Nearly a mile high in the Southern Cascades, 440 acre Willow-Witt Ranch offers an experience you won’t forget. Whether you’re there for the spectacular views, a family-friendly farm stay full of activities, an event hosted on the ranch, or simply to just get away and relax, you’ll find it all at this off-grid ranch.
Through sustainable agricultural and forest management, energy independence, and wetland restoration, Willow-Witt Ranch has created quite the traveler’s dream of a rural getaway. This family-friendly ranch is a great place to bring friends and the kids along, but also offers a peaceful secluded location for couples and adults who just want to get away from it all.
Before Suzanne Willow and Lanita Witt took over stewardship and named their Willow-Witt Ranch, dairy cows and beef cattle grazed this ranch valley for more than 100 years. Restoration included fencing livestock out of critical wetland habitat, prioritizing forest planting and re-growth, and practicing sustainable farm management. In 2009 the ranch was recognized with the Watershed Friendly Steward Award. For a more in-depth history of the ranch, you can visit its website here (Ranch History)
The ranch offers an array of goods, including farm-fresh eggs, goat milk, a variety of meats and organic compost.
Willow-Witt is a community supported agricultural ranch with sustainably-raised and organically fed livestock. If you spend the night at one of the multiple farm stay options, make sure to request a grocery list of farm-grown meats and vegetables and your fridge will be stocked for your arrival. Willow-Witt is hugely involved with the Ashland Growers’ Farmers Market. You can also browse through their online farm store and get a look at what they have to offer (Online Farm Store).
From birding and hiking miles of wooded trails with pack goats to farm stays, tours, and the occasional weekend event hosted on the farm, Willow-Witt is full of family-friendly and community-oriented activities.
Kids and adults are more than welcome to help out with chores, which they often end up enjoying. Who would have thought that doing chores could be so much fun! Playing with the farm animals and gardening are two other farm favorite activities for guests on the ranch.
Willow-Witt offers a variety of ways to stay on the farm: a furnished farmhouse studio with loft, the Meadow House, deluxe platform tents, and, if you want to pitch a tent, there are private campsites nestled within the trees.
The Farmhouse Studio sleeps up to six, features a wood stove and full kitchen and overlooks beautiful meadows.
The Meadow House, a beautiful three bedroom two bath is available for farm stay or just the day for events.
Glamping, or glamorous camping, is another vacation option on the ranch. Platform tents and campsites come with the use of a fully equipped kitchen, hot showers, towels, bathrooms, and a complimentary tour of the farm.
Your next adventure starts here. Plan your trip and (Book Now). If you’d like more information, check out their (Farm Stay profile here).
(Photo Credit: Willow-Witt Ranch)
In the early 90's, a fifth generation cattle-ranching family decided that they wanted to share the beauty, history, and heritage of the land that they'd been working since 1940... and, so, Western Pleasure Guest Ranch began extending their country hospitality to overnight guests.Located in Idaho's scenic Panhandle region, the 1,100 acre ranch has spectacular views of the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains, as well as being adjacent to thousands of acres of land for horseback riding or cross country skiing. Owner Janice Schoonover tells us that they enjoy four true seasons and "the landscape is stunning with the changes that each of the seasons bring."
Guests staying at the ranch can enjoy different activities, depending on what time of year they visit. Summertime brings all-inclusive guest ranch packages, which feature horseback riding as the main activity, with additional opportunites to enjoy wagon rides, working with cattle, skeet shooting, and archery. Guests may also enjoy a dinner cruise on Lake Pend Orielle, or canoeing down the Packriver.
In the winter, there are horsedrawn sleigh rides, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing. Right now, in the fall, it's an excellent time for leaf peeping - taking in all the gorgeous autumn colors.
The lodge - made of handhewn logs - has six private rooms with private baths, plus a rec room, a great room with a large riverrock fireplace, a loft sitting area, and a hot tub. There are also four private log cabins with private baths that each sleep six. The cabins have furnished kitchens and wood stove heat.
Western Pleasure Guest Ranch welcomes group retreats, family reunions, corporate retreats and provides a beautiful and unique setting for weddings. Beginning September 30th, the ranch will host Bed and Breakfast stays - an example of the different offerings that change with the seasons.
To learn more about Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, take a look at the video below, and then visit their listing on Farm Stay U.S. Now is a great time to book for a winter getaway, or start thinking about a guest ranch adventure for next summer!
NEW MEMBER SPOTLIGHT!
