Imagine waking up to the sound of aspen leaves quivering in the breeze, the bright neigh of a mare as she gallops through a green pasture, the smell of cowboy coffee and the freshness of the mountain air.

Away from the hustle and bustle of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Ski Area lies the most beautiful countryside, dotted with working ranches – some still in the same family after more than a century – where a guest ranch can serve you up the true western heritage of the Yampa Valley with a special touch.

[caption id="attachment_3291" align="alignnone" width="614"]Vista Verde 7 Courtesy of Vista Verde Guest Ranch[/caption]

Venture north out of Steamboat Springs on Elk River Road and you’ll discover gems of guest ranches that stretch all the way to Wyoming.

Vista Verde Ranch and The Home Ranch both offer luxurious but laid-back playgrounds year round. Miles of trails for horseback riding or cross country skiing surround the peaceful cabins, where life moves at the pace of the clouds sliding lazily by.

Five star food is served up with old fashioned western hospitality. You’ll get to know your hosts, your wranglers and fellow guests and bond over the beautiful scenery, peaceful atmosphere and wide array of activities in summer or winter. Plus, the kids will have their own summer camp-like program and a full itinerary of playing cowboy and cowgirl all throughout your stay.

Also in North Routt County is the Elk River Guest Ranch. With river adjacent property and a few quaint cabins, Elk River Guest Ranch is part bed and breakfast, part bed and bar, and part adventure ranch. Hunting and fishing will be at your fingertips and wild lands and a comfy saloon all within reach.

[caption id="attachment_3292" align="alignnone" width="614"]Vista Verde Guest Ranch winter Courtesy of Vista Verde Guest Ranch[/caption]

In winter or summer, Saddleback Ranch, west of Steamboat Springs, has incredible family adventure opportunities, and it’s only 15 minutes from Steamboat Springs. Day shuttles will take you out there for snow-tubing – which can bring out the kid in everyone – as well as snowmobile, ATV and horseback riding tours. Or, book a stay with the friendly folks at Saddleback and try out the cowboy life for yourself on a cattle drive.

Ranches offer shuttles to town if you need your city fix, but pack your cowboy hat and get ready to breathe in nature’s beauty at a guest ranch escape into a cowboy’s world.