By Tia Davison
Now more than ever, our vacation decisions are rooted in a desire for wide-open spaces and experiences that bond us with friends and family. Time spent in British Columbia’s vast wilderness means unwinding and reconnecting with both nature and ourselves. Whether it’s planning for a Canadian getaway in 2022 or fitting in a trip for this summer or fall, there’s something newly appealing about boundless wildflower meadows, tall grass pastures, secluded glassy lakes, never-ending starry skies and few neighbours in sight.
With all of that and more, the guest ranches in BC’s Cariboo Chilcotin Coast promise a powerful connection to nature, wildlife, and each other.
Even if you have never ridden a horse, watched a western or stayed in anything but a 5-star resort, today’s modern dude ranches provide far more than just a cowboy experience.
So, whether you’re looking for a romantic escape, business retreat or family escapade, here are 11 reasons why you should consider choosing a guest ranch for your next BC getaway:
1. Ideal place for retreats and reunions
No matter the age, guest ranch vacations have a little something for everyone making them perfect for group gatherings. Whether it be with family or colleagues, reunions, retreats and events at a BC guest ranch promise every moment to be filled with diverse activities the whole group will enjoy. Picture grandma reading her book on the cabin porch as the grandchildren meet the ranch animals as the adults relax by the lake, all to reconvene in the evening for a wonderful home-cooked meal beneath a glowing sunset. Many ranches believe in promoting the relationship-building aspect between horse and rider for their guests, creating both a lasting memory and a safe space to be outside of one’s comfort zone. Ranch holidays offer multi-generational fun and a way for everyone to connect in an uncomplicated, non-stressful setting.
2. Lake Adventures
While rolling hills and golden fields are to be expected when it comes to guest ranch scenery, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast has the highest concentration of lakes and rivers in Canada and most of our guest ranches are home to exceptional lakes that you can paddle, fish, boat or swim in throughout your stay. Enjoy some quality time on the lake in a provided canoe or kayak, or perhaps cast a line or take a refreshing afternoon dip following a trail ride.
3. Connect with Wildlife
There are few other places you can holiday where building a connection with animals is part of the experience. Out here, the healing power, freedom, trust and patience gained from bonding with a horse is shared with all. Not only can you enjoy guided or unguided trail rides through untamed wilderness but many of our guest ranches teach a natural horsemanship approach through on-site clinics and handling lessons. Horses pick up on emotions and are great at teaching the importance of chilling out. Similar to what you might gain from a yoga retreat, time spent with a horse can free the mind, body and soul. Aside from the horses, BC guest ranches are also often home to pigs, cows and other farm animals that the kids especially will love to spend time with.
Besides riding, many of the guest ranches out here offer exceptional guided and unguided hiking opportunities. The properties are often situated on hundreds of untouched acres which you can spend your day exploring either with a group or by yourself. With guided tours and unguided options, discover the sprawling valleys, towering mountains and sweeping panoramic views scattered through the Cariboo, Chilcotin and Central Coast regions.
5. Farm-to-table cuisine
Nothing says wild west and cowboy culture like a hearty meal. Guest ranches in BC have mastered the art of catering to large appetites and love to conjure up a Thanksgiving-like dining ambience for every meal of the day. Gather with your loved ones to reminisce about the day’s activities whilst you dine alfresco style, sip fine BC wines and watch the warm sun dip behind the horizon. Not only can you expect large portions of mouthwatering BBQ, campfire s’mores and juicy fresh fruit, but many of our guest ranches grow or locally source their own organic ingredients, meaning that you can feel good about what you’re putting into your vacation body.
Located amongst forests, foothills and fields of flowers, the picturesque setting of ranch vacations makes them an ideal place to slow down and recharge. As we know, wellness comes in many forms and the guest ranches out here offer many ways for you to reconnect and work on your mental and/or physical health. Many parts of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region have no cell service or wifi, promising an escape from our busy smartphone-driven lives. Others offer wellness through hot tubs, pools and saunas.
7. Sustainability and care for the environment
Out here, it’s vastly understood by guest ranch owners and operators that our incredible ecosystems and environments need protecting. From sustainable farming and solar use to inclusive farm-to-table cooking and natural ranching processes, you can book confidently knowing they take pride in their sustainability efforts. Not only does this mean that your guest ranch vacation will be more responsible but engagement with nature can foster your own environmental awareness and appreciation.
8. Cultural Immersion
Guest ranch families are known for their down-to-earth, warm hospitality and are eager to welcome guests into their homes. While interaction is not required (no judgement if you’re looking for a total social escape), the opportunity to make new friends with other guests and staff is a wonderful aspect of a guest ranch vacation. Many of the ranches here are authentic working ranches, meaning that if you so choose, you can completely immerse yourself into cowboy culture by helping with ranch chores such as horse care, milking cows or collecting eggs!
One of the best characteristics of a guest ranch vacation is its adaptability. Each with their own unique offerings, some guest ranches provide an on-the-go working ranch experience while others focus more on wellness and downtime relaxation. Many of the guest ranches out here allow you to choose what activities and amenities suit you, but some offer all-inclusive packages allowing you to try your hand at everything. All-inclusive ranch holiday packages typically include your meals, snacks, accommodations, amenities and activities. The beauty of this is that it eliminates the need for financial decisions whilst on your vacation and also helps with trip budgeting.
10. Rustic meets luxury
Gone are the days where a ranch stay means outhouses and barn accommodations. Today’s modern-day guest ranches take on a whole new meaning of rustic. Some are fitted with gorgeous log cabins complete with cozy fireplaces. Others have guest houses, prospector tents, B&B rooms or glamping canvases. Despite the large array of choices, the majority of accommodations surround one main farmhouse where you will enjoy your group meals, game evenings or spa services. And while the guest ranches out here still aim to radiate a laid-back, simple, country living feel, expect luxury to come in the form of saunas, outdoor hot tubs, guided tours, saloons, and full access to the property’s toys such as boats and ATVs.
11. Wide Open Spaces
A BC guest ranch vacation is all about the scenery and spending time in nature. Luckily for us, this region is vast and guest ranches in BC have ample space to spread out and explore. There’s something extremely rejuvenating about walking or riding through vast seas of tall grass hearing nothing but the warm breeze whistle through the trees and the distant neigh of a horse. Peace can also be found along a river edge as you patiently wait to bring in your first catch of the day. With hundreds and often thousands of acres to roam, the guest ranches of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast teach that spending alone time, whether it be completely alone or with just your loved ones around you, has strong healing powers. We urge you to visit and see this for yourself.