hether it's the beautiful surroundings, the horses, the spirit of independence that's part of Western living, or the all-inclusiveness of the experience, ranch vacations have long been a popular choice for women traveling alone or with other women. All ranches are a little bit different, but on a typical ranch vacation, you'll stay in homey, rustic style (but often luxurious) accommodations, eat three hearty home-cooked meals per day, go riding once or twice a day, take part in other activities such as hiking or fly-fishing, and enjoy old-fashioned Western hospitality.
While this year the travel window is mostly closed for ranch vacations in the mountain states, fall is the beginning of ranch season in Arizona, a state with numerous desert guest ranches featuring women-only weeks and weekends. In October, the historic hacienda-style Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch, set in the high Sonoran Desert near the Mexican border, hosts a five-day all-inclusive "CowGirl Camp" which focuses on riding skills and understanding horse behavior.
"We have been offering women-only packages for two years, but we have always had single women guests, many who have returned every season and several who spend every holiday with us," says ranch owner Veronica Schultz. "Our ranch is truly unique—we have a woman chef, a woman owner, and an almost totally female staff."
North of Phoenix in the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains, Kay El Bar Guest Ranch also offers women-only vacations, including women-only weeks in January. Packages include personalized riding lessons, instruction in cattle sorting and horse catching, and nightly entertainment with local musicians and writers.
Women-only tour: Rancho de la Osa four-night CowGirl Camps are scheduled for October 10 and 31, February 27, March 20, and April 24. Camps costs $1,200 per person. Kay El Bar Guest Ranch has two upcoming women's weeks, January 11 and 25, from $1,750 per person. Prices at both ranches cover accommodations, airport transfers, all meals, horse riding, and all scheduled activities and entertainment.
Do-it-yourself: Outside of Women's Weeks, you can stay at Rancho de la Osa from $215 per person per night or at Kay El Bar Guest Ranch from $210 per person per night. Rates are all-inclusive and based on single occpancy; you'll pay a lower daily rate if you share a room with a friend or stay a full week. To find other Arizona guest ranches, go to the Dude Ranchers' Association website.