Colorado Dude Ranch

Black Mountain Ranch: Summer Vacation at a Real Colorado Dude Ranch

We promise ourselves every year that we will spend more time in our home state of Colorado. Seriously, dudes. I am lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. But we’re always so busy running everywhere else, we never get to enjoy our backyard.

Until Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch invited us up. They are an easy 2.5 hour drive from Denver (halfway between Vail and Steamboat Springs, Colorado), so we knew this was one adventure we couldn’t pass up.

We arrived and fell right into cowboy land.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch sepia boys at fence

Black Mountain Ranch is family-run, and they made us feel like family right away. Many of the staff already knew our names, and I could tell it wasn’t just because our friend Andrew Hyde was there working with them… they treated all the guests that way.

We were lucky that several friends from Denver were visiting at the same time, especially Julie’s family – which brought built-in playmates since our kids have know each other for years.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch girl horses fence

I highly suggest trying the multiple family approach at BMR – the kids were able to run off and play together in a safe environment – but still exploring things they have never done before… like feeding goats at dinnertime!

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch feeding goats

And making friends with horses.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch girl fence horse

And singing YMCA in the saloon.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch singing bar saloon

Oh wait. That was me.

In the morning, we were all ready to ride horses, and the ranch has a “Boot Library” that you can borrow from in case you don’t have your own. Boots. Not horses. (Trust me, I don’t have either.)

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch andrew hyde boots

And then we were UP UP UP on horses for the first time in our lives! WAY HIGH UP. This photo was taken of Declan about 30 seconds before I broke my finger in 2 places.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch boy horse

Yeah, no joke. My ridiculous health mishaps followed me to the ranch. So yup, I broke my finger. Getting on a horse. But I was just doing what they show in the movies! Jumping up there, all enthusiastic! Swinging my leg over! Being rowdy! And almost falling off the other side.

Thank heaven Ryan from BMR was there to catch me – or I would have pulled some crazy Wile E. Coyote move right on my head. Instead I grabbed the saddle and jammed my pinky, which yes, broke it in two places. I am cursed, I tell you.

But I am proud that I toughed it out. WE WENT ON OUR DAMN RIDE, DAMMIT.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch group horse ride

Through the woods.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch woods horse ride

Straight up the side of the mountain.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch bugfrog man horse petting

Out along a ridge.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch horse ride ridge

Marveling the horsemanship of our wrangler, Molly.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch wrangler horse ride ridge

For probably the most spectacular view of my life.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch vista view mountain mountains horses

Colorado is awesome, y’all.

After a long day out in the sun (WEAR SUNSCREEN)… all the guests were invited up to Nowell’s house for a cocktail party. And they aren’t kidding with this cocktail party business. We went from dusty to fancy in about 15 minutes flat. Gorgeous house, gorgeous views, gorgeous food.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch cocktail party dinner

It gave Bryan time to rekindle his relationship with CJ, Julie’s second child. The two of them have long had their own special thing.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch hug

We made it back to the ranch in time to watch the horses being released to the pasture.


Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch horses running

Double wow.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch horses running

Triple wow.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch horse running

Now I know why Ree takes so many photos on her ranch.

I also turned around, didn’t change any settings on the camera, and caught what maybe is my favorite photo ever.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch fence man photographer dust magic horses

That’s our friend Michael Cummings, an amazing photographer who was also at the ranch this summer. I used that picture in my photography session at Evo this year because it says so many things to me. First, magic happens when you just shoot. And also that photography is social – Michael and I were having a blast out there in the mud taking photos of the horses and each other. As evidenced by…

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch man holding horseshoe

Plus, other friends were out in the field with us…

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch andrew hyde man eating grass

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch petting horses

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch woman smiling

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch friends spotted horse

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch bugfrog man smile

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch woman walking horses

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch man smile sunset

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch feeding spotted horse

Yeah. That was fun.

But there’s more.

The ranch has this special dog named Riley. I actually think Riley needs to be on their web site. Listed as “entertainment.” See, Riley likes fire. A LOT. Like, in a crazy crazy crazy obsessive way. He waits, watches the fire outside the saloon ALL NIGHT LONG. Sometimes he will snap at the ash that spits out, but honestly – I could have taken this same photo at any time over a 4 hour period.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch Riley dog fire

It would have looked like this.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch Riley dog fire

Or this.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch Riley dog fire

Poor Riley.

Meanwhile – I got to see everyone dance! Fancy-like!

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch line dance dancing

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch line dance dancing

And in lines!

