Riding the range, wrangling cattle, sleeping under the stars, cooking steak and beans over a roaring campfire. The life of a cowboy sounds intriguing.
Yet, wouldn’t it be better if you could ride the trails with a guide, enjoy a massage by the river, dine on gourmet cuisine paired with wine from an award-winning cellar, and sleep in a king-sized bed piled with fluffy layers of downy duvets?
At Smith Fork Ranch in Crawford, Colo., you can channel your inner cowboy without roughing it. The property is part of a new crop of ranches that are elevating the classic dude ranch experience with luxurious amenities, attentive service, and thoughtfully prepared gourmet cuisine by celebrated chefs.
Guests of the intimate 285-acre Smith Fork Ranch, hunker down in historic log houses and cabins furnished with antiques, Native American arts and crafts, and the comforts of homemade soaps, plush robes, and Wi-Fi.
The all-inclusive experience lets guests choose daily activities such as guided horseback rides along trails on the ranch and within the surrounding Gunnison National Forest, fly fishing along a private three-mile stretch of river, and road biking through nearby orchards and vineyards.
Hiking, mountain biking, and sporting clays are also de rigueur activities at the ranch along with cooking classes with executive chef Seth Bateman and gathering eggs and working in the organic garden with resident farmer Alma Roberts.
The culinary focus at Smith Fork Ranch is cultivated by its location in the North Fork Valley. The area, often referred to as the Provence of Colorado, is a hub for local farms, many which supply notable restaurants in the nearby resort towns of Aspen and Telluride.
Ranch guests enjoy gourmet, farm-to-table cuisine prepared by Bateman along with wines from a cellar stocked with a variety of worldly selections.
Bateman sources meats and fresh produce from North Fork Valley farms and from Smith Fork Ranch’s organic farmstead garden. “We promise our guests farm to table and we deliver it,” says Bateman. The chef’s close relationship with farmers allows him to see what is being grown. “It’s more interesting, more hands on, than having a mystery box showing up at the back door.”
For guests, Bateman’s experience translates to a culinary nirvana. Breakfasts showcase local eggs and bacon cured in house. Lunches are picnic baskets packed with house-cured pastrami and salads. Dinners are three or four-course affairs highlighting the freshest product available. “Our food is straightforward,” he says. “We use fresh product, so you taste the vegetables at their peak.”
Along with the ranch and wilderness experiences, the farm to table aspect is important to guests, says Bateman. “They get the chance to enjoy produce from the area that they are exploring–it gives them a better sense of ranch life.”