Bison & Cattle Ranch

Colorado USA: (WRCO01)
URL: https://www.hiddentrails.com/tour/co_zapata_ranch.aspx

Introduction
Colorado USA
This 103,000 acre authentic Bison and Cattle ranch  borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve along its Eastern border. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains tower alongside the ranch with several 14,000 foot peaks with trail heads leading into them, just minutes from the lodge. It has one of the most scenically spectacular and diverse geological landscapes to be found anywhere in the world. It is a wildlife mecca with thousands of elk, hundreds of bison, and countless deer, coyotes, birds and many other animal species.

Real life ranching and exploring the great outdoors is at the core of the programs that are offered. We have hosted guests from all over the world for over 20 years, developing special programs that bring visitors into the middle of ranch life by working side by side with the cowboys and cowgirls on the ranch; these activities are not staged - they occur whether guests are on the ranch or not. If groups have varied interests or do not want to spend all their time with the cowboys, they can take one of our trips into the wild to study the bison herds, or explore the sand dunes and mountain meadows. The ranch is owned by The Nature Conservancy.

Note: Unfortunately we no longer have a domestic bison herd (wild herd only) -- we do not have any opportunities to move bison though our guests are welcome to ride (from a safe distance) amongst our wild herd. We also do invite guests to participate in any ongoing cattle work we may have during their stay.

Accomodation


Accommodations

This is a stationary ride, so all nights are spent at the same location.

Description

Set back in a shady cotton wood grove beneath the majestic 14,000-foot peaks of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains lies this historic Ranch headquarters and lodge, which was established in the late 1800’s. Elk, mule deer, migratory birds, eagles, and black bear also call this area home. Recently renovated, the main building contains large indoor and outdoor dining areas, a bar that serves wine with appetizers and refrigeration for guest's own additional beverages, and comfortable guest rooms. There are 2 other buildings hosting the rest of the bedrooms. Each room features two double beds or a single king and we have one room with three queen beds. For evening soaks after a long day of fun, the hot tub, with views of the sand dunes, and the mountains beyond, is just steps away.
WiFi is available in the lodge’s sitting room. Daily housekeeping and laundry facilities are included.

Please note that the ranch is located at 7,950 feet above sea level.



The Lodge
This is the original homestead built in the 1800's. The log home has been beautifully remodeled to incorporate a roomy and attractive indoor dining area with a fireplace and large windows along with a cozy sitting area. The large deck just outside the dining area is shaded by mature cottonwood trees and complimented by a flower garden that allows for lovely views of the property. The five rooms are beautifully furnished, and have a southwestern decor that gives them the feel of home and rustic elegance.

The Bunkhouse
Just outside the lodge is the log bunkhouse with five private rooms, each with a full bath and exterior entrance. One room is a suite with a separate living room and wood stove.  Rooms are in top order and beautifully decorated along with large comfortable beds.  Windows open wide to let in the fresh mountain air and the views of the natural gardens surrounding the Inn set you in a world all your own. 

The Stewart House
A fully furnished home separated from the lodge by a lighted footpath. Each of the five private rooms offers full baths. The home features common areas such as a fully equipped kitchen, living room with fireplace, pool table and a large dining area that can accommodate larger groups. The view from the living room windows and private patio provide a front row seat to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Crestone Peak, one of the most spectacular 14,000 foot peaks in the entire Sangre de Cristo mountain range.

Room Occupancy
There is no single supplement fee.
Triple occupancy might be possible based on availability.




Meals
All meals are included in this trip from dinner on Day 1 to lunch on the last day.

The dining experience is second-to-none. Our cook promotes the return to home style cooking with the use of seasonal spices and fare and strives to connect dishes to local farming producers. Breakfast is served in the dining room at 8:00am. Eggs made to order, biscuits and gravy, warm pancakes, cereal, and fresh fruit are followed up by homemade lunches eaten on the trail or in our dining room.
Dinner begins with appetizers at 6:00pm each evening, and dinner at 6:30pm. Dinners are expertly prepared each evening and presented with a flair for our guests to enjoy in our lodge-style dining room. Ranch-raised bison meat is a common feature, along with other fresh—often local—meats and produce. Meals are served family style.

