Have you always dreamed of being a cowboy or cowgirl? Then a ranch vacation in Texas should be on your list. Pack your boots, jeans, concho belt, Western shirt, leather fringe jacket, and hat to experience a part of the Wild West. Think roping, horseback riding, skeet shooting, luxury spa retreats, delicious barbecue, and gourmet cuisine. We’ll visit the Cowboy Capital of the World, dude ranches, luxurious ranch experiences, and everything in between, in no particular order. Now is the time to visit. The weather is mild and sunny, and the cold, crisp nights are perfect for campfires.
1. Rough Creek Lodge And Resort, Glen Rose
My favorite getaway is Rough Creek Lodge and Resort, about 90 miles southwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth area near Glen Rose. Turn onto the property from County Road 2013 and drive for 2 miles along a winding, one-lane road, and you’ll see it looming at the end. The lodge is an industrial limestone ranch-style building with a steel roof and 40-foot windows in the main lodge, plus floor-to-ceiling windows with Mallard Lake views from each room. You’ll feel the relaxation setting in from the moment you arrive.
The friendly, helpful staff will get you situated in a lodge room with a view of the lake and the resort’s 11,140 acres of rolling prairie. The 51 rooms and suites in the main lodge are furnished with rustic yet elegant furniture. Some of the amenities include king-sized beds with luxury linens, handcrafted wooden rocking chairs on the balconies, in-room refrigerators, safes, and even boot brushes. The separate large marble showers, deep soaking tubs, and bathrooms can easily accommodate two or a family.
You’ll receive a deluxe hotel room, award-winning three-course dinner by Chef Gerard Thompson, Rough Creek’s signature breakfast, and all on-site activities for a set price per person for double occupancy, weeknights, or weekends.
The activities are plentiful; more than 80 are available, including zip-lining, rock climbing, catch-and-release fishing, billiards, darts, a petting corral, a children’s ranch, tomahawk throwing, archery, and horseshoes. You can also enjoy biking, hiking, swimming, kite flying, hayrides, pickleball, basketball, s’mores, a family pool with a lazy river, trampolines, and more.
Activities that require an additional fee include golf; paintball; skeet shooting; a rifle range; pheasant, dove, turkey, and deer hunting; and spa treatments. You can do as much or as little as you want during your visit.
The award-winning food changes with the seasons, but some highlights include grilled Texas quail, duck prosciutto and ham, red chile-glazed swordfish, and a 12-ounce rib eye. Save room for the warm Texas pecan pie with vanilla bean ice cream and molasses bourbon sauce! And don’t leave without a loaf of your favorite bread -- all of the resort’s handcrafted bread is available for purchase.
2. Wildcatter Ranch, Graham
Wildcatter Ranch is just 90 minutes from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in the Texas Hill Country near Graham and Possum Kingdom Lake. You’ll find upscale amenities at this romantic getaway, with 41 guest rooms located across the 1,500 acres in the lodge, cabin suites, OT’s Cabin and Homestead, and estate.
You can reconnect with nature on a private horseback ride with the ranch cowboys, who will tell you tales about the Old West. You’ll learn about Fort Belknap, the ranch’s history, and the Native Americans who once lived in the area. I enjoyed a Jeep tour of the ranch, the overview, and the valley past the stockyards, all the way to the river. We found fossils embedded in the boulders and looked for slate arrowheads.
We stayed at the lodge on our first visit, but we stayed in one of the cabin suites on our second. We enjoyed the rocking chairs on the back porch and the views across the valley to the Brazos River below. The sunsets here are astounding, and every cabin has a different Texas theme, with related pictures on the wall. We participated in skeet shooting and archery and then relaxed in the infinity pool and hot tub.
The Wildcatter Steakhouse offers hand-cut mesquite-grilled steaks, petite filets, seafood specials, and chicken-fried steak. Enjoy a full breakfast, and then take the Jeep ride down the hill to feed the longhorns. Enjoy lunch at the restaurant, or drive into Graham for lunch and shopping on the square.
