One of the many joys and challenges of raising a young family is finding memorable family vacations.  If your family has a variety of ages and skills it can be extra challenging to find fitting vacations for everyone’s needs. This can be a major hurdle for families with children who want to vacation as complete families. Many vacation destinations are not appropriate for children. They either don’t cater to younger children, or if they do, the child based services can come at a hefty price. You may find yourself looking at two less-than ideal options for handling younger family members on vacation: struggling to work out the details of managing small children while at a vacation venue that is not child friendly or paying for your child to have a separate vacation on a resort premises sans the remaining family. While there are seemingly endless vacation outlets for the able bodied adult, few resorts offer a third option that can boast an all-inclusive vacation experience that is engineered to be suitable and enjoyable for both the parents and the younger children while participating together. So, what’s a parent to do when adventure is waiting, but the kids can’t participate in any of the fun? While not all dude ranches are child friendly, we have some solutions for you in the realm of a family friendly dude ranch.

The Marble Mountain Ranch specializes in vacation packages that cater to families traveling with children. Everything about our ranch has been designed to accommodate families and offers a variety of activities and services that will enable every member of the family to have a fulfilling vacation experience. There are several ways that we try to accomplish this. Here is how we approach an active family vacation in a western dude ranch style.

children rafting on a dude ranch vacation in California

The Kids go rafting at California’s dude ranch

  1. At the ranch we create a daily schedule that offers a variety of activities in a quickly rotating format. Your family will be put in a group of about 10 – 12 participants and that group will be assigned a new activity at each hourly activity rotation. Land-based activities such as arena horse riding games and challenges, trail rides, and various shooting sports are scheduled in the cooler morning hours. The week starts off with all of our activities assuming that you are a novice participant. As the week progresses, each activity format increases in challenge level. While the mornings are fully scheduled, we understand that this is YOUR vacation. If you aren’t feeling like joining your group to head up to the shooting range, and you would rather enjoy a cold beverage while relaxing with a book in the flower garden, no worries! Just ask a staff member to help you coordinate for the next shoot if you want to try later!  You can always opt-out of a scheduled activity to relax in the pool, the flower gardens or head to the game-room with a partner in adventure. The goal in a full schedule with various different kinds of activities is to allow families with mixed interests and abilities to participate at the fullest level of their desire and ability. The schedule is full, but there is no penalty for opting-out to seek solitude and relaxation. The choice is always yours in designing your personal activity level.

    Young cowgirls learning to ride in a covered arena

    Young cowgirls learn to ride in the secure setting of our covered arena

  2. Activities at the ranch are catered to differing skill levels. If the adults in the family are seasoned equestrians and the young-uns are novices, then this is the perfect time for a break-out activity for your children. While you are riding to the top of the ridge-top, your little buckaroo might be riding one of our older ponys while being hand-led by a wrangler around the flat trails around the ranch perimeter.   Vastly differing capacities and tolerances for white water rafting in a mixed family group are also manageable. For example, your first rafting trip will be the least challenging (Class II – III) and you will have opportunity to try things out as a beginner. On this first day of rafting, it might be appropriate for your 5 year old to join a parent on a leisurely float with a fully guide operated oar powered raft, while your teenagers load up into a participatory paddle raft. Your guide will also help you if you decide to ramp-up the adventure and try inflatable kayaking. Your guide will give you the option to paddle, or to sit back and let someone else give it a go! With each rafting trip the rapids will get a little more challenging. This means that your comfort and skill levels can increase with daily exposure. On your last day of rafting you can kayak through larger white water and even ride on the front of your raft rodeo style as you cascade down some of the more exciting rapids. The same step – by – step approach is used in all of our activities. With every day we will offer new challenges, and new opportunities to try things in new ways and at new challenge levels. By pacing ourselves, and continuously offering a variety of activities at varying skill levels, we hope to create a vacation environment that will both edify participants and maximize satisfaction for the whole family! You can discover for yourself if you want to be the arena champion, or the kayaking king! The choice is yours.

    youth enjoying a water slide on an upside down raft

    No Time for T.V. – just too much to do!

  3. We offer a unique and diverse variety of activities. If you wake up and you don’t want to join your family for trail riding, no problem! Just saunter over to the patio. There you can join other guests as they load up in the truck and drive up to the range for a chance to practice old-school frontier sports like throwing tomahawks or archery. Later on, if you don’t feel like braving the kayaks or rafts in the afternoon river rafting, then you can stay behind and lounge by the pool for the afternoon while your spouse takes your kids on a whitewater adventure! At Marble Mountain Ranch the options are varied and endless.

    kids riding horses

    Young dude ranchers get age appropriate riding time.

