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“So Good We Just Keep Going Back” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Elk Mountain Ranch

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Elk Mountain Ranch
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13000 CR 185B, Buena Vista, CO 81211   |  
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Austin, Texas
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“So Good We Just Keep Going Back”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 16, 2013

This vacation was our fourth straight year at Elk Mountain Ranch and we will make five next year -- a week at EMR is just that great! It is a wonderful week of horse rides, Colorado mountain scenery, excursions, water rafting, fabulous home cooked food, and exemplary hospitality from Tom and Sue and all the EMR staff. Plus some great trout fishing too! I know that it is a perfect family vacation but we like the adult only week in September. See you next year!!! Don and Carolyn S.

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sue M, Owner at Elk Mountain Ranch, responded to this review, November 25, 2013
We look forward to year number 5... and RJ and Star will be waiting. Thanks for your belief in us.
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114 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
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Date | Rating
  • Danish first
  • English first
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English first
Monument, Colorado
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 14, 2013

I can't stop thinking about this place and the wonderful vacation week we spent with family.
We chose an end-of-season, adults-only week for this get-away with our 27 and 33-year old sons, my two sisters and their husbands. There were just six other guests, all very enjoyable people. There is a full children's program the other 14 weeks of the season and more than twice as many staff.
Elk Mountain Ranch is at the end of ten miles of dirt roads, a 40-minute drive from Buena Vista, surrounded by the beautiful San Isabel National Forest. From the time we drove up until we left, we were made to feel at home. The staff of wranglers---Caleb, Jason "Utah", Jason "Cheese", and Scott---and the lovely young women, Yvonne & Brittany, who cooked our meals (with the also-lovely Sue) and cleaned the cabins----were unfailingly friendly and courteous. Tom & Sue Murphy are the owners who obviously take great pride in sharing their piece of heaven and in keeping their guests, staff, and horses (and the dogs, goats, ducks and geese) happy! From the first, we were impressed with how clean and well-maintained the whole ranch is kept.
Everyone who planned to ride during the week was given a horse chosen for the rider's size, age and ability. The ranch owns over 50 horses, and, next to the guests, they are the highest priority. The first morning Tom gave a fascinating talk about how a horse thinks, treating the horse respectfully, but essentially about staying safe around the horses.
We had opportunities for daily trail rides in small groups with a wrangler. All rides were different and the trails went through gorgeous aspen forests, pine and spruce forests, wonderful meadows and we had spectacular views of the Collegiate and Indian Peaks. Our sons took advantage of the overnight camping trip riding six hours out and six hours back. You won't ride by any lakes and streams, though. This is beautiful high mountain desert country. (Somewhat ironic since the week following our stay there were record rains). A fishing trip is offered one day, which is a van ride to a lake where fishing for rainbow trout is done from the shore. In the regular season, there is another trip option for white-water rafting on the Arkansas River. We chose to take a van trip to Cripple Creek for a tour of the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, 1000 feet underground----highly recommended, but I believe only offered during the adults-only weeks; Cripple Creek is now a gambling town. On the ranch we also did some archery, trap-shooting, and target shooting. There was even an old-fashioned hay ride and campfire with popcorn and s'mores with an incredible night sky thrown in! We always had 2-3 hours following the day's activities for rest before dinner. While a choice of activities is offered every day, there is no pressure if you just want to read and relax or soak in the hot tub. One evening we did some line and circle dancing with a caller followed by delightful hammer dulcimer, guitar and concertina music. A variety of games, a piano, books and videos are provided in the lodge. You'll also find a guest refrigerator for your beer, wine, and cold food. Coffee, tea, home-made cookies, chips, and granola bars are always available. Appetizers are provided on the deck an hour before dinner. Meals are delicious, familiar foods, served family style. One day we had a brunch on the trail, other days we had sack lunches, and there were two picnic lunches. Food is plentiful, so beware, but I expect most people expect to gain weight on vacation. The wranglers also joined us for meals, which added to the friendly, family atmosphere. Thank you so much for a fantastical week!

