follow better waste management practices, and many ranches today run on solar power.

Typical features of a ranch accommodation

  • Decks

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Attached to the main accommodation, furnished decks make for a charming outdoor space for gathering. Here, guests can enjoy the expansive and refreshing outdoors while having a memorable time with loved ones.

  • Hiking trails

Plenty of ranches offer hiking trails in their surroundings for an exciting outdoor adventure. Guests can embark on scenic trails while relishing the lush greenery and fresh air.

  • Barbecue areas

Barbecuing with loved ones is yet another outdoor leisure activity that you can enjoy during a ranch stay. On most ranch accommodations, you can find barbecue facilities with outdoor dining on decks, porches, or yards, which together allow a fun and memorable cookout.

  • Picnic areas

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To make your stay even more enjoyable, ranches often have yards surrounding the accommodation - a charming place to have a picnic with your kids. To make your picnics more fun, you can light up the fire pit and roast some marshmallows.

  • Outdoor games

With plenty of outdoor space, you can enjoy outdoor games with your group during a ranch stay. Games such as tug of war and volleyball, which don’t require extensive equipment, can easily be played at ranches. You can also get creative and think of fun games that only require a large open space.

  • Barns and stables

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All livestock ranches feature structures such as barns and stables that help with the smooth running of the ranch. While a barn is sort of a storage building and a stable is used for animal lodging, the former is also often used as a setting for rustic weddings and parties.


Western states in the US with ranches

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Even though Arizona might be dominated by desert landscapes, it still boasts a great number of dude ranches where you can escape the city bustle. Whether you want to explore the charming suburbs surrounding the bustling state capital, Phoenix, or relish the desert countryside in Tucson, you can find plenty of ranches in this state. You can also drive north and admire magnificent red rock formations while staying in ranches near Sedona.


With a year-round generally pleasant climate and outstanding natural landmarks such as Yosemite National Park, California allows you to make the most of the outdoors. If you’re planning a visit, you can also find plenty of ranches to stay here. For some of the best surroundings and landscapes, you can drive south and find a ranch to stay near San Diego. You may also stay at one of the ranches in Los Angeles.


Boasting lush and expansive open fields, Wyoming is one of the best states in the country for a ranch experience. Book your stay at one of the ranches in Wyoming and experience authentic Western cowboy culture. You can elevate your retreat by settling amidst nature and stunning landscapes by booking a ranch to stay near Yellowstone National Park.

Midwestern states in the US with ranches

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With its borders touching four of the five Great Lakes, Michigan is perfect for outdoorsy travelers. To make the most of it, book one of the farmhouses or ranches to stay in Michigan, plenty of which have resident animals such as horses, chickens, and cows.


Another outstanding state for having an authentic ranch experience, Missouri boasts rustic yet comfortable ranches to stay amidst lush greenery and expansive farms. It also features several gorgeous lakes that you can explore to reconnect with nature.


For your next getaway, embark on one of the exciting caving adventures in Minnesota or explore some of the gorgeous hiking and trekking spots in the state. You can book a wonderful ranch to stay at after your excursions.

Southern states in the US with ranches

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With more land in farms compared to any other state in the US, Texas also boasts one of the highest numbers of ranches in the country. Whether you’re in the state capital Austin or the vicinity of the largest city, Houston, you can find extensive grazing fields with comfortable ranches. If you want to explore more, you can stay in one of the ranches in Dallas and witness both its charming suburbs and bustling urban vibe.


Witness the outstanding Southern hospitality and magnificent outdoors of Tennessee by staying in one of the ranches in the state. If you want to experience an urban vibe while also being close to nature, you can book one of the ranches to stay in Nashville.


Featuring farm cabins and more authentic barns, Florida has some of the best ranches amidst nature. With Jacksonville in the north and Miami in the south, the state boasts some magnificent coastal cities with ranches on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, making for a scenic retreat.

