When you think of dude ranches and trail rides, you may picture destinations in the American West. But New York state is home to some of the oldest dude and guest ranches in the country. Meeting groups that want to get away from it all should look no further than this selection of guest ranches that offer a natural respite from hectic lives and that are within driving distance of some of the state’s most popular urban centers. Attendees can learn how to ride horses or just enjoy a cowboy sing-along around a crackling campfire.
Pine Ridge Dude Ranch
About a two-hour drive from New York City, the Pine Ridge Dude Ranch sits between the Shawangunk Mountains on one side and the Catskills on the other. The property recently underwent a $3 million renovation that spruced up its 100-plus guest rooms, and it wouldn’t be a dude ranch without a stable full of premium horses.
There are 60 horses on property, including quarter horses, Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, Paints, Percherons, Clydesdales, Haflingers, Icelandics, Morgans and Arabians. All-inclusive guests get one free horseback ride per person, and trail rides include relaxing walk-only rides, walks, trots and canter rides with experienced wranglers. The trail rides wander through the woods and around the ranch’s private lake. For guests who are not comfortable getting on horseback, the ranch offers carriage rides that follow the same trail as the horses.
The ranch has indoor and outdoor pools with waterslides, a 20-foot climbing wall, archery, fishing, a petting zoo, a bounce pillow, paddleboats, mini golf, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, bocce ball and other games. There is entertainment every night, as well as numerous team-building exercises from which to choose, among them scavenger hunts, archery, water balloon battles, rock climbing and derby races. In pure dude-ranch fashion, guests can join in a campfire sing-along as they roast marshmallows and make s’mores.
The ranch has plenty of meeting spaces for small to midsize groups, including rooms that can hold 40, 80 and 200 people theater style, and the stone patio makes an excellent location for a cocktail reception.
Rocking Horse Ranch Resort
Nestled in the middle of the Hudson Valley, 90 minutes outside New York City, Rocking Horse Ranch has been a family-owned business since its founding in 1958. The son of the original owners took over the property in 2002 and has expanded and updated the 500-acre ranch.
The all-inclusive 113-room resort makes it easy for meeting groups to host their events, feed their attendees and plan extracurricular activities for them because all meals and equipment rentals are included in the price.
With 115 horses, it isn’t hard to plan a group trail ride, and the property is so large it has plenty of trails to follow. Attendees who want to bring their families along will be happy to know that entertainment on-site caters to all ages. In the summer, there is an outdoor water park with a large pool, a kids’ pool and two large waterslides next to the resort’s private lake. There is also an oversized indoor/outdoor hot tub. The lake has canoes, paddleboats, kayaks and a banana boat for the more adventurous guests, along with laser tag, a shooting gallery and archery range, an arcade, a climbing wall, miniature golf and mountain tubing.
In the winter, the resort offers snowtubing, skiing and ice skating. All the necessary equipment is included. Family-friendly entertainment features performances by magicians, comedians and musicians. The staff also plans group activities like bingo, Family Feud and Name That Tune.
The property has flexible group meeting spaces that can host events of 20 to 250 people, with breakout rooms available. The resort’s largest space is the Silverado Saloon, which can hold 250 people seated. The resort’s activities team can create a custom schedule for meeting attendees with team-building activities and competitions.
1000 Acres Ranch
The 1000 Acres Ranch has been around since 1942. On the banks of the Hudson River in Stony Creek, which is known as the Biggest Little Town in New York State, it sits in the southwest corner of Adirondack Park. The ranch gives guests the ultimate dude ranch experience, with miles of reclaimed trails to explore along streams, lakes, rivers and mountains.
Beginning riders can take lessons or participate in easy walk-only rides, while more experienced riders can wade across the Hudson River as they traverse more rugged trails through the park. Cattle sorting is a horseback-riding opportunity not found anywhere else in the state. Guests learn how to sort cattle by moving them around obstacles and sorting them by color or number into the proper pens. For more leisurely activities, the ranch offers a trail ride with a stopover for lunch in Stony Creek.