Today we are extending a hearty "welcome!" to CA Bull Elk Ranch, in Richfield, Idaho.
Located on 800 acres of pristine recreational and hunting habitat, CA Bull Elk Ranch is a working elk and upland game bird operation. Visitors can take part in fishing, hiking, bird watching and wildlife viewing, upland game bird hunting, snowshoeing and x-country skiing, photography, or just unplugging from the hectic world. There are also some of the usual farm animals, like chickens and geese.
There are four guest rooms with private baths, along with a large common area for relaxing, reading, or exercise. The stay also includes 3 meals a day prepared from food raised primarily on the ranch and by other local producers. Children under 12 are welcome at the ranch.
To learn more and plan a visit, check out the CA Bull Elk Ranch listing here on Farm Stay U.S.!
(Photos courtesy CA Bull Elk Ranch)
Check out this video from Men's Journal featuring Red Reflet Ranch in Ten Sleep, Wyoming! Guests, in this case Ryan Van Duzer, help with herding cattle on this 27,000 acre ranch in the Big Horn Mountains.
We asked Ryan some questions about his cowboy experience.
The wrangling experience was like nothing I've ever done before. I've ridden horses but never surrounded by hundreds of stinky, stubborn little cows. It surprised me at how difficult it was to make the herd travel in the direction we wanted, I thought they'd just get in line and march off to greener pastures. There was one moment when a rather rambunctious cow picked a fight with my horse, causing it to rear up and I almost flew off. Clay, the head cowboy said in a soft tongue, "We almost lost our host on that one." From that moment on the 'real' cowboys kept the fighter far away from me.
The absolute best part of the Red Reflet are the owners Laurence and Bob, they treated us like family and after four days together we really didn't want to leave.
The best advice is to have an open mind and be willing to try everything. Staying at a ranch is much different than staying at a resort because you get to participate in activites alongside real working cowboys. There really is nothing like it and the charm of ranch life is sure to make anyone fall in love with the western lifestyle.
Writer and librarian Lili DeBarbieri recently published a wonderful
A Guide to Southern Arizona's Historic Farms and Ranches, Rustic
We talked with Lili about her book, Southern Arizona, her travel
adventures, and farm and ranching trends. Fascinating stuff --
please read on!
Lili: I think first became aware of the term 'farm stay' in
association with the volunteer opportunities that the organization
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) offers. This was
more than ten years ago but I distinctly remember reading an
article about volunteer vacations on Hawaiian farms through WWOOF.
I do have to give credit to my home state of Pennsylvania for
bringing the more leisurely alterative to WWOOF in the form of
'farm stays' again to my attention. Once I saw that staying on a
working farm (in Lancaster County) was the same if not cheaper in
price than a hotel or motel but offered such wonderful
learning opportunities as an added bonus I was sold! A few years
ago, I worked and lived on a historic guest ranch near Santa Fe and
that was my introduction to that vacation option.
This month we feature an interview with a very dynamic duo,
ranch stay members Ron and Chris Wilson of Lazy T Ranch in the Flint
Hills of Kansas.
A 4-H member, FFA officer, farm radio broadcaster,
Congressional staffer, association executive, rural
director, corporate vice-president, small business co-founder,
ticket-taker, Sunday School teacher, diaper changer, bottle
tractor driver, posthole digger, thistle chopper, haybale
fence fixer, calf holder, manure scooper, and tail
Ron & Chris: Five years ago we moved back to the ranch and
built a new home. Mom moved up with us two years ago, leaving
her house empty so it was available to remodel and serve as a guest
Ron & Chris: You've heard of flat, treeless Kansas?
This is the exact opposite. We are nestled in a region
called the Flint Hills, with tall hills, deep draws, plenty of
native stone, and lots of trees and brush. We have four
distinct seasons, each of which has its appeal.
Ron & Chris: Guests can enjoy their privacy if they like,
because we are in a secluded spot although close to Manhattan, but
usually our guests choose to visit our historic stone barn, feed
horses and goats, and enjoy the landscape. Sometimes a family
will gather eggs from our chickens and have them for breakfast.
Ron & Chris: This is generally cow-calf country, with herds
of brood cows populating the rangeland. Cattle feeding is not
predominant here, although there are some feedyards. Cattle
feeding has become concentrated, particularly in western Kansas
where several large packers have located. Beef is our state's
largest single ag industry, still dominated by decentralized groups
of producers (as opposed to pork and poultry, which have become
more unified or vertically integrated). In addition to
ranchers, there are lots of farmer-stockmen raising grain and
Ron: I grew up here on the ranch and have always been a cowboy
at heart. Years ago I was at a conference in Colorado where
they had a cowboy poet as entertainment. I had never heard or
seen such a goofy thing, but it was definitely entertaining.