Room Tip: The cabins were homey and comfortable. We stayed in the Pioneer Lodge which has three separate room...
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sue M, Owner at Elk Mountain Ranch, responded to this review, November 25, 2013
Thank you for your faith in us. We enjoyed getting to know you all and we look forward to the next trap shooting tournament.... cheers.
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Madison, Wisconsin
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 13, 2013

I can't say enough about how much we enjoyed our week at Elk Mountain Ranch. From the moment we arrived and were greeted by the entire staff, to the time we left with hugs and handshakes from all of our new friends, this was the perfect vacation. Tom and Sue are fantastic hosts, dedicated to ensuring that your vacation here is truly special, and that is directly reflected in the staff they have assembled. The wranglers were tremendous, whether it came to safety on the horses, attention to every rider's needs, engaging personalities, and maybe even a tall tale or two on the trail (ask Zach about the bear). The kitchen staff was always so friendly and helpful, and the food was amazing. Every detail is covered, even down to the personalized notes left in the cabin by the housekeeping staff. Some of the highlights: a trail ride to brunch on Aspen Ridge, one of the most scenic spots you will ever see...a rifle shooting tournament...trapshooting...whitewater rafting...fishing at a lake on Mt. Princeton...a hayride to a bonfire with s'mores and hot chocolate. There are activities every day, but the nice thing is that you have the option to do all of them or absolutely none of them. If you want to sit outside and enjoy the scenery, go for a hike, or just read by the fireplace in the lodge, those are all options. As Tom said throughout the week, "This is your vacation, you do what you want. How can we help make it the best?" Our kids (ages 13 and 10) said this was the most amazing week ever...and they want to know when we are going to return to Elk Mountain Ranch. Thank you to Tom and Sue and the entire staff for making this such a memorable vacation. We will see you again!
The Larson Family

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sue M, Owner at Elk Mountain Ranch, responded to this review, November 25, 2013
It was a pleasure meeting and getting to know your family. You should be proud... you have an amazing family. It an honor to have you with us for your family vacation. We can't wait to see you all again. Cheers.
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Fairfax, Virginia
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 12, 2013

What a great time! I have a family of six., with kids ..ages 9,6,4,2. I was determined to find a dude ranch that not only allowed children of this age but also embraced them. Elk Mountain Ranch exceeded our expectations! The kids had such a fantastic time.....The children's program was very engaging for all ages and most importantly we as parent's felt totally at peace with leaving our children behind to engage in the ranch activities. Some of our most memorable days were when the kids were brought out to meet us on the trail so that we could eat lunch together on some beautiful mountaintop.....what a nice touch! The Staff was hand picked!! They were engaging and truly cared about meeting all needs. I believe the tone is set by the management and the fact that Tom and Sue are running the show is reflected in all aspects of your Dude Ranch experience. The genuine care and concern for your well being is palpable and very much appreciated.
In addition to the scheduled activities, I loved getting up early and taking some beautiful hikes that were just outstanding. The Ranch is really nestled in an ideal spot...surrounded by some of the most amazing vistas. The Lodge is a great place to gather or just hang out and read a book next to the fireplace. I spent a long time researching Dude Ranches......Elk Mountain was recommended by a colleague but also highly touted on trip advisor......they truly are deserving of all the accolades that I read.
Thank you Tom and Sue for a lifetime of memories! All of our children want to return and we look forward to that Day :). The Miller Family

Room Tip: We stayed in the Bighorn Cabin which was perfect for our family of six.....right next to the lodge a...
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sue M, Owner at Elk Mountain Ranch, responded to this review, November 25, 2013
What a wonderful family. It was our honor to have you all. We have such great memories of your group and hope to see you all again soon. It is your family, and families like yours, that we are in this business. Happy trails.
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Reading, United Kingdom
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2013

