Dude Ranch vs. Guest Ranch: What's the Difference?

By: Kelly Burns 

Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch has been a member of America Outdoors for three years. Since horseback outfitters are in the minority of members, we thought we would share one of our recent blog posts with AO to explain what exactly we do. Read on to learn more about our definition of ranching!


Dude Ranch vs. Guest Ranch. What IS the difference?!

Why do you call it a dude ranch? How do you define a dude ranch? Well, let Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch answer that for you!

First, let’s explore the history of ranch vacations. In the late 1800s, ranchers in the Dakotas began opening their homes to visitors from back East. This allowed visitors to partake in hunting, fishing, riding, and other ranch activities. Visitors soon realized they were pushing the limits of western hospitality the ranchers were offering. They started offering to pay for room and board and, consequently, a new industry was born.

When ranching was no longer profitable due to the fading cattle market, ranchers began to dedicate themselves solely to hosting “dudes”. Being called a “dude” was synonymous with being a city dweller from back East. In the early 1900s, the expansion of railroads and the growing preservation of western lands expanded the number of ranches across the west. As a result, the Dude Ranchers Association (DRA) was born. The newly formed association worked with railroads to increase the number of passengers while promoting dude ranches as destinations. As the populations of the East and Midwest increased, visitors were drawn to the wide-open spaces and remoteness of the west. Over the past 100 years, more and more people continue to be drawn to the West. Ranches continue today as places where visitors (be they dudes or guests) enjoy the beauty, natural resources and the original western ranch experiences that attracted its first visitors.


but what should i call it? is there a difference today?

As best we can gather, it is just wording. The term “dude” may have faded from the popular vernacular due to its negative connotations of believing naïve Easterners wanted to be turned into rootin’ tootin’ cow folks. Both are places that invite guests to come share in the Western lifestyle (or Southwestern in our case). According to the Dude Ranchers Association, that means ranches offer an all-inclusive vacation that immerses guests in the lifestyle of the owners.

Is there a difference between a dude ranch or guest ranch? Most of all, it really comes down to personal preference. At Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, we personally define the difference by the capacity and flexibility of the ranch. By defining ourselves as a guest ranch, we feel that indicates a more intimate experience with no lines or schedules. Our maximum capacity of 16 guests ensures a much more personalized experience as compared to a “dude ranch” that can cater to over 100 people. As well, we offer flexibility in the number of nights guests stay. Dude ranches tend to have a structure and schedule for a fixed number of nights (typically six). Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch has a three-night minimum but guests can stay anywhere from three up to seven nights.

Final answer: It's up to you!

It’s up to you! But we welcome all guests with open arms (regardless of how they define a ranch). Ranch owners want to share their unique livelihood with all who are open to it. The horses, the history, and the outdoors are our passion. No matter how long guests stay for, we will welcome guests into our home so they can experience it for themselves.


Have questions about horseback outfitters? Feel free to reach out to us at info@geronimoranch.com or 575-772-5157. We’d love to talk with you!

Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch is a small, family-owned ranch in the mountains of the beautiful 3.3 million-acre Gila National Forest of southwest New Mexico. Our New Mexico dude ranch offers a relaxed and personal atmosphere with 4 rooms and a maximum capacity of 12-16 guests. Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch is open March through mid-November.

The DRA & AO

The Dude Ranchers Association and America Outdoors have a history of partnership with each providing different benefits for ranchers. America Outdoors has 45 ranching members and is currently in the middle of a membership-drive to help ranchers understand the advantages of being members of America Outdoors in addition to the DRA. If you know a Ranch owner- be it Dude or Guest, who is not an America Outdoors member make sure to tell them about the 2018 membership opportunity to join at a special rate!  


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