British Columbia has plenty of space where the wild roam free and almost every activity can provide ample opportunity to enjoy some well-deserved peace and quiet this summer. BC’s Central Interior was pioneered on horseback and cowboy culture today holds strong to its roots. Once you’re in the ‘country’, you’re family; and you’re in for a treat.
The Gold Rush Trail has some of the most diverse selection of guest ranches closest to Vancouver. In five hours or less, you can go from the hustle and bustle of the city to a tranquil escape that will bring out your inner pioneer and send you back in time. Each guest ranch can offer a different experience: some have private lakes, others have private mountain ranges, and some even have off-grid woodburning hot tubs and cabin luxury. But no matter what differentiates them from the next, rest assured they all have one common trait – horseback riding. This is an activity and sport that comes naturally for physical distancing, so why not play cowboy for a day? Saddle up, your Gold Rush Trail guest ranch adventure is waiting!
Starting from south to north, these are 11 Gold Rush Trail guest ranches you don’t want to miss.
1. Sundance Guest Ranch, Ashcroft
Rested above the village of Ashcroft in BC’s historic Gold Country, Sundance Guest Ranch truly embodies the home-away-from-home experience. It is hard to imagine that within just a four-hour drive from Vancouver, you could be in one of the warmest and sunniest spots in Canada, surrounded by thousands of acres of unique Thompson River Valley terrain. With over 100+ well cared for horses to ride, lots of other non-riding activities and cuisine that goes well beyond what you might expect from a “dude ranch,” Sundance is somewhere that you’ll want to keep coming back to year after year!
2. Chilcotin Holidays, Gold Bridge
Nestled on the doorstep of the exceptional Big Creek Provincial Park and the famous South Chilcotin Mountains, Chilcotin Holidays Guest Ranch is a modern-day equivalent of the traditional rest and stock-up outposts of early explorers. Their horses even come from wild Caribou-Chilcotin Mountain Cayuse herds, so they’re accustomed to the terrain and wildlife. Whether you are planning to partake in wilderness riding, relax in pristine nature or participate in one of their diverse outdoor training programs, the Chilcotin Holidays lodge and private cabins act as comfortable home bases that emanate the adventurousness of their visitors. They also welcome travellers to experience the ‘working ranch’ concept with unique training programs for future outdoor guides, leaders, and entrepreneurs. No matter if you are looking for rejuvenation, conservation knowledge, or a fresh perspective on life, with Chilcotin Holidays you are sure to embark on an intimate and transformational journey.
3. Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, Clinton
Neighbouring Marble Range Provincial Park, the Fraser Valley, and the Cariboo Plateau, lies the award-winning Echo Valley Ranch & Spa. With hundreds of thousands of acres for you to explore, you can expect rolling mountains, desert valleys, lush pine forests, and deep canyons. Best of all, the owners have seamlessly coalesced their two varying Eastern and Western heritages, which has resulted in a unique intercultural celebration. The Ranch and Spa, which is recognized as a Canadian Signature Experience, features incredible Thai massages, authentic Western riding, and unique accommodation that entrancingly blends the two. Please note that Echo Valley is closed for the 2020 season, but are still able to help you plan and book your future 2021 adventures now.
4. Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort, Thompson-Nicola
Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort is a National Geographic honoured ‘Unique Lodge of the World’ that offers a luxury ranch adventure like no other. With an award-winning horse program, gold-certified sustainability designation, and numerous other awards and affiliations, Siwash, nestled in the heart of BC’s Gold Country, promises you an unforgettable experience. In 2017, their staff’s expertise was put to the test when a devastating forest fire swept the area. As a result of their heroic efforts, much of the resort was saved and today guests are awarded a captivating and intimate look into a thriving post-fire ecosystem. After spending the day on a horseback safari, backcountry helicopter excursion, or superior angling experience within the 10,000 acres of idyllic land, you can expect gourmet farm-to-table cuisine and fine BC wines served to you open-air style. Perhaps you will even end the evening by soaking in your cedar-soak wood burning hot tub before sleeping under the stars in one of their photogenic canvas “glamping” tents.
5. Big Bar Guest Ranch, Clinton
If you are looking for a place that makes unplugging easy, the picturesque Big Bar Guest Ranch is the ideal spot. This ultra-private hideaway is located an hour drive from the closest town of Clinton, BC, and their lack of TVs, internet, and cell phone reception promises to disconnect you from the city buzz and reconnect you with nature. Believing that ranch life is about family and togetherness, they are both child and pet-friendly! Activities include fishing, swimming, and canoeing in their private lake, farm animal encounters, exceptional riding, unique bird watching, lawn games, and exquisite farm-style family meals.
