Deep in the heart and soul of America lies a love for the old West and its much-admired and widely imitated denizen, the cowboy.

For decades, Hollywood romanticized the cowboy’s life on the ranch, riding horses, roping cattle, chasing bad guys, and galloping off into the sunset. Western heroes and heroines dominated American movies and television, inspiring generations of kids with a yearning to saddle up and hit the trail.

Today, the old westerns are movie and TV history, but in Nevada, cowboys still hold a place in modern culture, working on ranches, herding cattle and riding the trails as they’ve always done. They even sing the same old cowboy songs.

True, cowboys now mosey into town behind the wheel of a pickup or SUV, but horses and cattle haven’t changed since the 19th century, a plate of beef, beans and biscuits is still served for dinner, and Nevada’s sagebrush still smells as sweet.

Best of all, Nevada has plenty of western towns with Old West atmosphere, real working cowboys, rip-roarin’ rodeos, and guest ranches where a visitor can experience the life. It’s easy to book a vacation at one of these dude ranches, or plan a trip to enjoy a spectacular rodeo or the famed annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, 289 miles east of Reno and 428 miles north of Las Vegas.

Cowboy wannabees are welcome in Nevada, so pack your boots – or buy a pair at one of Nevada’s many western wear stores – and come to the Silver State. Guest ranches provide horses, saddles and lots of fun. Visitors can tailor their experience to suit individual taste, from a rugged five-day trail ride to an easy jaunt in a vintage wagon; sleep under the stars, or in a comfortable bunkhouse.

Nevada has guest ranches in all areas of the state that offer a wide variety of accommodations and amenities, including meals, barbecues, trail rides, western dances, cattle drives, pack trips, historic/scenic tours, and have facilities for parties and meetings. Many allow pets and accommodate tours and motorcoach groups.

 

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  • The Seven Mile Canyon Guest Ranch , a half-mile north of Virginia City, offers trail rides, wild horse watching, barbecues, mountain biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, weddings, bed & breakfast rates, and the largest private herd of Texas longhorns in Nevada. Lodging includes a carriage house with private courtyard and Jacuzzi, a two-bedroom bunkhouse, the Longhorn Lodge with private patio, separate suites and seasonal teepee camping. Pets and children are welcome. Visit www.nevadaduderanch.com for more information.
  • Corley Ranch in Gardnerville, 40 miles south of Reno and 20 miles east of Lake Tahoe, is a historic working ranch still raising cattle, horses and hay. The ranch offers carriage and wagon rides, barbecues, western music, authentically costumed historic characters, Native American dancing, cowboy poetry, barn dances, indoor and outdoor facilities for parties, special events, weddings, conferences, family reunions, rodeo demonstrations, and more. In the fall, it boasts one of the largest and most popular pumpkin patches and corn mazes in the area. Lodging is available nearby. Visit www.corleyranch.com for more information.
  • Cottonwood Ranch is a working horse and cattle ranch in the remote northeastern corner of Nevada, 30 miles from the nearest paved road, 70 miles from the nearest town and as close to authentic cowboy as you can get. The ranch offers exciting horse and cattle drives, ranch vacations, pack trips, birding and wildlife viewing and corporate retreats. Each of the lodge’s seven rooms has its own bath. For more information, visit www.cottonwoodguestranch.com.
  • Hidden Canyon Ranch is 20 miles south of Baker on the Nevada-Utah border and near Great Basin National Park. The area is flush with elk, deer, antelope and eagles. There is abundant fishing and hunting, and the ranch offers hunting packages complete with a guide and dog. Visitors can stay in the luxury lodge or rent a cabin or teepee. There is also RV parking and camping available. Visit www.hcr-nv.com for more information.

The 71 Ranch just outside Elko at the base of the rugged Ruby Mountains offers about as close to authentic cowboy living as one can get on vacation. It prides itself on immersing visitors in the rugged life of ranching, and guests experience the intimate workings of a real, working cattle ranch. But it’s not all work – guests can find time to play too. Explore the 38,000-acre ranch and see the elk, mule deer, antelope, cranes, sage grouse and eagles that roam free on the wide-open land. After a long day in the saddle, there’s nothing like relaxing in the hot tub under the clear night sky. For more information, visit www.71-ranch.com.