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch line dance dancing

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch line dance dancing

This is where I talk about how I am more of a dark-concert or indie-club kind of dancer girl. And how I hide behind the camera to avoid organized dancing. Unless we’re recreating Grease or Thriller or something. Then I might be convinced. After a few beers.

But wait!

Guess what we did the next morning???

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch horse coral

My booty (and finger) didn’t agree with me, but I was totally ready to get back on Newt, my assigned horse for our time at Black Mountain.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch horse riding

Bryan was pretty partial to his horse, Dice, too. Julie was just trying to get reception.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch bugfrog smile man horse

Guess what ELSE we did that day?

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch rope roping

I am surprised I have any clear photos. Because watching city folk learning to rope cattle is HILARIOUS. Trust me on this one.

But, Black Mountain Ranch does this every Saturday, to allow guests to round up the baby calves and give them electrolytes. So, win-win. Cowboy roping fun for the visitors and healthy stuff for the babies.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch corral rope roping

Bryan roped two, but this was the only pic I have of any of it. He is disappointed I can’t make an animated gif for him of his heroics.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch cow corral rope roping

I almost have enough to show you the whole process for Howard, another guest that week.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch cow corral rope roping

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch cow corral rope roping

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch

Including when the calf shook Howard off and he landed face-down in the dirt.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch cow corral rope roping

And there I was, in the middle of it all, with my camera, and broken pinky.


Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch cow corral rope roping

I’ll tell you what I am thinking.

Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch was an amazing, extraordinary, memorable, INCREDIBLY FUN weekend for all of us.


All my Flickr photos from our dude ranch experience are here.

Thanks again to Black Mountain Ranch for having us visit! Please visit their brand new (awesome) web site or like them on Facebook. Really, really great people.

This article has 47 comments

  1. Everyfann

    WOW Aimee! That looks SO fun!!!

  2. Alli Worthington

    What a great place! Everything about this is awesome. Your pictures are so beautiful. And, wow, there is a horse there that looks like a giraffe.

  3. Boston Mamas

    AMAZING photos! (Of course they are!) And I adore thinking of you and Julie hanging on the ranch together. xoxo


    Looks like an awesome time.

    The one horse looks like a giraffe.

    I want my kids to go horseback riding. someday. No tme. Just the kids.

  5. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    OK, looking for the giraffe – which one?!?!?!?!

  6. Monika

    I have not spent nearly enough time on ranches (despite the fact that my brother dating a girl who grew up on a farm and her sister was Ms. Rodeo Colorado). It is photos (and stories) like these that make me realize that I am definitely missing out.

    Can you believe I have never been on a horse. IN MY ENTIRE LIFE? I do not even think I have ever touched one.

    I need to change that ASAP, and Black Mountain Ranch looks like the perfect place to go! Hopefully I can make my way up there next summer.

  7. Schmutzie

    That looks like so much fun!

  8. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Monika – just be sure to take your time getting on. 😉

  9. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    And thanks everyone! 🙂

  10. Tree

    OMGoodness! What fun!!! What a gorgeous place brought to life by your amazing photographs and story-telling abilities.

    Thank you for sharing and for adding to my list of places to vacation!

  11. chloebear

    I want to go! Looks like an awesome time.

  12. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    JoAnn – that is hilarious. 🙂

  13. KR

    Excellent! Such a great combo of words and image to tell the story.
    And that dog that chases fire reminds me of the same breed type at a base camp for a backpacking program I started out of Granby… only he chased beer cans, chewed them up…was missing quite a few teeth, too.

  14. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Y’all are so kind. 🙂

  15. Stacie

    That looks awesome.

  16. Megan

    I always love your trip recaps. Makes me feel like I was there. I need to add this place to my list. You are so lucky to live there.

  17. Anonymous

    OMG – that looks so awesome !!!!!! What a wonderful way to spend a weekend.

    Of course, your pictures are amazing too. I’m sure you will be going back soon .

  18. Anonymous

    Love the shots, looks like you guys had an awesome time!

  19. ZDub


    I want to do this now too!

  20. Jen Grant

    Not only is this the BEST blogger visit write up I have ever read, but your pictures are AMAZING!!!! Way to bring the adventure to life!! Ps… I have mega cowboy envy.

  21. Anne

    Gorgeous photos, Aimee! BMR sounds like an amazing place! Glad you had such a great time.

  22. Carissa(GoodNCrazy)

    Oh my gosh, Dude ranch eye candy photos! LUV it. And now more from flickr.. hold on..

  23. JoAnn

    Black Mountain Ranch is one of our favorite dude ranches in Colorado (I’ve been to a few here in our wonderful State). Loved the re-cap!!

    p.s. I, too, hurt myself at Black Mountain Ranch, but it involved trying to stumble back to our cabin in the dark after having such a good time at the bar. Ha.