Ten of us, aged 5 to 65, have just returned from this amazing ranch and an unforgettable holiday. My husband and I visited 19 years ago (same family owners) with our two teenage children and the ranch experience with Tom and Sue at the helm made such an impact on us we vowed to return one day with grandchildren, and it finally happened. (In the intervening years our daughter has returned 5 times!)
We are riders of all abilities from a very experienced 37 year old, a terrified 50 year old and a rusty rider of 63 years of age but the ranch catered superbly for all our needs with wonderful horses to take us out on the stunning and varied trails high up in the mountains with fabulous views over the Collegiate Peaks in the Rockies. The three young grandchildren (5,7,8) had the time of their lives on the kids program and had so many activities - arts and crafts, gold panning, hiking, fishing, cooking smores over the camp fire, games and of course riding. All want to continue in the UK ready for the next visit! The kids counsellors and wranglers couldn't do enough for them and these girls felt part of the "Elk Mountain" family that is Tom, Sue, their family and all the staff. They even took full part in the line dancing and square dancing evenings and were not short of partners!
Tom and Sue are the perfect hosts and their philosophy is carried through all the staff who genuinely want to please and make your week's holiday a special time, never to be forgotten, and they succeed.
The cabins vary in style and size and are cosy and well furnished. They are spotlessly clean and well fitted out with hanging space (plenty of hangers) and drawers and you want for nothing - tea, coffee, cookies and pure water are on the go all day. They even provide torches for when the generators go out at 11pm........you are 9600 feet up in the Rocky Mountains and thankfully electric pylons do not spoil the spectacular views.
Food is imaginative and plentiful and the meat was the best we have ever tasted anywhere in the world. Lunch time picnics and bbq's were well organised, tasty and cooked by the wonderful wranglers, who were brilliant out on the trails with their stories and knowledge.
Attention is paid to every detail, safety is paramount and nothing is taken for granted or overlooked.
I could go on and on about EMR set in isolation in this little piece of heaven on earth but much more of what I would say is covered in other reviews - the importance placed on safety, the well being of the wonderful herd of horses, Tom's equine knowledge which is second to none and above all the genuine desire of the Murphy family and their staff to make your holiday one you'll never forget.

Room Tip: All cabins vary in size and style, spread over the wooded area of the ranch, and they all are warm...
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sue M, Owner at Elk Mountain Ranch, responded to this review, November 25, 2013
It was a pleasure to see you all again and renew old friendships. We loved all the photos and photobooks that you sent to us.We are using some of the pictures on the website. Thanks.
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London
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 7, 2013

In its own little corner of tranquil, scenic Colorado heaven nestles Elk Mountain Ranch - and breathtaking views are just a part of a fun filled week. I believe you'd be hard pressed to receive a warmer welcome from a team of owners and staff who are truly dedicated to working together to ensure that you leave with broad smiles and happy memories, having been embraced by the very special EMR "family."

Owners Tom & Sue run a slick operation here. Their wranglers are the kind of experienced horsemen/women you'd expect (with a good line in on-the-trail-chat and paisley shirts), the other staff are exceptional, too, and horse welfare is paramount, as is safety out on the trail.

The team is at pains to ensure that you have the best possible time and that includes the provision of a range of activities from fat bat ball to white-water rafting, square dancing to shooting, archery to fishing, hay rides to country music and more besides. There really is never a dull moment but no-one will mind if you want to kick back and have quiet time to yourself.

There are thoughtful touches throughout, such as a daily note from the staff in your cabin, a cookie jar, leather lariats with your name on and a welcome bag in your cabin. Cabins are clean, comfortable and relatively basic, in line with my expectations. Food is fabulous and plentiful, whether at the ranch or out on the trail. You will not go hungry!!

Why not a 5-star rating then? Well, it may be that we didn't ask the right questions when booking or that our travel agent didn't fully understand our requirements so I'd like to pass my assessment of the riding on. It is almost exclusively trail riding with limited opportunities to trot and canter and (in our experience) none to gallop. Given the steep, stony terrain and the fairly uneven meadows, this makes sense in terms of human and equine safety.

