Routt County dude ranches earn Signature Ranch Awards |

Routt County dude ranches earn Signature Ranch Awards

Trooper takes a nap Thursday as Colleen Russo, left, and Patrick King listen to a horse riding lesson inside the indoor practice arena of the Vista Verde Guest Ranch. The ranch was voted the top winter dude ranch and the top dude ranch for kids on a national website.

— At Vista Verde Guest Ranch, guests don’t watch television, and a cellphone signal is elusive.

"It’s all social," Amey Hugg said in the saddle of her horse, Chloe, before she started a riding session in a dusty corral. "That’s what I love about it."

Hugg, from Louisville, Ky., on Thursday was a little more than halfway through her sixth weeklong visit to the 575-acre ranch off Seedhouse Road in North Routt County.

Vista Verde is one of three Routt County dude ranches recognized in the inaugural All Signature Ranch Awards hosted by, a site that promotes more than 200 guest ranches across the United States and Canada.

Out of 30 nominated ranches and after more than 5,000 votes, Vista Verde was crowned the best winter dude ranch, the best ranch for kids and teens and the fourth-best ranch for forest trail rides.

"It just couldn’t be prettier here," Patrick King said before he saddled his horse and followed Terry Wegener and Trooper, a yellow Labrador retriever, into the arena to take horseback riding lessons.

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King, from South Dakota, was on his fourth trip to Vista Verde with his two daughters and his son-in-law. He said he found the guest ranch in a travel book 21 years ago.

In the past six years, the guest ranch has added a new swimming pool, the heated indoor arena and a new lodge building.

"It’s a wonderful family experience," King said.

The Black Mountain Ranch in McCoy was voted the best ranch for overnight pack trips and for trail rides. It also was voted the sixth-best ranch for its dining.

"It’s great to get the recognition," Black Mountain Ranch Manager Nowell May said. "People become part of our family here. What also sets us apart is we have a saloon, a place you can get a cold beer in the afternoon."

He said his guests ultimately get a taste of the Old West on the rustic ranch in extreme South Routt County.

The Home Ranch in Clark was labeled the fifth-best dude ranch for dining and the third-best winter dude ranch.

Peter Askew launched after the domain name was abandoned and turned the website into a place to showcase hundreds of ranches across the country.

He described it as a sort of Yellow Pages for the unique vacation spots.

"These dude ranches are fantastic vacation destinations to consider," he said. "They’re all so different. Some are old school, like a working ranch you see in the movie ‘City Slickers,’ and some like Vista Verde are resort ranches. You can go to a ranch to relax at a spa and you can go to herd cattle."

See the complete dude ranch rankings here.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email

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