6. Graham Dunden Guest Ranch, 70 Mile House
Blissfully situated in the south Cariboo Mountains and just 1 mile north of the crystal clear Green Lake, is Graham Dunden Guest Ranch, an authentic pioneer-style ranch with a German-Bavarian flair. It features charming, rustic rooms and extremely passionate staff. While any riders travelling through the region are welcome, we highly recommend an overnight stop at one of their guest houses to rest and recoup. The ranch offers fun-packed activities year-round for the whole family. They also hold an annual Fishing Derby and traditional pig roast every June. If the food isn’t tempting enough, the guest that catches the largest fish wins a C$500 prize!
7. Free Rein Guest Ranch, Bridge Lake
Located in the Land of Hidden Waters area of the South Cariboo region, a destination along the famous BC Fishing Highway 24, rests Free Rein Guest Ranch. Hidden amongst boundless evergreens, this Cariboo treasure receives consistent 5-star reviews for its stunning scenery and exceptional hospitality. Being an authentic ‘working ranch,’ you are paired up with a horse to suit your riding-level upon arrival that you are expected to catch, groom, saddle, and feed for the duration of your stay. As one of the maximum 12 guests, you can then choose to spend your days in the saddle exploring the 285-acre property or simply relaxing in the on-site sauna. You can even participate in intimate horsemanship clinics and riding lessons that are all included. Stay in their luxury suite, lodge, or a private lakeside log cabins for a cozy and comfortable sleep. Whatever you choose, Free Rein Ranch is sure to provide you with a quintessential Canadian ranch experience.
8. The Flying U Ranch, 70 Mile House
Nestled on the north side of the gorgeous Green Lake is the Flying U Ranch, one of the last guest ranches in Canada where you can ride completely unguided and unscheduled. Built in 1849, Flying U is believed to be the oldest continually operating guest ranch in the country. The 60,000-acre property was used by fur trappers and traders in their route as they travelled to and from the Yukon and Alaska. As a guest, you can sleep in some of the same log cabins, ride on the same trails, and unwind in the same saloon that these pioneers did long ago. Perched on a beautiful ridge on the property, there are even 4 safari-style, luxury canvas tents that have been recreated to look like the prospector tents old explorers used to sleep in. After a full day of saddling up or swimming and boating in the lake, expect to relax beneath the never-ending Cariboo sky during one of Flying U’s beloved movie nights, western dance sessions or s’more campfire evenings.
9. Wettstone Guest Ranch, Bridge Lake
Perched on the shores of the forest-lined Henley Lake, another fishing haven within the Interlakes district and BC’s Land of Hidden Waters is Wettstone Guest Ranch. Being Canadian family-owned and operated, this guest ranch promises a truly authentic Western experience. Along with expertly guided riding, the ranch offers many summer activities like riding lessons, ATVing, mountain biking and fishing. They even offer on-site horse and dog training, so why not bring your animals along and relax while the Wettstone staff does the work! With events like weekly grill nights and picturesque weddings, this guest ranch is an idyllic location for your next adventure.
10. Spring Lake Ranch, 100 Mile House
Carrying on further north, about a 30-minute drive from 100 Mile House, you’ll come across Spring Lake Ranch, a retreat tucked amongst rolling hills, vast meadows, and best of all, its very own lake. No matter if you are a honeymooning couple, busy professional, or adventure-seeking family, Spring Lake Ranch is the perfect destination for a tranquil escape. The ranch’s newly constructed log cabins will accommodate couples, all the way up to groups of 8. You can even live out a true wilderness experience by staying in their off-site cabin equipped with its own canoe. Along with canoeing, there is a huge selection of summer activities available that exemplify the beauty of the region. Have your hand at horseback riding, hiking, fishing or just taking it easy in their on-site outdoor wooden hot tub.
11. KAYANARA Guest Ranch & Resort, Eagle Creek
KAYANARA guest ranch and resort is perfectly located beside Canim Lake and surrounded by expansive meadows, majestic mountains, and endless forests of pine, spruce, and Douglas-fir. The ranch was built by a Swiss couple who decided to move to Canada after seeking a slower pace of life. They poured their passion into primarily self-built log cabins as well as a cozy on-site campground. The KAYANARA laidback lifestyle is sure to rub off on you, as you relax lakeside or watch the free-roaming horses graze in the meadows. Spend a day exploring the lake’s beautiful sandy beaches and islands or perhaps an evening sitting beneath a crimson sunset during one of their catamaran tours. Being about 45 minutes east of the nearest town of 100 Mile House, KAYANARA Guest Ranch & Resort promises a rejuvenating escape from the major tourist flow, as well as a well-deserved break from city life.
Whether it’s to get away from busy city crowds, learn about the province’s rich history, or live out your ranching fantasy, these 11 guest ranches each have something special to cure your itch for adventure. Experienced rider or not, out here we welcome you to join our family, support local businesses and take a step back from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Time to dust off the old cowboy boots and come saddle up in the wide-open spaces this region has to offer.
Please be sure to always practice safe, respectful, and responsible travel on the Gold Rush Trail. Visit our responsible travel page for more info.