By Laurette M. Veres
Trust and respect are time-honored traditions at Vista Verde Ranch. Purchases at the boutique are on the honor system, there are no keys or codes to guest rooms and the dedicated staff knows everyone by name. Add the spectacular views of Colorado’s Routt National Forest and you create a once in a lifetime honeymoon.
This magical place is in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The all-inclusive, family-owned, luxury dude ranch caters to the adventurous with mountain activities winter and summer. Adventures at Vista Verde Ranch start with luxury lodging. Think high-end cowboy-chic: rooms and cabins have vintage western chairs and tables, beds constructed of rustic pine logs, topped with cozy mattresses and comfy linens. But you will want to get out of bed at some point; all honeymooners have private Jacuzzis with stunning mountain views.
Internet is intermittent at best and there are no TVs, so plan on honeymooning unplugged. Unplugged does not mean unconnected. Socialize with fellow travelers during Happy Half Hour with appetizers, wine and beer. Meals are served in a common area where you’ll meet more guests, with whom you’ll share adventures throughout your stay.
Meals are superb; some are casual (buffet) while others are seated and menu driven (formal). Neither option means you’ll dress up. On a ranch, steaks and barbeque are expected; king crab legs and Italian cuisine are nice surprises. Breakfasts are big and returning guests can’t wait for the pastry chef ’s famous sticky bread.
The ranch is open seasonally, June through October, and Christmas through Spring break. Trail rides, culinary classes, photography experiences and yoga can be part of every visit. Summers call for paddle boarding, hiking, rafting, biking and fly-fishing. Winter activities include Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, tubing, sleigh rides and more. Remember, it’s all-inclusive, so there is no need to buy or rent equipment; and the gear provided is top notch.
Guests select their own activities, one morning and one afternoon, from a pre-planned list. Each evening at dinner, a friendly staffer asks, “What would you like to do tomorrow?” When you wake up, your excursions are set up and ready. It’s that easy!
Our visit was in winter. We started with a trail ride around the 587-acre ranch. Astride a trusty steed, we plod through a blanket of snow as we take in the mountain views and learn the history of the ranch. Every now and then a few new fresh flakes fall and enhance the ambiance. Our afternoon activity is on a frozen lake inside a heated tent. Using an auger, we bore holes through the ice in and around our tent and have fishing lines baited with worms and lures dropped through the holes. The fishing rods are designed to set the hooks automatically when a fish nibbles, so we concentrate on warm beverages and socializing until a rod springs up; then reel in our catch, which includes rainbow and lake trout. Every excursion comes to an end, as we pack up our fishing camp a bald eagle flies down lands on the ice. God Bless America.
Snowshoeing is like hiking in the snow. Wide attachments hook right on to your boots and keep your feet from sinking in the fluffy white stuff. This morning we set out into nature for spectacular views of Mount Zirkel and the Elk River Valley. We track a moose who came down from the mountains to nibble on willows. As we duck walk through the snow (proper snowshoe technique) we learn about the Utes. Historians widely agree they are the longest continuous residents of Colorado. Steamboat Springs is near the northern edge of the Ute territory, which stretched from what is now northern New Mexico up to the Green River area of Wyoming. The Ute believed the Aspen trees have eyes, the eyes of their ancestors. Looking at the black marks as we hike through an Aspen colony, we see eyes too. We spend the afternoon snow tubing. The hill is on property and reserved for Vista Verde Ranch guests- no crowds, no lines, no hassles. This experience is pure fun; slide/bounce your way down and ride a snowmobile back to the top of the hill. Repeat.
The ranch is known for programs and clinics on horse training and care. The horse barn is state of the art. Classes include working ranch horse clinic, intro to horsemanship, and balanced riding clinic. Guests can also learn to lead and guide these fine animals. The ranch hands leading the clinics are beautiful inside and out, their love for horses shines through.
A stay at Vista Verde Ranch is a luxurious step back in time. Make your honeymoon what you want it to be. Go crazy with active adventures, relax in the luxurious rooms or Jacuzzis, experience the educational programs or work with the livestock; or do all of the above. Either way, you’ll meet new friends and have an unforgettable honeymoon experience.