There is no facility for riding in a corral, so everyone (regardless of experience) heads out on the trail in groups and the horses are put in the order in which the wranglers know they will behave and not kick, bite or prance - best for less experienced riders but my particular steed seemed, frankly, rather depressed by the whole thing and I had the impression that I could have sat there without holding the reins or moving and still made it home safely.

The general principle is to keep families together to ride so you may need to be prepared to request a change if you are of differing abilities as the rides work to the needs of the least experienced rider (reasonably). The team is responsive to such requests. You might also need to be prepared to ask for a change of horse. Again, that seems acceptable.

For beginners, you should be aware that you will learn to sit on a horse and ride a trail but you won't learn much by way of technique in our experience. Again, that's OK and it is a holiday, after all but it's best to know what to expect.

Minor grumble over. In summary, I'd say we had a complete ball, the teenagers especially adored it and our memories are of great fun all round.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sue M, Owner at Elk Mountain Ranch, responded to this review, November 25, 2013
We are always happy to make changes to different groups, riding abilities, etc please just let us know and we will work to accommodate your needs and requests. We also provide more instruction as to riding technique, posture and cues... again just let us know and we will go to work for you. Cheers.
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Windsor, United Kingdom
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 29, 2013

We stayed with Tom & Sue and their wonderful ranching 'family' at the beginning of July this year as part of a longer trip RV'ing from Las Vegas to Denver and then onto the ranch. We can honestly say this was the trip of a lifetime - we only wish that like many others, we could promise to return!

We were a family with hugely different experience and requirements yet Tom, Sue and the staff met every one of them beautifully. My riding daughters at 16 and 10 had a fabulous time on the trails and were looked after impeccably by the wranglers; my husband had a go at the riding but everyone bent over backwards to help him walk and cycle his way round the area; myself as a non-rider, I was looked after royally and allowed to have Mum's best wish - a really relaxing time in good company, pleasing myself.

Tom & Sue were clearly meant for hospitality. Nothing was too much trouble. The staff were all excellent and friendly (brilliant with the kids). The horses were wonderful, well schooled and obliging (I have to rely on the riders word for that but you could see how much everyone enjoyed the trails). Even the challenge of a wheat free diet was risen to without fuss by Sue and the kitchen staff (so many thanks for all the effort that went into that). We were lucky to meet some really nice people, all also having a great time, from both the UK and US but the atmosphere created by both family and staff was the key. We were at home, from the moment we arrived.

A mention for Ranch Rider, the UK company with whom we booked and organised the whole trip (ABTA and ATOL covered). What an excellent job Tony and Vicky. A note for the future, if UK visitors have the time, they should book an extra night in Denver on the way home as the airport is not well set for the long wait for the night flight to the UK and we didn't really give Denver its due on the way in.

Of all the places we visited on this wonderful trip, which included the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and the Mesa Verde, Elk Mountain Ranch is the one that will stay in our hearts the longest. Colorado, we WILL be coming back. The Fourteeners and all the wonderful scenery around them provide a glorious backdrop for a very comfortable stay but at the end of the day, its the people that count.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sue M, Owner at Elk Mountain Ranch, responded to this review, November 25, 2013
Loved meeting your family. I am still wearing my necklace and we hope to see you all again.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Elk Mountain Ranch

Address: 13000 CR 185B, Buena Vista, CO 81211
Phone Number:
Location: United States > Colorado > Buena Vista
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 18 Specialty Lodging in Buena Vista
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Colorado's highest guest ranch at 9600 feet. Weekly package includes meals, lodging and activities - horseback riding, white water rafting, shooting sports, van trip to Aspen, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, hayride, square dance, childrens' program and more. Massage and overnight pack trip extra. 35 pampered guests. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Elk Mountain Ranch Hotel Buena Vista

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