Wine is served with appetizers and guests are welcome to bring their own alcohol for anything additional. We can stop after picking guests up from the airport or if requested, alcohol can be picked up on one of our two weekly town runs.

Dietary Restrictions
We can cater to severe food allergies and vegan/vegetarian diets with prior notice.

This trip includes and can accommodate special dietary requests.

Riding


Riding Level

We can accommodate a variety of riding levels and cater the itinerary to your preferences. If you are new to the saddle, our wranglers provide solid instruction to start your horse journey off in the right direction! For those more experienced we have more challenging rides and cattle work to keep you fast on your feet. Horseback activities can include working and moving cattle, exploring the surrounding San Luis Valley, and venturing into the adjacent Great Sand Dunes National Park. Formal instruction and horsemanship demonstrations from our expert wranglers are available at any point during your stay.

Pace
Guest rides are from about 8:30am - 2:00pm, though can be shorter if guests would like. Riding groups are kept small: 3 to 4 riders per wrangler.

Horses
The horses we use in our daily ranch work and guest program come from our breeding program.  The program focuses on producing gentle horses that can work long days on a ranch and thrive on native pasture with minimal supplemental feed. Specifically, our horses are bred for a gentle disposition, athleticism, hardiness, and livestock sense. We also train horses that come from outside of the program that show promising disposition for daily ranch work and meeting the needs of guest riders. The herd, averaging around 60 head, meet all abilities ranging from experienced to beginner riders. We work closely with each horse to train them for working livestock. During the guest season the herd is split into two groups with one group resting and the other group in a nearby pasture ready for daily work. The groups are then frequently rotated giving the horses plenty of rest and time under saddle so they ultimately remain in peak and healthy condition.

Horsemanship
Horses are the core to a good ranch program. Therefore, we work with our horses every day and we encourage guests to be involved by learning about how to improve or maintain their horse. The crew will work with the guests so they will be continually learning and working to improve their skills with a horse. Guests are welcome to watch the ranch crew train a young horse or participate in one-on-one horsemanship instruction. These options are typically half day options in the afternoon.

Itinerary


Central to what we do is maintaining our ranching heritage while enhancing the natural landscape. Our philosophy maintains that a balance must be struck between the management of a healthy and vigorous ecosystem and a sustainable land-based business that supports the people living on the land. We feel that our ranching and conservation work in partnership with The Nature Conservancy is an important model for preserving large scale ranch lands in the western United States. The property is a 103,000-acre ranch located on the eastern wall of the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado. It borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, the newest National Park in the United States. The high desert grasslands, alpine forests, wetlands, sand dunes, creeks, and lush meadows offer one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse landscapes in the United States. 

Check out the special Theme Weeks throughout the season.

Horseback Experiences
Come ride with us, work and drive cattle, ride through the bison herd, and explore the Sand Dunes National Park while we help you to focus on improving your horsemanship and riding skills. We invite you come and ride one of our ranch horses, or to bring your own horse. We welcome guests of all experience levels as we have a solid herd of horses and will take time to provide education opportunities based on a rider’s skill set. Formal instruction and horsemanship demonstrations from our expert wranglers are available at any point during your stay.
Guests who desire a true working ranch experience are welcome to work alongside our wranglers and ranch staff on various ranch projects. Along the way, guests learn about how we operate our ranches, our land and cattle management philosophy, and the natural surroundings that make our valley so spectacular.

While we try to use horses as much as possible in our ranch work (“use grass, not gas”), not all of a modern day cowboy’s work occurs on horseback. For those interested in experiencing the full range of a rancher’s daily work, guests are invited to join our cowboys as they monitor herd health, check and fix fence, irrigate farmland, assess pasture conditions, and perform any number of other activities required on a working ranch. Guests will also learn about important land conservation management practices, grass-fed cattle and bison production, and our prescriptive grazing program. Our programs are designed to put guests safely in the middle of this work, allowing our visitors to contribute and learn by gaining hands-on experience.


