Ranches—where you can rope, ride, and relax—have become the latest trend in spa locations.
By Marlene Goldman
Saddled between Old West and New Age, an increasingly popular breed of spa is bringing together a mix of rugged adventure and high-end luxury. Ranch spas, located mostly in the Western part of North America, from British Columbia to Mexico, range from full working cattle ranches to luxury guest ranches. The on-site spas vary,as well, from extensive spa centers to basic fitness and treatment facilities. Whatever the combination, many dude ranches have added spa services based on customer demand.
“More people are getting used to asking for spa-style services, so much of the popularity has to do with the changes in what people want,” says Marcia Williams, executive director of the Dude Rancher’s Association.
The draw for these spas is multifold. Aside from the lure of the cowboy mystique, ranch spas allow guests to be pampered in a natural, healthy environment, and many of these ranches are family-run, offering a personalized experience. Though most require a minimum stay of three to seven days, the atmosphere is usually relaxed, and families are often welcome.
Hills Health Ranch
“People want to touch nature as part of their spa experience,” says Pat Corbett, president and owner of Hills Health Ranch in Cariboo, British Columbia. “We believe the best treatment room is the 20,000 acres we have. You can’t do more for the mind, body, and soul than what the land gives back.”
Pat and his wife Juanita Corbett were pioneers in melding ranch and spa at Hills Health Ranch. “When we started in the mid ‘80s our idea was that people would long for a place to go for a wilderness and ranch style spa experience, as opposed to spas that were rich and exclusive brass, glass, and marble palaces,” says Corbett.
The site has been a working cattle ranch since the gold rush era, and still harbors 3,000 cattle. Guests can horseback ride, hike, or mountain bike to view the herd. Hills Health Ranch also features more than 100 miles of marked hiking trails, which in the winter transform into one of the largest trail systems for cross-country skiing in North America.
Though the serene setting and outdoor activities are key, the ranch’s centerpiece is the Canadian Wellness Centre, that offers eighteen treatment and consultation rooms as well as a staff that consists of kinesiologists, personal trainers, a nutritionist, physiotherapists, an acupuncturist, and lifestyle counselors. A combination of specialists may be called on for longer treatment programs to help guests with diabetes, hypertension, or weight problems. These guests sometimes stay anywhere from 30 to 120 days.
Hills Health Ranch utilizes its own land for some healing treatments. Ranchers pick hundreds of pounds of wild rose hips and extract essential ingredients on site, including the vitamin A oil from the seed. The oil is used in the spa’s signature Hills Deep Nourishing Relaxing Facial Treatment as well as body wraps, body scrubs, and in the ranch’s own massage lotion.
Like the natural oils, all-natural foods are featured in the ranch’s spa cuisine. “Nothing processed is the theme,” says Corbett, whether it’s the vegetarian dishes, or organically raised bison.
Also in British Columbia, Echo Valley Ranch & Spa has become one of the preeminent ranch spas in North America. “Our facility encompasses everything somebody would want to do on a vacation,” says Nicolle Williamson, sales and marketing director at Echo Valley Ranch. Set in the foothills of Mount Bowman, Echo Valley started as a homestead in 1908, was purchased by Norm and Nan Dove in 1990, and continues today as a working ranch. With 150 head of cattle as well as numerous wranglers on the premises, guests can help brand cattle, birth calves, and groom the ranch’s fifty horses. Roping and horse-training demonstrations take place every week. Competent riders are allowed to help move the cattle on the open range.
For the past six years, Echo Valley’s Cariboo Spa has offered Western style treatments, such as massages, body wraps, facials, and hydrotherapy. In 2001 Echo Valley opened a second spa facility, Baan Thai, designed by the architect of the Thai royal family. Aside from Thai massage, traditional Thai treatments are practiced, including Lukcrakob, which mixes fifteen herbs in a wrap, and is pressed on the sense channels of the body to soften tissue. Guests can try Ruesri dat ton, a yoga-like series of eighty postures and stretches practiced in Thailand for thousands of years. Sabai Sabai combines a number of these Thai treatments.
“The only drawback sometimes is the time limit,” says Williamson of Echo Valley’s many activities. “Some people want to do everything in two days. We’re finding a lot of people are staying seven nights to do the whole thing.”
Echo Valley Ranch & Spa also has its own organic vegetable and herb garden, berry patch, and raises its own livestock. On Thursday nights, Thai cuisine is served and traditional Thai dances are performed. Lessons in Thai cooking are also available.
Lost Creek Ranch
Around the same time Echo Valley opened Cariboo Spa, Lost Creek Ranch, near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, switched its focus from guest ranch to ranch spa. “About seven years ago we sent out questionnaires to our guests [on] what to do to improve the ranch,” says Bev Halpin, who owns Lost Creek with husband Mike.
Spa services topped the list, however, not everybody was in agreement. “Six years ago this was a huge step for us to take, getting state-of-the-art equipment and training an entire staff. Guests who were long timers felt we had changed the image to a point where they didn’t want to be a part of it. Some in the ranching world shook their heads, but obviously we’ve done something right. Now we’ve gained a whole new family who love the spa,” Halpin says. Lost Creek’s spa includes five treatment rooms, dedicated massage rooms, and soaking rooms.
Bordered by Grand Teton National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest, Lost Creek sits 7,000 feet overlooking the Jackson Hole valley. The ranch started as a homestead in the late 1800s, and became a guest ranch in the 1920s. There are more than fifty horses on the ranch property. Aside from horseback riding, guests can hike, take float trips, try skeet shooting, or just sit on their porch and view the wildlife passing by. Lost Creek also offers auto tours to Yellowstone National Park.
At the Spa at Lost Creek Ranch, visitors can take yoga and aerobics classes or try a variety of massage, body, and facial treatments such as the Fango Salicyl Bath, a hydrotherapy spa with salicyl, a pain relieving ingredient in aspirin that is used to provide relief for arthritis and rheumatism. The popular Teton Experience includes a three-and-a-half hour massage and treatment.
Lost Creek Ranch serves family-style, gourmet ranch meals. One night during the week-long stay, guests feast at a ranch cookout. The ranch is open from the end of May to October.
The personalized experience is a main draw at Beaumont Ranch and Beau Monde Spa, located thirty minutes south of Fort Worth, Texas.
“Our whole setting is like being in someone’s home,” says Linda Beaumont, owner of Beaumont Ranch. “There are four generations of our family, and we have lots of people to take care of everybody.”
Beaumont took over the property in 1981 and ran it as a cattle ranch, as it had been since the turn of the century. In March 2001, Beaumont transformed the property into a guest ranch and spa, paring down its 3,200 acres to the current 1,000, and reducing the ranch’s 10,000 head of cattle to today’s 147. “The cattle now are for herding,” Beaumont says. “Nobody’s going to eat them.”
In addition to cattle herding, ranch activities include horseback riding lessons, carriage rides, golf lessons, skeet shooting, and horse grooming lessons. There are also cattle roping demonstrations from the cowboys on staff, and adventurous guests can also ride the mechanical bull at the ranch’s Lone Star Barn.
The Beau Monde Spa complements the Wild West backdrop. Hot stone massages and aromatherapy comprise part of the spa menu. Beau Monde is known for making its own salt scrubs and the chocolate raspberry body scrub is also a favorite. Estheticians work with guests to determine which skin treatments are best for them.
During the week, there is a Friday Night Fish Fry and Sunday Barbecue Buffet at the Lone Star Barn.