  24. Ginger

    Such awesome pictures. I definitely need to drag Jim up there. We need to work on his cowboy. 🙂

  25. Melissa Taylor

    Okay, the whole but wait was killing me – and jealousy is not attractive I realize but damn, girl – this looks like the best trip ever! Despite the broken fingers. (Any video of the steed mounting fiasco perchance?)

    And I love the photography.

    And I’m still jealous.

    Of your bad cowgirl self.

    Dare I look at the cost? . . .

  26. Melissa Taylor

    aaaah, I looked at the cost! Whoa, Nellie! Maybe when I sell a book or ten.

  27. amy turn sharp of doobleh-vay

    that was amazing. really. yr life is so good! xoxoxo

  28. Connie Weiss

    You had me at SALOON!

    I used to be a cowgirl. I know…I’ve adapted to a city gal so well you’d never know it!

  29. Secret Agent Mama

    I wanna go, I wanna go!

  30. Emily McKhann

    Aimee, I feel like I was there with you – your photos and story are SO vivid I was seriously there with you looking at the most gorgeous view ever! I’m sorry about your pinky – and so glad it didn’t get in the way of all the fun, adventure and beauty!

    It’s on my list now! Thanks for sharing your fabulous vacay!!!

  31. Julie Marsh

    Tacy: “Aimee takes, like, the BEST PICTURES EVER.”

    My kids are still talking about that trip. So are Kyle and I. *Highly* recommended (especially with great friends).

  32. Julie {Angry Julie Monday}

    Amazing!!! Seriously, my family would love this. And the photos are breathtaking….

  33. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Melissa – in some ways it’s not “cheap” but it’s an all-inclusive experience. All activities and MEALS are included. I didn’t touch on that in my post, but the daughter of the Mays family is a gourmet chef and she came home to cook for the ranch.

    So, basically, while not cheap, when you do the math, it isn’t as expensive as it seems at first blush either.

  34. mayberry

    ITA with Tacy! Smart girl. A-may-zing photos. Add me to the long list that wants to go to BMR, pronto.

  35. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Again, thank you all for your kind comments! I so appreciate it! 🙂

  36. Rachael

    Gorgeous shots! I need to add to my bucket list “rastle a calf” or something cowboy like that!

  37. Bryan

    I keep telling people how fon this was, but this post is making me home away from home sick. And you didn’t even mention the pool, hot tubs, incredible food, amazing staff, and all the other things you can do like river rafting, hiking, fishing, and good ol fashioned gun shooting. And then we went up to the Steamboat Rodeo!

    And then there’s the sky! I have never seen the Milky Way so bright. Michael has a time lapse that I need to find to share with you all on here. Amazing.

    I’m packing up tonight.

  38. monstergirlee

    Did I ever tell you about the two summers I spent as a wrangler giving trail rides up in Breckenridge?
    Your photos really take me back.

    Love the photos, love the stories. I miss riding horses so much! You look like you all had such a blast. Yay for all of you!

  39. jyl johnson pattee

    So many comments about this post.

    1. I had no idea this is how you broke your finger. You have the best health mishaps. I mean if you’re going to get hurt, why not get hurt and get a really cool story out of it, right? ;P

    2. These pics are amazing, especially the stampede-ish looking ones.

    3. I think the Pattee family may need to go to a dude ranch, because after following your awesome tips on Arches National Park today, I pretty much will follow you anywhere.

    I heart you and your pics, Aimee! So glad you had such a fun time. 😀

  40. Redneck Mommy

    I’m so jealous. That trip looked amazing. And your photography is gorgeous. (Of course.)

    I always tell my husband I want to go to a Dude ranch. And then he blinks at me like I’ve lost my mind and reminds me that we LIVE on a glorified dude ranch.

    IT IS NOT THE SAME I tell him. Maybe one day. Glad you had a fantastic time.

  41. Melissa

    I think everyone has said it already, but your photos are gorgeous and it looks like you all had a blast!!!

  42. Bethany

    Awesome post – that was so much fun to read and see…

  43. Cat/DearBadKitty

    Wow, it looks like so much fun! And as always, your pix are GORGEOUS!

  44. leahpeah

    Wow! That place looks amazing. I’d love to take my kids there. Great photos!

  45. mattmatt

    Wonderful post! I wish I captured such photos and wrote such story, from my awesome days at Black Mountain Ranch.

  46. Jen Holliman

    That looks awesome! I so want to go there now!

  47. Leslie Brown

    I remember that one summer when my father brought me in a dude ranch. Its like I finally felt like I’m being introduce in the society as a man. Marble Mountain Ranch

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