Years later I tried my hand at writing and performing it
myself, and have had a great time since. Overnight guests
don't get cowboy poetry as such, but they do if they schedule one
of our beef barbecue suppers.
Ron & Chris: Most of our activities are done by appointment,
such as when tour groups or organizations book an evening for
supper and entertainment. However, during weekends in
October, we hold our Fall Festival which is open admission for pony
rides, pumpkin patch, hayrack ride, kid activities, etc. In
2012, for the first time, we hosted a National Day of the Cowboy
celebration and had about 50 people come out for speakers, picnic
supper, and western entertainment. It was a lot of fun and
would hope to do it again.
Ron & Chris: The guest house is a remodeled and expanded
family farm home, with three bedrooms and a large common living
room. It has satellite television, but it also has card games
and marks on the wall to mark the kids height on their birthdays
through the years. The front porch is native stone and the
house is nestled into our corner of the river valley, surrounded by
the Flint Hills.
Ron & Chris: We offer lunch and supper but supper is our
most common offering: beef barbecue with all the trimmings.
Ron & Chris: A
friend of ours has a saying: Horses are magic. We have
had visitors who apparently have never seen a horse up close and
personal, and they seem to find them fascinating. People love
to pet and feed them. The goats will eat feed right out of
kids' hands, which tickles their palms and causes them to have a
blast. Kids have described their birthday parties here as
their best ever.
For more information on Lazy T Ranch, visit their Farm Stay U.S. listing or
their website: http://www.lazytranchadventures.com/
Wilson Ranches Retreat is our
featured ranch stay of the month! The ranch is a 9,000 acre cattle
ranch in Fossil, Oregon, with plenty of opportunity for scenic
horseback rides and cattle roundups, hiking, and scouring for
prehistoric fossils. The Wilson Family has deep roots in the area
and a fascinating story. Here's our interview with Nancy
Phil and Nancy's families homesteaded in Wheeler and Gilliam
Counties in the 1870's. They travelled on the Oregon Trail in
the early 1850's to the Willamette Valley before coming to North
Love of the land and Phil didn't have enough sense to
leave. Phil came home to the ranch
after graduation from college. This is a great life and the
Blessings are many!
Wilson Ranches has gone from the horse-drawn age to the
combustion mechanical age to the computer age. The only
aspect of ranching that has been little affected is the cattle
operation. The LE brand has been in the family for four
Wilson Ranches follows a "green-friendly, twice over" grazing
program to increase grass production. Each pasture is grazed,
rested, and grazed again in a rotational system with multiple
pastures. Wilson Ranches is managing the resources of the
ranch for future generations.
The deck at Wilson Ranches Retreat is a great place to watch the
cattle or deer grazing. The Retreat is shaded by trees, which
are often alive with a variety of birds as this is a songbird
migratory route. This incredible secluded scenic area with
spectacular sunsets and brilliant star-studded nights will
Our guests enjoy horseback riding in a geologically
and historically rich area of Wheeler County, or a quiet hike to
view the wildlife and diverse plant life on Wilson Ranches.
Guests are welcome to help move cattle from mid-spring to late
fall. A 4-Wheel Drive Sunset Tour is also available.
This tour is approximately five hours and will give you a
magnificent view of the Cascade Mountain Range (Three Sisters to
Wilson Ranches Retreat is a great place to headquarter your
exploration of the Clarno, Sheep Rock and Painted Hills Units of
the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. It has the
richest find of prehistoric fossils in the world. Public
fossil digging is available behind Wheeler High School in the town
of Fossil. The John Day River offers world-class small mouth
bass fishing and river rafting trips.
Wilson Ranches is a diverse area with an extreme mixture of
geologies with formations from 50 million years ago to the present
time. Rolling hills to deep basalt canyons, high lava ridges
and buttes with amazing views of the Cascade and Blue Mountain
Ranges. The landscape is covered with wild flowers in the
spring and early summer.
The climate is semi-arid with an annual average rainfall from 12
to 16 inches per year. Temperatures in the winter are usually
mild but can go as low as 15 degrees below zero for short
periods of time. Summer temperatures vary from 70 to 100
Breakfast is served family style each morning at 8:00 am with
the Wilson Family sharing their experience of life on the ranch and
interesting and entertaining stories by Phil. The breakfast
menu includes bacon (sausage, ham or beef little smokies), farm
fresh eggs, biscuits (blueberry muffins, coffee cake or German
pancakes), fruit, and Bob's Red Mill oatmeal with all the fixin's
(pecans, brown sugar, raisins and craisins).