Sample Itinerary - subject to changes

We pride ourselves in being able to customize our itineraries based on our guests' preferences. Please note that the itinerary below is only a sample, and will be adjusted to fit your needs.
No activities are held on the day of arrival or Sundays, however we are happy to arrange a fishing or rafting trip.


Day 1 (Sunday): Arrival
Welcome! Take some time to walk around the grounds, explore the lodge and surrounding walking trails, and get settled. The Program's Manager will be in the office until 5:00pm to talk in more detail about your stay and to confirm what you would like to do for the week.
6:00pm: Appetizers and wine will be ready at the bar of the main lodge.
6:30pm: Dinner will be served in the dining room of the main lodge.

Day 2 (Monday): Introductory Ride
7:00am: Cold breakfast and coffee will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:00am: Hot breakfast will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:30am: A Wrangler will pick you up at the lodge and walk with you down to the corrals to meet your horse for the week and go over a quick riding and safety orientation. From the corrals, you will load up in truck and trailer to go for a ride on the Medano side of the ranch. Ride out from the Original Homestead and enjoy a ride among the wild bison herd, the spectacular scenery of the wetlands, and up Sand Creek bed towards the National Park boundary.
Enjoy your lunch out in the field and have a great ride.
3:00pm: If you are feeling up for it after your ride, head to the Great Sand Dunes National Park to hike, explore around Medano Creek, and possibly even go sledding down the steep dune cliffs.
6:00pm: Appetizers and wine will be ready at the bar of the main lodge.
6:30pm: Dinner will be served in the dining room of the main lodge.

Day 3 (Tuesday): Great Sand Dunes National Park Ride & Zapata Falls Hike
7:00am: Cold breakfast and coffee will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:00am: Hot breakfast will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:30am: A wrangler will pick you up at the lodge with truck and trailer to go for a spectacular ride through Great Sand Dunes National Park—up the creek bed, along the dunes, all through the ponderosa pine forest, and up into the mountains behind the dunes.
Enjoy your lunch out in the field and have a great ride.
3:00pm: Hike up to Zapata Falls, a .3 mile scenic hike up to a stunning waterfall with spectacular views of the San Luis Valley and the Great Sand Dunes.
6:00pm: Appetizers and wine will be ready at the bar of the main lodge.
6:30pm: Dinner will be served in the dining room of the main lodge.

Day 4 (Wednesday): Ranch Work
7:00am: Cold breakfast and coffee will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:00am: Hot breakfast will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:30am: Walk down to the corrals to meet your wrangler and horses. From the corrals, you will ride out from the Zapata side of the ranch to explore the ranch’s meadows, canyons, and cottonwoods. You might even discover on your ride that there are cows & calves that will need to be moved to new pasture.
Enjoy your lunch out in the field and have a great ride.
4:00pm: Head down to the Mercantile for appetizers, refreshments and a leatherworking session with the Wranglers. Learn some basic repairs and perhaps purchase a belt, bracelet or keychain to personalize with stamping and tooling to take home with you.
6:30pm: Dinner will be served in the dining room of the main lodge.

Day 5 (Thursday): Lake Ride
7:00am: Cold breakfast and coffee will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:00am: Hot breakfast will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:30am: A wrangler will pick you up at the lodge with truck and trailer to return to the Medano side of the ranch, this time to explore the ranch’s hidden lakes and then up Sand Creek, a sandy creek bed surrounded by cottonwoods, and up into small, surrounding sand dunes.
Enjoy your lunch out in the field and have a great ride.
3:00pm: If you are in the mood for a more intensive hike, head up Mosca Pass, a longer, but fantastic hike with wonderful views of the Valley. Otherwise, you let us know what you might prefer to do with your afternoon.
6:00pm: Appetizers and wine will be ready at the bar of the main lodge.
6:30pm: Dinner will be served in the dining room of the main lodge.