Northeastern states in the US with ranches

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From gorgeous lakes such as Lake Wallenpaupack and Lake Erie to vibrant cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania offers the best of both worlds. It also organizes and celebrates a range of festivals and events throughout the year that ensure an entertaining time. To witness it all, including its charming countryside, book one of the ranches to stay in Pennsylvania.

New York:

Immerse yourself in the beautiful surroundings of New York by embarking on one of its scenic train rides or magnificent waterfall hikes. To break your journey and relish the landscapes even more, stay on one of the ranches in New York.


Sitting on the northeastern corner of the contiguous US, Maine is a paradise for nature lovers. From plenty of scenic drives to charming surf spots, it features both verdant greenery and a stunning coast. As for its greenery, you can admire all of it by staying in one of the ranches in Maine.

Ranches in Canada

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This prairie province of Canada is probably one of the best places in the country to book a ranch to stay. Even if you don’t want to wander too far from the city, you can book a ranch near Calgary.

British Columbia:

From world-famous ski resorts such as Whistler to the magnificent coastal areas of Vancouver Island, British Columbia has it all for nature lovers. For a charming summer retreat in the province, you can book a guest ranch to stay. You may also pick one of the few ranches to stay in Kamloop to witness the day-to-day activities of a farm and be close to water.


Even though not all ranches to stay in Ontario offer a completely authentic ranch experience, they still put you close to nature and offer charming views. For more stunning views, you can set out to explore some of the most panoramic hiking and trekking spots in the country.

Ranches in the rest of the Americas

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One of the first places for the original Spanish cattle owners, Mexico makes for a brilliant ranch experience. To witness the best of the Mexican countryside and Latin American culture, book one of the ranches to stay in Mexico.


While some of these ranches to stay in Argentina are country houses with stunning views, the rest are rustic dude ranches where you can try horseback riding and other activities. For easy access to your retreat, you can book a ranch to stay near Buenos Aires, the capital city.


Admire the picturesque surroundings and charming mountain views while staying in one of the ranches in Colombia. For a more urban vibe, you can check out some vibrant cities such as the capital Bogota, Cali, or Medellin.

Factors to consider when booking a ranch stay

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  • Season

Some ranches, especially those in the Southern US, stay open the whole year, thanks to the year-round pleasant climate. States in the Northeastern US and the Great Lakes region don’t have such a favorable climate and experience snowfall during the winter months. So if you’re planning a ranch stay, the general rule is to make the booking between May and September, when the weather is most pleasant.

  • Location

Depending on the type of landscape you prefer, you can book a ranch from a selection of locations. If you’re in the US, book a ranch in Arizona or New Mexico for stunning desert landscapes. However, if you want to stay amidst lush rolling fields, choose a ranch in a Midwestern or Southern state, such as Missouri or Texas.

  • Price

The prices of ranches can vary depending on the amenities and activities that they offer. Before booking, it would be best to plan a budget and determine the amenities and activities you need.

  • Guest capacity

While some ranches offer a private room on the ranch, others allow guests access to the whole accommodation, meant to fit large groups and families. Make sure to check the guest capacity of your chosen ranch at the time of booking.

  • Amenities

Depending on the price and location of the property, ranch accommodations may offer amenities such as full kitchens, private bathrooms, laundry facilities, and outdoor gathering areas, among others.

  • Connectivity

As ranches are often located away from the city, not all of them offer a stable internet connection. If you’re planning on working during your ranch stay, make sure to confirm the availability of mobile network and internet with the host.

  • Activities

Dude ranches offer a range of different activities, such as horseback riding under the supervision of a cowboy, hunting, hiking, camping, and more. Depending on whether you’re planning to engage in these outdoor adventures or not, you can choose from a range of different ranches.

  • Pet policy

As ranches feature a variety of farm animals on their premises, they generally tend to be pet-friendly as long as you have a well-trained pet. Some ranches may not allow pets inside the accommodation, so make sure to check the pet policy if you’re bringing your furry friend.