If horseback riding isn’t your thing, the ranch features two outdoor and one indoor swimming pool, hiking trails, movies in the theater, basketball, volleyball, badminton, bocce ball, horseshoes, cornhole, fishing, campfires and more. For an additional fee, guests can kayak or tube down the Hudson River, get a massage, play billiards, participate in a paint-and-sip event or visit the arcade. For team building, the ranch offers scavenger hunts, land navigation hikes, raft building and other competitions, like pingpong or darts.
Accommodations include lodge rooms and small cabins, and the ranch has some beautiful rustic indoor spaces that can accommodate smaller corporate events, receptions, church groups, reunions and weddings of up to 75 people. There are indoor, uncovered outdoor and covered outdoor spaces available for groups. Guests enjoy three meals a day included with their lodge fee.
Meeting attendees who want to get off property have numerous options. The ranch is about 30 miles from Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs and about 20 miles from Lake George and the Gore Mountain Ski Area.
Roaring Brook Ranch Resort
About two miles from the center of Lake George Village and eight miles from Prospect Mountain, the newly renovated Roaring Brook Ranch Resort is an excellent destination for groups of up to 700. Roaring Brook got its start as a dude ranch and evolved into a tennis resort. With the addition of a 17,000-square-foot conference center, Roaring Brook has become not only a vacation destination but an attractive destination for corporate meetings, conferences, banquets, reunions and weddings.
The resort has plenty of activities to keep meeting attendees happy in their down time, including indoor and outdoor pools, hiking trails, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, pingpong, pool tables and horseshoes. On Saturday nights, guests can watch a movie together, and every evening there is a bonfire where guests can roast marshmallows and make s’mores.
Horseback riding at the resort is seasonal, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Guests ages 10 and up can participate in rides that fit their skill levels. The ranch has miles of scenic trails that meander under the watchful eye of Prospect Mountain, and experienced horse wranglers are always on hand to help guests pick the right horse for their size and ability. For younger children, the ranch offers pony rides and an equestrian experience.
There are three restaurants on-site, including Kebab Chi, which offers guests a plethora of grilled foods, drinks and music served under the stars on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Oak Tree Café serves breakfast, and the Paddock Restaurant serves dinner on the weekends.
The resort is a terrific location for executive meetings, team building, seminars and corporate retreats, with plenty of flexible indoor spaces from which to choose; there is also a beautiful outdoor space with stunning views of the mountain for a reception or event. The staff at the resort will design the best experience for its meeting groups based on their unique goals and needs, including team-building adventures to keep the group engaged. If wellness is your group’s forte, they can participate in yoga, Reiki or massage.
Estate at Fly Creek
Estate at Fly Creek is situated on 335 acres about seven miles from the Village of Cooperstown, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and 10 miles from Cooperstown Dreams Park. It has a 5-acre spring-fed pond on property that is great for kayaking and paddleboarding, as well as trails for hiking or horseback riding. The 9,000-square-foot vacation home has eight bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, two kitchens, a bar bistro, a formal living room, a media room, an indoor pool and a steam room. Groups can also take advantage of the regulation-size tennis and basketball courts. The home can lodge 22 guests at a time and has plenty of space for small retreats, meetings or executive get-togethers.
To rent the entire house, groups must book a three-day minimum stay. The property is a 10-minute drive from Otsego Lake, where visitors can swim or rent boats during the summer months. In the winter, the property links up with 75 miles of snowmobile trails. There are also plenty of places to hunt, fish and mountain bike.
The area has a wine trail and a brewery trail that just opened last year, where guests can visit a variety of local establishments for a sip of locally made wines and beers. Travelers can also book a rail bike trip through Rail Explorers, which offers a 12-mile scenic tour along the Susquehanna River that takes guests past farms and forests. The rail bikes offer electric pedal assist for an easier journey.