SONOMA, CA – Three guest ranches in Canada’s British Columbia hope to round up more American dudes this season with the US Dollar offering 35 percent or more value than the Canadian Dollar. And the icing on the cake? They will throw in a slice of birthday cake to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1, 2017.
“What differentiates these ranches from their US counterparts is their proximity to the vast wilderness of the Canadian Rockies,” says Gene Kilgore, the world’s leading authority on ranch vacations and the expert behind Top50Ranches.com. This website focuses on where to locate a top ranch vacation in the United States and Canada, as well as abroad.
Each ranch offers its own personality, characterized by its range of activities in addition to horseback riding, gourmet dining or spa facilities.
Riding Plus: The 35,000-acre Three Bars Guest and Cattle Ranch is in the Canadian Rockies between Banff and Glacier National Park. Here up to 45 guests are accommodated in modern log cabins and guest houses overlooking a central lawn.
“Decades ago people came here and were happy just riding all day,” says Tyler Beckley, third generation owner/rancher. Today’s guests can still choose to do that; but now the ranch mixes horseback riding up with fly fishing, shooting sports, mountain biking and whitewater rafting. A favorite pastime of guests is stopping by the reining arena to watch Tyler’s brother, Jesse, working with the horses. “These activities along with an indoor heated pool, hot tub and fitness facility set us apart from more conventional ranches.”
The Beckley family has served guests for some 60 years. A grandfather began several guest ranches in the States where Tyler was born. His parents, Jeff and April, purpose-built this Canadian operation in the early 1990s on property that was one of the first registered cattle ranches in British Columbia. Now the ranch is the extended family’s year-round home. The family shares their western cowboy lifestyle of wide, open spaces and good friends with guests from around the world.
Spring and fall are favorite seasons here for couples; families favor July and August, sometimes combining a ranch experience with visits to Canada’s national parks. Entry to the parks is free this year in honor of the country’s anniversary. Ranch guests sometimes schedule in the annual Calgary Stampede (July 7-16, 2017) and the Cranbrook Pro Rodeo (Aug. 18-20, 2017) to augment an already busy week.
Riding & Cuisine: Sundance Guest Ranch in Ashcroft, BC, in the Thompson River Valley, lies in one of Canada’s sunniest spots and is one of the country’s oldest ranches. Co-owner Cynthia Nichols says the 1864 ranch became a guest ranch in 1955. Her parents purchased it in the late 1970s. Today the management falls to her and her two brothers.
The ranch enjoys proximity to Vancouver (a four-hour drive) and to Seattle (a six-hour drive). It now welcomes fourth and fifth generation guests, primarily from the Pacific Northwest. An international clientele enjoy the opportunity to meet this Canadian family. Up to 50 people can be accommodated. Horseback riding is the key focus, concentrating on over 100 horses. After riding, guests may splash in a heated outdoor swimming pool or enjoy a massage before a talented chef engages their appetites. Twice a year Chef Lauren even goes overboard with free rein to create gourmet weekends with complimentary wine pairings. The next Gourmet Weekend is Oct. 13-15, 2017.
Meals are served at large tables, so everyone mingles. This is a comfortable setting for single parents. “Adults make new friends here as much as their children do,” notes Nichols. In July and August, parents appreciate a complimentary child care program for ages under 8.
Riding & Spa: Norman Dove met his wife, Nan, in Thailand. A commitment to her Thai heritage was the inspiration for the “East meets West, Canadian Signature Experience” in the high desert area in BC’s Marble and Cariboo Mountains that since 1995 is known as Echo Valley Ranch & Spa near Clinton. Here the Baan Thai Pavilion hovers with the spirits as guests enjoy a variety of spa treatments. The Western culture and heritage of the local First Nations is equally important, as is visible across the ranch and in each of the 18 guest rooms. A map of this Echo Valley “village” is one of the more recent works of resident artist Michael Blackstock.
Kerstin Auer, Marketing and Sales Manager, says the ranch welcomes people with its Canadian Signature Experience of East meets West. “I think different cultures coming together harmonically is very typically Canadian.”
Days may begin with yoga, followed by such gentle sports as archery or fly fishing or hiking; afternoons find guests on horseback. During the summer family weeks, children learn to throw ropes and lasso as parents enjoy a spa treatment. An evening campfire follows dinner. Meals are organized around a farm-to-table and organic philosophy.
Founded in 2010, Top50 Ranches (https://www.top50ranches.com/) focuses on where to locate and then what to expect when it comes to the world’s top dude, guest, working and luxury ranch vacations in the United States and Canada as well as Argentina and Mexico. The site outlines special ranch offers, events and opportunities and makes available Top50’s Concierge Service, a no-fee advice service by phone for valued Top50 Travelers who seek extra help while choosing the right ranch for their family or business group.
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