Day 6 (Friday): Cattle Work
7:00am: Cold breakfast and coffee will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:00am: Hot breakfast will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:30am: Walk down to the corrals to meet your wrangler and horses. From the corrals you will ride out to further explore the Zapata side of the ranch. If there any riding techniques you’d like to learn more about or perhaps head out to the cattle herd to practice sorting, just ask your wrangler!
Enjoy your lunch out in the field and have a great ride.
4:00pm: Head to the Mercantile lawn for appetizers, refreshments, and a roping demonstration led by the Wranglers. Learn to coil and throw a rope using a roping dummy.
6:30pm: Dinner will be served in the dining room of the main lodge.

Day 7 (Saturday): Medano Creek Ride
7:00am: Cold breakfast and coffee will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:00am: Hot breakfast will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:30am: A wrangler will pick you up at the lodge with truck and trailer to return to the Great Sand Dunes. Spend some more time exploring Medano Creek or perhaps ride up into the Preserve amongst the Pines and Aspens for a beautiful ride.
Enjoy your lunch out in the field and have a great ride.
3:00pm: Free afternoon! Take some time to explore the ranch or relax in the hot tub, if there is anything you’d like to see or re-visit on your last afternoon, just let us know!
6:00pm: Appetizers and wine will be ready at the bar of the main lodge.
6:30pm: Dinner will be served in the dining room of the main lodge.

Day 8 (Sunday): Departure
7:00am: Cold breakfast and coffee will be ready in the lodge dining room.
8:00am: Hot breakfast will be ready in the lodge dining room.
10:00am: Checkout, but please feel free to stay and relax or explore once you’ve checked out of your room.

-------------------

Non-Riding Activities

In addition to our full-slate of ranching and horseback activities, we offer gold medal fly fishing, nature hikes, birding, wildlife watching, rock climbing, photography tours, and more. For those seeking maximum relaxation, massages and yoga sessions are available throughout the week at an extra cost.

On Site Activities - available at additional cost

Wildlife & Landscape Photography Tours with Professional Photographer Steve Weaver
Spend a day honing your skills and exploring the ranch and San Luis Valley. For beginners to pros, you'll learn everything from basic techniques to high-level skills and discovering more about your camera. What you'll learn is up to you and can be completely customized as you're out in the field with Steve. 
$150 pp (Please note there is a 50% cancellation fee).

Massage & Wellness Services
We offer a variety of massage and wellness services.
Starting at $85/pp.


Off Site Activities - available at additional cost

Fly Fishing
Nearly half of the rivers that comprise Colorado’s gold medal trout waters are located within an hour’s drive of the ranch. With the Arkansas River to the north, the Rio Grande River to the west, and the Conejos River to the south, the Ranch's central location makes it a prime headquarters for trophy trout fishing. There are also several seasonal lakes closer to the ranch for those seeking a nearby outing. Guests are free to explore any of these waters on their own, or can schedule guided trips through local fly shops. Fishing trips are not included in our normal fee, but we are happy to help you book your trip with a high quality guiding service. We recommend scheduling prior to your visit in order to ensure availability. 
Ask for a custom quote.

Whitewater Rafting
Available May to Mid-August - For those with a thirst for adventure, whitewater rafting is available an hour north in Salida, Colorado. These trips offer a unique—and adrenaline-filled—way of viewing the scenic Arkansas River and the canyon that meanders with the river’s rushing waters. Whitewater rafting fees are not included in the price of a normal stay, but the Ranch staff is happy to assist you with your reservation. In order to ensure availability, we recommend you make arrangements before arriving for your stay.
Starting at $60pp/half day.

Rock Climbing
Renowned climbing and bouldering for beginners to experts. Available in two locations that climbers from around the world specifically seek out - Penitente Canyon outside of Monte Vista, Colorado, and Tres Piedras, New Mexico.
Starting at $30pp.


Rates and Dates for Bison & Cattle Ranch

Rates include:

Accommodations at ranch, all meals (dinner on Day 1 to lunch on Day 8), wine with appetizers, daily guided horseback riding, 1:1 horsemanship training, cattle work, other ranch activities.