Karen Searle, Owner/Manager of Montana
Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations, has the impressive
distinction of creating one of the first agritourism cooperatives
in the United States. Today Montana Bunkhouses includes 20
authentic ranch vacations spread across Montana's remarkable
landscape. Karen plays matchmaker between ranches and guests, and
aims to give great personal thought and attention to pointing
guests to their ideal ranch vacation.
Farm Stay U.S. recently had the pleasure of asking Karen about
her organization, ranching in Montana, all of the great press
Montana Bunkhouses has received, and more. We're excited to share
her answers here. Photo credits for all the photos in this blog go
Families who want to pass their ranches down to the next
generation are under increasing economic pressure to sell out. To
give ranchers another option, I formed an agritourism cooperative,
modeled after the European Farm Holiday program. The supplementary
income each host ranch receives will hopefully help future
generations to sustain their ranching way of life. We are able to
offer a variety of authentic cowboy experiences, because that is
exactly what we are, authentic. Ranching is a labor of love; we do
not ranch because it is easy, we ranch because it is who we are.
Montana Bunkhouses provides a gateway for others to share and
understand our disappearing way of life.
I am a native Montanan with ranching roots and I guess you
could say I'm a travel coordinator and matchmaker. I know these
ranchers personally, they are my friends and neighbors, and I
understand what makes each of them unique. I devote myself to
getting to know guests as well, not just as potential customers,
but also as friends. Developing personal connections with our
guests means I am able to match them to a ranch not just based on
their interests, but also based on their personalities. My goal is
to match guests with a ranch that will give them the authentic
ranching experience, with emphasis on the areas they find most
interesting, and introduce them to people who will become "family"
during their visit.
The idea for Montana Bunkhouse Working Ranch Vacations
started where I live in southwestern Montana, and the participating
ranches now stretch border to border -- each in dramatic landscapes
-- across the entire state. It is a great benefit for our guests
that the area with the highest concentration of ranches is within
the distance of a day's excursion to Yellowstone National
"Saddle Up" and experience a part of the Old West that
still exists. We love sharing the ranching way of life and
what comes with it. With over twenty Montana
Cattle Ranches hosting guests, we offer a wide range of
choices. Working ranch vacations offer more than just head to tail
horseback riding. Guests participate in seasonal ranch activities
while learning about conservation practices and sustainable
ranching in the Rocky Mountains. It is traditional for ranch
families to get together during brandings or roundups or cattle
drives and they welcome guests to join them. Guests enjoy the
camaraderie and appreciate the skill involved in the roping and
wrangling. Springtime in the Rockies brings the perfect combination
of nature and nurture. During calving and lambing guests can make a
difference -- watching expecting mothers, reading the weather, and
lending a hand in preserving new life. Something vital fills each
and every day.
Ranching is in my blood. I grew up on a cattle and sheep ranch
in southwestern Montana, and am sympathetic to the challenges of
the family farm. I am the galvanizing force behind the agritourism
cooperative. I was credited by a former director of Cooperation
Works, a national center for cooperative business development, for
having put together the first agritourism cooperative of cattle
ranches in the United States. The co-op was formed after I was
selected as a representative to the 2002 World Congress on Rural
Women and Rural Issues in Spain. I see agritourism as a way to help
preserve family ranches and to narrow the divide between ranch and
city dwellers on land use and wildlife issues. Those objectives
have put Montana Bunkhouses on the forefront of a trend in the
travel industry labeled "geotourism," travel that sustains or
enhances the character of a place, helping to preserve its
heritage, habitats and scenic beauty.
Why do guests come? Montana is a place where myth has long
been in partnership with reality. The kinds of folks who find me on
the internet are searching for "working ranch vacations." They are
not interested in simply traveling to another destination, they are
seeking a life changing experience. Whether they are looking to
connect with their roots, or reconnect with their family members,
or establish a connection with our ranching way of life, it is all
here. We offer the opportunity for them to share the ranching way
of life with people who are tied by birth or choice to a part of
America that to some feels like the country's soul!
With our working ranch vacations, everything on-ranch is
included: comfortable lodging, hearty family style meals and
seasonal ranch activities. Rates vary from $1500 to $1900 per week
depending on the ranch and the hands-on experience they offer.
