Now, more than ever, there’s something so appealing about wide-open spaces, peaceful pastures, and meadows bursting with colourful wildflowers. That trifecta lends itself well to finding freedom and adventure, with a touch of cowboy flavour. For a powerful connection to nature and the wild, guest ranches in BC offer plenty of room to roam, and beautiful animals to explore the varied terrain with.
At the heart of BC’s cowboy culture are the Cariboo and Chilcotin—home to over half of the province’s guest ranches. Sundance Guest Ranch, four hours from Vancouver, boasts a commanding view of the Thompson River Valley, a herd of over 100 horses, and thousands of acres to traverse. Meals here are legendary, and are included with your stay (the adults-only BYOB lounge is also a favourite part of the vacation experience). The ranch has implemented measures to protect staff and guests, including asking guests to bring snacks, supplies, and alcohol from their home communities instead of stopping in the town of Ashcroft.
Closer to Clinton (two hours from Kamloops, 5.5 hours from Vancouver), Big Bar Ranch is a historic homestead enveloped by lush grasslands. Take in panoramic views of the Fraser River canyon on guided horseback rides, or cast a line in a private lake. Meal packages are also available if you need a break from all that home cooking you’ve been doing lately. This rustic, family-friendly retreat also welcomes pets, so bring your furry friends.
A bit farther north, cabin life is calling at Spring Lake Ranch near 100 Mile House. This summer, the ranch will allow a maximum of 30 guests at a time, spread out over seven cabins, making it a great option for small groups. When you’re ready for a break from the saddle, grab a book and enjoy a lazy afternoon on the dock, hop on a wagon ride, or explore the 3.2-kilometre lake by canoe, pedal boat, or rowboat, then return to make meals in the comfort of your cabin.
Located on Highway 24 (a.k.a. The “Fishing Highway”) near Bridge Lake, Free Rein Guest Ranch (opening June 21) has that intimate, all-inclusive experience dialed in. With a maximum of 12 guests, there’s tons of room to spread out and explore the rolling hills, hidden lakes, and secret meadows of the Cariboo countryside. As night falls, gather around the campfire to tell tall tales, roast marshmallows, and marvel at the sunset as it reflects off the water.
Sure, you’re guaranteed to see horses and cattle in this part of the province, but don’t be surprised to encounter other animals—from a safe distance, of course. Bring your love of nature and spirit of adventure to Chilcotin Holidays, near Lillooet, for a ranch-based wildlife viewing trip. Go for a guided horseback ride (or drive) through the rugged landscape of the South Chilcotin mountains where bears, wolves and bighorn sheep roam in the wild. Tours range from three days to seven days. Or, if you’re feeling the need for extreme solitude, you and your family (or bubble) can rent out a wilderness camp to practice the ultimate in physical distancing.
For an ultra luxe holiday, consider Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort. Situated at the foot of the Cariboo Mountains, this family-owned, all-inclusive retreat is a 90-minute chartered float-plane ride from Vancouver. The owners keep the exact location on the down-low to protect their hidden oasis—rumour has it the Google Maps listing is deliberately wrong. Guests can horseback ride for days in 10,000 acres of wilderness, or indulge in activities such as fly-fishing, mountain biking, and canoeing. At the end of the day, sleep tight under the night skies at Siwash’s Star Camp—complete with a wood-fired cedar soaker hot tub—or watch the horses frolic from your balcony in a luxurious loft suite.
Adventures in the saddle also await near Kamloops. Campbell Hills Guest Ranch welcomes guests on all-inclusive holidays or—for those seeking a shorter commitment—guided day trips. This classically-styled ranch is best-suited to family holidays or romantic getaways with its intimate lodge and cozy cabin offerings. When you need a break from the saddle, learn to lasso (and wow your friends when you get home!) or take advantage of a guided ATV tour. Insider tip: Consider the ranch’s famed Themed Nights when you’re packing for your trip. You just never know when you’ll need to kick up your cowboy boots for a night of karaoke or line dancing…
Over in the southeastern corner of BC near Cranbrook, you’ll find the all-inclusive Three Bars Guest Ranch. Nestled between the Purcell Mountains and the Canadian Rockies, it’s home to more than 120 horses (making it a 2:1 horse to guest ratio). The massive log guest ranch is a show-stopper and the focal point of the ranch, with 23 newly-renovated, luxury log cabins arranged around it. No detail is spared here—even the furniture is handmade. With 35,000 acres of wilderness to explore, there’s plenty of terrain to cover by riding, hiking or mountain biking. This part of the province is also famous for fly-fishing, so, while you’re there, drop a line in the St. Mary’s River which runs alongside 15 km of the ranch.
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