3. Flying L Ranch Resort, Bandera
Welcome to the Cowboy Capital of the World, the Flying L Ranch Resort in Bandera in the Texas Hill Country. It was founded in 1947 by Colonel John H. Lapham, a retired Air Corps colonel who built an airstrip and started his flight school at the 542-acre ranch. Grab your jeans, boots, and hat and experience this full-scale resort with one-to-four-room villas, five restaurants, a general store, a water park with a lazy river, an 18-hole golf course, and a business and conference center.
Lapham’s Lodge and the Colonel’s Quarters, with 10 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms each, both accommodate up to 22 people. These accommodations are perfect for family reunions, with washers, dryers, pool tables, HD TVs, outdoor wood-burning fireplaces, and fully furnished kitchens.
Family activities include horseback riding, putt-putt golf, basketball, tennis, volleyball, ping-pong, horseshoes, shuffleboard, and playgrounds. The whole family will love Buck Shannon, the cowboy balladeer who entertains with cowboy songs and stories of the ranch’s history around the campfire.
The property’s 19th Hole Grill serves breakfast and lunch, grab-and-go items, beer, wine, coffee, and more.
4. West 1077 Guest Ranch, Bandera
The West 1077 Guest Ranch, 10 miles from Bandera, was established on an old 230-acre cattle ranch and boasts a peaceful atmosphere and stunning Texas Hill Country beauty with plenty of modern amenities. Stay in one of the newly renovated 14 cabins, each furnished with handcrafted cedar furniture, comfortable sleeping accommodations for four, a refrigerator, and all the comforts of home. You can enjoy the sunsets and starry nights from the rocking chairs on your front porch.
A delicious family-style breakfast is served each morning at the lodge. They don’t serve lunch or dinner, but there are plenty of restaurants in Bandera to enjoy, or you can grill outside or use the microwave in the lodge.
The 230-acre ranch has direct access to a 5,400-acre state park with breathtaking scenery and more than 50 miles of trails to explore. You can ride horses every day along the old cattle trails at your leisure.
5. Mayan Dude Ranch, Bandera
Located 47 miles northwest of San Antonio near Bandera, the Mayan Dude Ranch offers their brand of “horsepitality” high in the Texas Hill Country. The Hicks family has run the ranch for more than half a century. Whether you’re an ol’ cowpoke or a little buckaroo, you’ll be at ease immediately. Stay in the lodge rooms with their hilly views or in the individual rock cottages with one, two, or three bedrooms.
You can ride horses twice daily, swim in the vast pool, play tennis, enjoy the Medina River that horseshoes through the ranch, and go on an arrowhead hunting expedition. On the property’s many trails, you may spot deer, armadillos, roadrunners, wild turkeys, and more. Ride the hayride to the cowboy breakfast, the riverside gazebo, the little Western town, or out under the starry skies for a campfire and sing-along. You’ll enjoy Texas two-stepping and the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” and learn many Western line-dancing techniques.
The Mayan serves up some fantastic food, including mesquite-grilled steak, brisket, pork, ribs, chicken, sausage, and some of the best Mexican food around.
7. Silver Spur Guest Ranch, Bandera
Trade your skirt for blue jeans, your tie for a red bandana, and your stress for a peaceful Hill Country sunset at the Silver Spur Guest Ranch near Bandera. The accommodations range from standard rooms to three-bedroom cabins, some sleeping up to 12 guests each. Amenity packages include three meals daily and all the activities, including one or two horseback rides per day.
Some of the ranch’s activities include campfires with s’mores, a swimming pool, and hayrides to feed the longhorns. Guests can also enjoy bullwhip and shooting demos, fossil hunting, hiking, buckaroo rides, stargazing, ranch animals, lasso lessons, a playground, and more.
Texas’s dude ranches will make you think you are in a Western movie filled with cowboy history, folklore, and pure Hill Country magic.