The 3,000 acre 4UR Ranch is surrounded by national forests (one with 1,000,000 acres.) The La Garita range is to the north, and to the south and west sit the massive peaks of the Weminuche Wilderness and Wolf Creek Pass. Nearby is Wheeler National Monument, with its striking rock formation “hoodoos.” Also nearby are the headwaters of the Rio Grande River, which starts its long journey as a trickle in the mountains to the west of the ranch. Here are the Palisades, with their pinkish-gray high cliffs looming in the bright sunshine over Goose Creek.
The Main Lodge is a gorgeous and oh-so-comfy log house, with Adirondack chairs on the porch and flower baskets brimming over with beauty. Indoors, the Lodge has many sitting areas with overstuffed leather sofas, Southwest and cowboy artwork and rugs, a well-stocked bar, and two spacious dining rooms with panoramic windows from which to view hummingbirds, rainbows and lush meadows while dining. This ranch takes pride in providing every luxury to its guests, from its beautifully appointed lodging to its world-class acclaimed dining, headed by Cordon Bleu-trained executive chef Wray Warner.
What could be sweeter than awakening to a charming coffee service at your doorstep? This is what we enjoyed each morning during our stay – piping hot, strong coffee served up in enamelware. Some days, I even grabbed one of the homemade cookies from the always full cookie jar in the lodge and saved it for a “pre-breakfast” with the coffee!
Fly fishing is a BIG deal at 4UR, in fact some opt to only fish and don’t engage in horseback riding, but we did the opposite. The horseback riding program is outstanding, focusing on Natural Horsemanship. Whether one fly fishes or just wants to observe is up to the guest. Here, an avid fisherman who has visited the ranch since he was a lad, casts out on Goose Creek. The ranch has 7 miles of private tailwater stream with rainbow, brown and cutbow trout – 20 inches in length is not so rare! There are also trophy ponds, wilderness lakes and both sides of the Rio Grande River itself. The 4UR boasts meticulous stream management and rigorous catch and release practices.
The ranch is just seven miles from Creede, one of Colorado’s most iconic and delightful historic mining towns, designated as one of the “100 Best Small Art Towns in America.” With just 400 residents in the wintertime, the town booms during the summer due to healthy tourism but mostly thanks to its internationally acclaimed Creede Repertory Theatre, celebrating its 50th season this summer. Here, the actors from the play “Guys and Dolls” enthusiastically greet the audience post-performance outside the theatre, with the town’s historic buildings and dramatic mountains as a backdrop. What a wonderful option to have a playhouse of this caliber just ten minutes from the ranch – along with high-quality shops and art galleries, many dining options and exploring on the old mine roads with their spectacular views.
Head wrangler Damon Gibbons has been with the 4UR for 16 years, finely tuning the exceptional horseback riding program, based on Natural Horsemanship (a program that builds a relationship of trust between the rider and the horse.) The ranch specializes in small group rides, typically just 2-6 riders with one wrangler. “We’ll challenge you to ride right and ride well,” Gibbons says with a smile. The ranch has a small arena for youngsters and a larger one for adults, and offers a wide range of rides.
Food is a big deal at the 4UR and the ranch’s chef has been trained in Paris and several culinary programs here in the States. The Monday night dessert array was particularly tempting – with such treats as fresh berry Crème Brulee, Key Lime tarts, and chocolate panna cotta. I tried almost all of them – but after all that horseback riding, why not? Dinners included such choices as Linguini with Lump Crab and asparagus topped with cilantro tomato-ginger sauce, and Chile Rubbed Tenderloin of Beef with smoked buttermilk potato puree. No one goes hungry here, but for those picky youngsters, there is also a Kid’s Menu.
The Tuesday morning breakfast ride is a favorite feature on this horseback riding vacation. If one doesn’t choose to hop on their horse, they can drive or hike up. But for us, the horseback ride at 7 am was glorious – through wildflower meadows, morning dew glistening and well-rested horses in the cool mountain air. The breakfast itself was an enormous buffet – with eggs, homefries, ham and bacon, oatmeal, muffins, fruit, yogurt, and more. It always tastes better outdoors. Afterwards, a delightful ride through the aspen groves took us back to the ranch.
Mark Rush, the photographer, takes in a private session of Natural Horsemanship. At first, not much happened. Ranger was duly unimpressed with Mark’s skills. But in less than an hour, Ranger was following Mark, even walking backwards (difficult task for a horse) with just verbal and body language being used. On the next ride, Mark affirmed that Ranger was more attuned to him than before the session.
The wildflowers are particularly beautiful in years of lots of rain, such as this 2015 season, which saw a particularly wet spring. Purple and pink locoweed, columbines, wild roses, daisies and fluorescent orange Indian Paintbrush made for never-to-be-forgotten views.
If You Go: 4UR Ranch
PO Box 340
Creede, Colorado 81130
719-589-2402 (winter phone)
NOTE: Three-day stays are sometimes allowed, but typically the ranch mandates one-week stays.
This is a guest post written by horse lover and Colorado resident Irene Middleman Thomas. Irene was a guest of 4UR Ranch. Photos courtesy of Mark Rush.