Packages and Options




Rates Note:

Arrival days possible: Sundays and Thursdays (no riding on Sundays)

* prices are per person based on double/twin occupancy

Rates Note:

Arrival days possible: Sundays and Thursdays (no riding on Sundays)


Transfer and Other Charges:



 DescriptionUS$
2019 Transfer from Alamosa, per car (1 - 4 guests) with return
- to be paid locally
$100
2019 Extra night (7+ nights), pp $360
2019 Extra night (7+ nights) children, pp $300
2019 Fly Fishing, call for custom quotes ~$225 half day in Arkansas River
- to be paid locally
$225
2019 Photography Tours with Professional Photographer Steve Weaver
- to be paid locally
$150
2019 Whitewater Rafting, available May to mid-Augst, starting at $72 pp/half day
- to be paid locally
$72
2019 Rock Climbing in Penitente Canyon $270 1 pax, $315 2 pax, $112.50 per person for 3+
- to be paid locally
$112
2019 Massage & Wellness Services, starting at $85 pp
- to be paid locally
$85

Season Seasons  Min / MaxReserve
A 2019 03/01 - 10/31 8d / 7n 8 day trip, AP - Ranch Week,... 1 /15 Reserve
B 2019 03/01 - 10/31 7d / 6n 7 day trip, AP - Ranch Week,... 1 /15 Reserve
C 2019 03/01 - 10/31 6d / 5n 6 day trip, AP - Ranch Week,... 1 /15 Reserve
D 2019 03/01 - 10/31 5d / 4n 5 day trip, AP - Ranch Week,... 1 /15 Reserve
E 2019 03/01 - 10/31 4d / 3n 4 day trip, AP - Ranch Week... 1 /15 Reserve

Dates Note: Group bookings are possible for Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec with a minimum number of participants - check with us!
Sold Out Dates: Mar 1-3, Mar 15-17, May 3-5, May 17-19, Jun 7-30, Sep 6-15, Sep 22-29, Oct 11-13 & Oct 18-24.

Rates do not include:

Alcoholic beverages - bring your own, gratuity (mandatory), no helmets available (if you want one you must nbring your own), nearby optional rafting or fly fishing (55 minutes away) on the Arkansas River.

Note:

Due to COVID-19 Corona virus pandemic and certain travel restrictions we are applying some temporary policy changes to some of our tours.

For Bison and Cattle Working Ranch in Colorado (WRCO01):
By booking with us you are agreeing to follow these protocols before and during the entirety of your stay for the safety of both our staff and guests.
  • Please bring your own masks for the duration of your stay. We kindly request that all guests including children wear a mask outside of their room at all times.
  • For the foreseeable, all guests are required to drive themselves to the ranch.
  • Please do not enter any buildings other than your room, including the office, dining room and kitchen.
  • We will not be offering daily housekeeping services.
  • Please keep the front gate closed when entering and leaving the ranch.
  • The public toilets are closed, please use the bathroom in your room. There is no access to the corrals or other areas on the ranch during this time unless with a guide for Activities.
  • We will observe 8ft distance at all times.
  • You must sign and return your liability form for each member of your group by email before arrival.

We are excited to share the ranch, surrounding area, the nature and wildlife with you.
Please enable us to do this safely by following the following protocols:

  • You will be asked to travel in your own vehicle to and from programs on the ranch, for example when horses need to be trailered to other areas of the ranch or to the sand dunes you can follow the truck and trailer to that destination in your own vehicle. You do not need four wheel drive.
  • Afternoon activities will include self-guided hikes, guided hikes, naturalist guided hikes by our expert historian and ecologist, self guided hikes to hot springs, fly fishing (can be all day activity, self-driven), learn to rope on the lodge lawn led by a staff member.
  • Naturalist hikes and birding tours with John Rawinksi will require masks unless 6ft apart.
  • Masks must be worn on rides by both staff and guests when cinches are tightened, when stirrups are adjusted, when we assist a guest on or off their horse. Masks can be lowered when riding 8ft apart.
  • Tack and equipment will be sanitized after every guest's last ride.

