Happy trails: choosing the right ranch

Working cattle ranches: This is the landscape that shaped America. Rise early. Join the cattle drive. Mend fences. Gather eggs. Western-style relaxation – rodeos, square dancing, hayrides – a timeless way of life.

Dude/guest ranches: A guest when you arrive, a friend when you leave. Often hosted by owners, personalized ranch activities forge lasting friendships.

Many guests return year after year

Resort ranches: Golf, tennis, swimming, spa, mountain biking, hiking, skeet shooting and children’s programs along with traditional ranch activities.

Specialized ranches: Fly fishing, cross-country skiing, star-gazing, whitewater rafting and kayaking, riding, bird watching, ecological appreciation.

Naturally, ranches are located in most Western states and Canadian provinces, but you can jump into the saddle (and lifestyle) in unexpected places like New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Iowa or Arkansas. Do you picture riding Old Paint through sagebrush, cactus or pine forests? Climbing mountain paths or loping through meadows? Location will determine an assortment of other adventures, too, fly-fishing or just exploring – national parks, dinosaur bones, geological formations, Native American ruins, old mines, ghost towns and abandoned forts. The Internet is a great place to compare ranches, their locations and activities.