At the Marble Mountain Guest Ranch, we use a diverse activity format (our signature saddle and paddle vacations) as the foundation for our family vacation packages. This approach also allows us to better meet the needs of families with small children. Don’t worry, our ranch is completely Little Buckaroo friendly! We realize that in your search for childcare options while on vacation, you will find a wide variety of offers. Some hotels and resorts offer childcare for babies as young as three months old. Others provide you with complementary diapers, wipes, and a private nanny. You may even find yourself mingling with the cast of Sesame Street. Of course, all of these options are grand, and your child will probably love them. But we do things a little differently on the ranch.

Fisher Girl

The kids get lifetime memories and a long list of “Firsts” at a family friendly ranch

At the Marble Mountain Guest Ranch we try as much as possible to engineer whole family bonding opportunities by sharing adventures. But when your child is just too young, you can enroll your child in our Little Buckaroos Program. This program is made for children who are 3-4 years old.  They will also have unlimited snacks and drinks at no extra cost to you. But most importantly, the Little Buckaroo program will give your child access to a bundle of epic, western ranch style activities that they can get nowhere else! Some examples include:

  1. A nature walk! Enjoy a stroll alongside the horse pasture, and feed the ponies an apple or a handful or hay for their afternoon snack. Stroll up to the pond, where you can skip stones, ride in a row boat, hunt for frogs, count fish, or lounge in a cozy hammock in the shade. You can also visit the green house and harvest fresh organic fruits and vegetables. A nature walk through Heidi’s secretive flower gardens is mystical and full of discoveries for young and enquiring buckaroos.

    river orientation

    Gather round kids! It’s time to talk!

  2. Get to work! No, we won’t actually make your child work. But they will have the opportunity to participate in ranch chores such as feeding the bunnies, the goats, the chickens, the cats, the dogs, or the wranglers. (Adult supervision provided at all times!) They can also assist in collecting warm chicken eggs and bringing the animals fresh treats from the kitchen.

    younger kids can enjoy family dude ranches

    Younger kids get a “taste” of ranch life

  3. Swim! Your child can also enjoy a dip in our swimming pool, which is located right at the front of the property near our patio and dining lodge, which both serve as a crossroads for guests as they transition between activities. (That way, you can stop by and visit with your kiddo between activities as you like). We also have sprinklers, lawns, and a pond. All of which are great alternatives for your eager little swimmer.
  4. Arts and crafts! If your child discovers a fascinating rock or an old horse-shoe and wants to paint it, they can! One of our staff would be happy to help your little buckaroo create a unique art piece that will be a priceless souvenir to your child! We also have structured arts and crafts projects that your child can do as they like.
  5. Your Buckaroo will have the option to join your family on the Tuesday afternoon rafting trip.  The other two days of rafting are not appropriate for children under 5 years of age.  They will be able to keep active with ranch based activities while you are out on the river on Wednesday and Friday afternoons.kid swimming

We never want your child to feel like they are stuck with a babysitter while everyone else is having a western adventure! Our staff will work hard to make sure that your child’s needs are not just met, but that they are enriched in age appropriate western and ranch based activities! And, depending on the size and capabilities of your child, they are likely to be able to participate in other ranch activities with the whole family. We want your child to feel like they are having their own, one of a kind, dude ranch experience. Their buckaroo ranch experience includes making new friends, seeing new things, engaging in exciting new ranch experiences, and most importantly, getting quality family time and making memories that are not possible in an urban setting.

garden to table produce

Making fresh apple cider with organic ranch apples and fruits

While our efforts are directed to enabling shared adventure in whole family groups, there is a limit to what a ranch can reasonably offer for infants. If you are traveling with children ages two and under, our best suggestion is to consider parent sharing. In this scenario, one parent or guardian is registered as a non-participant and pays a discounted fare. The traveling infant is then cared for by rotations in the family guardian mix so that all of the willing adults share some time caring for the infant while on the ranch and the balance of the time is spent in activities with the older family members.

So parents, we at the Marble Mountain Guest Ranch ask you to consider us the next time you are feeling discouraged about vacation options that can accommodate your small children. At the Marble Mountain Guest Ranch, we make it our goal to help you create a memorable vacation that will have something fun, new, entertaining, engaging, educational, and rewarding for every member of your family, even the smallest cowboys in the posse!