Meal Time Protocol

  • The majority of dining will take place outside on the patio or lawn. If weather conditions hinder outdoor dining you may be asked to dine in your room.
  • All dining tables must be at least eight feet apart.
  • All parties must consist of six or fewer persons.
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided on every table.
  • Guests are required to sit at their designated tables and are not allowed to combine tables or add members from other parties to their table. At your first meal please wait in a designated waiting area before being shown your designated table.
  • Guests must wear a mask when not eating or drinking.
  • Guests may not enter the kitchen under any circumstances.
  • Parties must maintain a distance of six feet minimum from other parties while waiting for their table and while dining.
  • You must maintain a distance of six feet from all staff members unless a staff member is actively serving your table.

Breakfast

  • Coffee and tea will be available starting at 7am on the deck of the lodge. You may sit at your designated table. Hot breakfast will be served on the deck at 8 am.
  • The chef will announce breakfast and ask you to secure your masks correctly while a server brings you your meal.
  • Please leave your glasses, plates and cutlery on the table when you leave.
  • Please leave your lunch slip on the table for collection.

Lunch

  • Your lunch will be boxed and placed on your table with your breakfast.
  • Lunches will consist of a choice of salad, sandwich or wrap, chips, piece of fruit, granola bar, napkin, necessary utensils and condiments.

Dinner

  • Appetizers will be served at 6.00pm at the picnic table at the mercantile cabin on the lodge lawn. Dinner will be served on the deck at 6:30pm

  • Please wait in a designated area for their table to be called by a staff member.
  • Food will be individually plated or served family style by table.
  • When food is ready the chef will announce dinner and ask that you secure your mask while a server brings your meal to your table.
  • All used plates, glassware and utensils will be left on the table and cleared once all guests have left the area.

For more information please visit our COVID-19 Updates page at https://www.hiddentrails.com/article/covid19update.aspx

Other Info
Meeting: Mosca
Airport: San Luis Valley Regional Airport (ALS)
Transfer: Alamosa

Climate:
                                                Mosca area


Month

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average High Temperature (°F)

34

42

53

60

68

81

83

80

75

64

52

36

Average Low Temperature (°F)

-3

7

18

25

33

42

48

45

37

25

12

1

Average High Temperature (°C)

1

5

12

16

20

27

28

27

24

18

11

2

Average Low Temperature (°C)

-19

-14

-8

-4

1

5

9

7

3

-4

-11

-17

Average Precipitation (days of rain)

2

1

2

2

2

1

6

5

4

2

1

2

Source: NOAA


Seasons
The San Luis Valley's Alamosa County is located in South Central Colorado at an elevation of 7,544 feet. The climate of the San Luis Valley is marked by moderate summers and cold winters, light precipitation and much sunshine.

In Alamosa, 80% of the annual precipitation occurs from April to October, most of it as scattered, light showers from thunderstorms that develop over the mountains and move into the valley during the afternoon. More than half of these thunderstorms occur during July and August.

Winter snow, which occurs mainly in frequent light falls, average less than 40 inches per year, with occasional falls as early as September or as late as May. A good snow cover will remain on the ground for several weeks during the coldest months.

July and August are usually the only frost free months and see beautiful summer weather.

What To Bring:
Facts To Help You Plan
- It is typically cool in the mornings and evenings, but gets warm during the day - layers are good!
- Air can feel dry and thin, so drink plenty of water and bring your favorite lotion
- The ranch is bring your own alcohol. Wine glasses and corkscrews will be set out at dinner. The ranch can purchase alcohol for you ahead of time and it will be added to your invoice
- Laundry facilities available to everyone to use at no extra cost

Recommended Items
- Well fitting jeans
- Boots with a riding heel
- A wide brimmed hat
- Hiking Boots
- Jacket for layering
- Long sleeve shirts for riding
- Swim suit to enjoy the hot tub
- Body/hand lotion
- Bug repellant
- Water Bottle
- Sun Screen
- Lip Balm
- Camera
- Binoculars
- Sunglasses
- Backpack for hiking

*Some guests have recommended a pair of spandex bicycle shorts to wear under your jeans while riding!