Guests ride horses under the Black Mountain Ranch entrance, made of rough logs

Black Mountain Ranch

Head to McCoy — a tiny agricultural town tucked between Vail and Steamboat Springs — for authentic Western entertainment like fly-fishing, riding and cattle driving at Black Mountain Ranch.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly, all-inclusive dude ranch with a lot to do besides just riding horses, Black Mountain Ranch is your spot. Of course, there’s riding galore (real cattle drives happen on Saturdays and you’ll find your perfect match with one of the ranch’s 150 glorious horses), but there’s also whitewater rafting, roping, dancing at the saloon, skeet shooting, rodeos and camping under the glittering stars. Plus, your kids can go off and do their own thing if they want (a nice perk!). Every day starts and ends with amazing food, too — there’s a real-life chef at the ranch. See a sample vacation week.

What makes it special?

It’s all the horseback rides you’ll do that are catered to your personal experience level — you can go slow, fast, up steep slopes or just around the corral. Even if you’re new to the saddle, you’ll leave a seasoned rider who loves to gallop. And, if you don’t feel like riding much, that’s cool, too. Every vacation is customizable.

A child prepares to shoot an arrow at a target while visiting Black Mountain Ranch
A herd of horses exit a corral at Black Mountain Ranch
Black Mountain Ranch guests ride horses with a guide

The most Colorado thing about this place

You know you’re in Colorado when it snows in June, and being up in McCoy is no different. Expect ever-changing mountain weather typical of when you’re waaaay high up. The ranch’s elevation is above 8,500 feet, so any type of precipitation is possible. Pack for dressing in layers (that includes a warm knit hat for shivery nights) and bring a raincoat. 

Most unexpected amenity

Head to the on-site Old West saloon to grab your favorite adult beverage (your choice of spirits or ice-cold beers). While you sip, practice your roping skills, or play classic bar games like ping pong and pool.

Top sensory encounter you’ll experience

We’re going with ogling the blazing fuchsias of sunset, then posting up around a crackling campfire after a long day on your steed. Stare up and you just might spot Orion’s Belt (you’ll know it from those three glittering orbs — named Alnilam, Mintaka and Alnitak). You’ll be sleeping under those same ol’ stars when you’re way up high at pack camp.

A Black Mountain Ranch guide fishes with a guest
Black Mountain Ranch guests gather for a meal outside after a day of fun
Anglers fish from a pier as mountains and evergreen trees reflect in the water

Our favorite traveler review

“This year was our second trip to Black Mountain Ranch. The first time was an amazing experience and we talked about it off and on for two years until we could return. Now we will be talking about this year's trip until we return again. Everything about this ranch is beyond compare. Prepare yourself for a lifetime experience riding horses in the mountains and fields, herding cattle, singing around the campfire at pack camp, river rafting, eating great food, meeting new people, dancing in the saloon, soaking in the hot tub or just reading a book on the porch overlooking the ranch and mountains. I can't say enough about the staff, the wranglers and the owners. We can't wait to return!” — Patricia W., Tripadvisor

Things to see & do nearby

Going to Vail? Catch live music amidst a mountain backdrop at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, sip aromatic wines at Root & Flower, nom on wagyu steak and flaky buttermilk biscuits at Mountain Standard, and stroll through Vail’s and Beaver Creek’s ski villages.

How ’bout Steamboat Springs? Soak in Strawberry Park Hot Springs’ steamy waters, bike the Yampa River Core Trail for rushing-water views and fishing access, and snack on small plates at Laundry.

More ideas for six days of fun in the Colorado Rockies.


Photos courtesy of Black Mountain Ranch