Farmstay U.S. Blog

Created for and by travelers and the farmers, these posts will cover a variety of topics related to farm stays in the U.S.

Archive for tag: colorado

dunes-and-mountains-fsImagine riding on horseback alongside grazing buffalo, with pristine sand dunes ahead and a skyline of snowcapped, 14,000-ft mountains rising high behind the dunes.

Sounds unbelievable, but at Zapata Ranch in Mosca, Colorado, it's day-to-day reality.

Zapata Ranch is set on 103,000 acres bordering Great Sand Dunes National Park. "Western Horseman" magazine calls the area "one of the world's most spectacular and diverse landscapes." The ranch is owned by the Nature Conservancy and managed by the Duke and Janet Phillips family. Over three generations of ranching history has allowed the Phillips to hone their style of land stewardship and ranching in harmony with nature. Ranching here is practiced with conservation always in mind.

Bison-Clouds-Mountains-farmWith 2,500 bison, Zapata Ranch's herd is one of the largest conservation herds in the world. Two thousand are managed as a wild herd that is only gathered once a year from a 50,000 acre pasture where they roam free.

The ranch's 300-1000 cattle are managed using a system of intense rotational grazing, which means lots of animals on a relatively small pasture for a short period of time. The cattle are used to conserve the open prairie, as they eat foliage, turn over ground with their hooves, and are moved to new pasture once they've finished, giving the pasture enough time to rest and re-grow before being grazed again. The pace of the rotation is planned with keen attention to the rain, moisture, and pasture quality.

Herds of wild elk and antelope roam the land freely, sharing pasture with the bison and the cattle.

Guests come for the amazing natural beauty and because they crave a true ranch experience where they can be a part of the rhythm of life on a vast working bison and cattle ranch. Three main guest programs are available: The Horsemanship Experience, Ranching With Nature, and Great Outdoors Exploration.

cowgirls-fsDepending on the season and each visitor's preferences, guests might spend a day rounding up cattle or fixing fencing, hiking or riding on an interpretive nature trail, or improving their horsemanship skills. After all this, guests enjoy a dinner of grass-fed bison or beef from the ranch, with local produce prepared by skilled chef Mike Rosenburg, who once served as personal chef to the Carnegies.

Zapata Ranch can host 25 guests at a time (or up to 30 for families), which allows guests to enjoy activities specifically tailored to their particular needs and interests.


Zapata Ranch offers not only natural beauty and conservation-based ranching, but also creature comforts not typically associated with working ranches, including elegant rustic décor and a hot tub with a sand dunes view. There are three separate lodging facilities: the Zapata Inn, which served as the original homestead when the ranch was settled in the 1800s, the Stewart House, with full kitchen, pool table, living room and fireplace, and the bunkhouses. A spacious, converted old barn also serves as an education and meeting center.

Off-site activities include fishing, hiking, and whitewater rafting.

The Philips love sharing the incredible property and lifestyle with guests, and the inn provides an important supplement to the ranch business - one that, unlike ranching with nature, is less affected by climate.