Yes, we have gotten a lot of good press as you can see if
you go to our Montana
Bunkhouses News Page. The USDA/Rural Developments folks told
our story in their national Rural Cooperatives
magazine. We've been featured in newspapers in places a far-flung
as New York, Chicago, and Sidney, Australia. Respected travel
magazines including Condé Nast Traveler and
Sunset Magazine have celebrated our unique vacations,
as well as journalists in China, Taiwan, Japan, Italy and the
United Kingdom. But the one that I'm the most proud of - my
favorite, hands down - is being selected for the National
Geographic Geotourism MapGuide of the Greater Yellowstone area.
Anyone who visits Montana will want to have this map in their back
pocket. You can order a free copy of the map from our website, www.montanaworkingranches.com.
We are the only Montana ranch vacations to have met National
Geographic's criteria for authenticity of experience, culture and
heritage. We're proud of that.
Change is measured in generations in Montana. Our agritourism
cooperative is just starting its second decade, so we can only
speculate what the longer term impact will be for the ranchers down
the line. Already, the diversified income from agritourism
has provided everything from money to remodel a kitchen right on
down to the money necessary to make the next ranch loan payment. In
some cases it means the difference on whether the ranch family's
son or daughter can return home so they can carry the ranching
traditions on to the next generation. But the benefit is not just
measured in dollars and cents. We enjoy sharing our way of life. It
jogs us off-center so we don't simply take for granted what we've
been born to do because we see our ranching world through our
guest's eyes and it brings us joy.
To contact Karen, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org,
call 406-223-6101, or visit Montana
Bunkhouses Farm Stay U.S. page. Karen likes to warn potential
guests with a wink: "Caution! Working Ranch Vacations may be
Thanks to Montana
Bunkhouse Ranches for the use of the photos in this
"This place is like an undiscovered gem," says
Bridget McNees, who along with her husband Mac owns Whit's End Ranch
outside of Clifton, Tennessee. Many of Bridget's "camping cabin" guests
agree, and once they arrive they can't help but call on their
friends to come join them, saying, "You're not gonna believe this
place. You have to come out here." As Bridget tells me, one cabin rental often
The Ranch is a 307-acre parcel of land. At Whit's End, there is
plenty to explore: forest, trails, hayfields where a neighboring
farmer cuts hay, 27 acres of pasture, creeks and rivers, and a
beach perfect for swimming for kids and adults both. Guests choose
from seven secluded
cedar cabins made of wood harvested and hand-milled on the
property by Bridget and Mac. The seven cabins combined can sleep up
to 25. Bridget calls them "camping cabins," but these are far from
roughing it in a tent.
The cabins are private, set back in the woods, and come complete
with fridges, microwaves, linens, heat, air conditioning, and
covered porches. There's also a communal outdoor kitchen and grill.
Guests get the perks of a hotel room and of camping, both in one
place, and they don't have to pack anything but food. Bridget, who
has camped all over the U.S. and Canada, is a warm and amiable
host. Guests seem to become quick friends with her (and with each
Bridget is more than willing to show guests her various building
projects around the property, and to teach them what she knows
about construction if they're interested. Guests can also learn to mill lumber
and drive the tractor to help with forestry work and maintenance.
But most of
them focus on "kicking back and relaxing" on the creek side
beach, Bridget says. She tells me she's not planning to build any
more cabins, so that the kind of vacation Whit's End offers is
always going to be an idyllic, "Pollyanna-type" experience.
The area around the ranch is full of activities: horseback riding at
Green River Stables, where Whit's End guests get a special deal,
canoeing on the Buffalo River, or golfing at a Jack Nicklaus
signature golf course. Despite all the attractions, says Bridget,
the area is very quiet for all it has to offer.
The town of Clifton is an historic riverboat port with
well-preserved old-time lanterns and cobblestone pathways. The
small town has everything you need -- restaurants, a dock, a
pharmacy, and Bridget's favorite, a "beautiful little café" that
she likes to recommend to guests for breakfast and lunch, and for
the "eye candy" antiques that the café owner sells onsite.
Whit's End Ranch
offers 7 cabins that rent for $75 (no kitchenette) to $100 (with
kitchenette) a night. Cabins sleep up to four guests, and all are
welcome to use the outdoor barbeque and common area kitchen.
For more information,including Bridget McNees' contact information,
check out the Whit's End
Ranch Farm Stay U.S. listing.
Imagine 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.
With 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.
Depending 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
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.
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