  • Rules and regulations

To avoid any surprises, make sure to go through all the house rules and regulations, including the child policy and the extra guest policy. Ranches include plenty of animals on their premises, so also make sure that you’re following the safety regulations and respecting the rules that the host has put in place.

What to pack for a ranch stay

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  • Combination of light clothes for the day and warm clothes for the night

Ranches are located amidst wide open spaces, where the weather can vary greatly during different times of the day. Make sure that you’re packing both breezy and warm clothes to keep yourself comfortable throughout the day.

  • Toiletries (although essentials are usually provided)

While most ranches provide essentials such as hand washes and soaps, it’s never a bad idea to bring some toiletries of your own, as some items may not be readily available in remote locations.

  • Sunscreen

During your ranch stay, you’ll be out and about engaging in different outdoor activities. Make sure that you have sunscreen to avoid sunburns.

  • Hiking essentials

Plenty of ranches offer hiking trails in their vicinity, offering guests a brilliant outdoor adventure. If you’re planning on embarking on those trails, don’t forget to pack essentials such as a cap or a hat, hiking shoes, and a pair of sunglasses, among others.

  • Waterproof clothing

Before you leave for your journey, don’t forget to check the weather forecast. If any rain is predicted, throw in your raincoats and other waterproof clothing to make the most of your trip, regardless of the weather.

  • Riding boots

Horseback riding is one of the must-try activities on ranches. To ensure that you don’t miss out on it, don’t forget to pack your riding boots if you have them. If you don’t, you can rent them out on your way and throw them in your car boot.

  • Insect repellent

Stays like those on a farm or a ranch can involve living amidst various types of insects. While indoor insect repellents are often available in ranches, you can keep repellent body sprays if you’re planning to be outdoors for extensive periods.

  • Medicines

Due to the remote locations of ranches, it’s absolutely necessary to keep all basic handy medicines in case of emergencies. While your host may also offer basic medical facilities, it’s always best to be prepared on your own.

Have a refreshing stay on a ranch

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With exciting activities such as feeding animals, horseback rides, hunting trips, and more, ranches make for a unique and outstanding experience. Moreover, with stunning wide-open surroundings, you can forget all about your stressful city life for a few days and immerse yourself in nature.

Given the refreshing premise and fun-filled activities, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t book a ranch for your next getaway. Choose from the range of destinations covered in this guide and book a ranch for a memorable experience.

Ranches in the USA

Ranches in North America

Ranches in South America

Other destinations with ranches around the world

FAQ's about Ranches

  • What are ranches?
    Ranches refer to the swathes of land meant for the rearing of animals, which are then used as livestock. A ranch also includes structures such as barns, stables, and accommodations for ranchers.
  • Are ranches different from farms?
    While farms are agricultural lands meant for the production of crops, a ranch is meant for rearing animals for livestock, conservation, or recreation.
  • What do ranchers do?
    Head of the day-to-day activities on ranches, a rancher involves himself with herding, breeding, feeding, and grooming of animals, among other activities.
  • Do ranches allow horseback riding?
    Most dude ranches include a cowboy who tends to plenty of tasks, especially those related to horses. Under the supervision of the cowboy, beginner riders can practice horseback riding, while seasoned riders can also ride on their own.
  • How do I book a ranch stay?
    If you’re planning to book a ranch, you can search for properties on Airbnb and Vrbo and choose from a range of ranches in the location of your preference.
  • Are ranches pet-friendly?
    With plenty of farm animals on the premises, many ranches are pet-friendly, as long as the pet is well-trained. However, make sure to check the pet policy before finalizing your booking.
  • What activities can I enjoy on a ranch?
    A ranch offers guests plenty of activities. You can engage in horseback riding, embark on hiking trails, or feed and care for animals with the help of the rancher.
  • Are ranch stays expensive?
    Depending on the location and amenities provided, the overnight prices of a ranch can vary greatly. In a top destination such as Houston, you can get a ranch anywhere between 80 USD and 650 USD.

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