Dude Ranches: The Cure for Nature-Deficit Disorder


Young cowgirl racing around the barrels in the arena activities at the Tumbling River Ranch in Colorado

By Wrangler Network contributor, the Dude Ranchers’ Association

Richard Louv, child advocate and writer of the bestselling books “The Nature Principle and “Last Child in the Woods,” has coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder. He explains that a growing body of research indicates the lack of nature in today’s online generation is linked to the growing trend of childhood obesity, attention deficit disorders and depression. He explains, “Direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.”

At a Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) accredited dude ranch, guests are guaranteed to get their nature fix and spend the majority of their vacation outdoors in some of the most beautiful locations west of the Mississippi due to the variety of activities available for all ages.

For the little tikes, many DRA-accredited ranches offer children’s programs equipped with a week’s worth of activities, including pony rides, field days and crafts. For the children old enough to go out on a trail ride, they are sure to have a blast teaming up with other kids to tackle every hill and trail with their new favorite wrangler. Teenagers will enjoy going on all-day hikes or hanging out with the crew and other guests their age, most often not even realizing how much time they are spending in nature, expect for the repeated application of sunscreen.

To learn more about the outdoor activities and experiences available at DRA-accredited guest ranches to help combat Nature-Deficit Disorder, check out the list below:

Cherokee Park

River rafting at Cherokee Park

Cherokee Park
The Cherokee Park is a family-owned dude ranch nestled in the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains. Catering to families of all ages, Cherokee Park offers children’s programs for ages two through 12 that include horseback riding, arrowhead hunting, hiking and scavenger hunting. For families with children under three, Cherokee Park offers the opportunity to bring your own full-time babysitter, free of charge.

Greenhorn Creek
Located near the Feather River Canyon in Calif., Greenhorn Creek is truly an all-inclusive guest dude ranch vacation that provides the perfect location for reunions, retreats, getaways and other special events. Not only does Greenhorn Creek offer some of the best hospitality, but it also provides life changing adventure and experience with its high ropes course and horseback riding.

Three Bars
Amidst the Canadian Rockies, Three Bars Guest Ranch is a working cattle ranch that offers the ultimate horseback riding vacation. Whether you have previous experience or you have never ridden a horse before, Three Bars’ activities are designed to include all levels of experience and lessons are available with DRA-certified wranglers. The ranch offers some of the most diverse vacation activities available and was voted Canada’s #1 Dude Ranch in 2012.


Taking in the view at Lone Mountain Ranch

Drowsy Water
For more than 90 years, Drowsy Water Ranch has provided folks from around the world with authentic western vacations. Under the same ownership and management for 35 years, it promises hospitality and entertainment. Its vacation package offers enjoyable activities that cater to all ages, including trout fishing, western dancing, a zip lining course, hunting, golf and much more.

Lone Mountain
Explore the endless recreational possibilities at this historic ranch in Big Sky, Mont. Join guided hikes and learn about the area, explore the mountain rage by horseback or enjoy canoeing surrounded by the beautiful flora and fauna. Lone Mountain offers activities for all ages with its Outdoor Youth Adventures Program near Yellowstone National Park.