Get Back in the Saddle at Family-friendly Greenhorn Ranch in California’s Lost Sierra

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Looking for a family-friendly dude ranch vacation in Northern California? Tucked in the Lost Sierra and surrounded by miles of huge conifer trees in the Plumas National Forest sits Greenhorn Ranch. This laid-back guest ranch has been welcoming cowboys and cowgirls to this special place in the Sierra Nevada mountains since 1962. The ranch was recently purchased, and while the thumbprint of the 600+ acre property is the same, there’s a whole lot of leather polish and boot shining going on.

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The 12 room lodge has been renovated with new furniture, comfortable king beds with plush bedding, and little upgrades and enhancements like handmade organic rosemary & lavender soap in the private bathrooms and fresh landscaping throughout the property. The cookhouse has a new chef, bringing his California-inspired mountain cuisine to the dining hall and General Manager Jill Rivoli leads the team in kicking things up a notch with a deeper equestrian program and her ability to create memorable guest experiences.

I was visiting as a solo cowgirl, so I stayed in the lodge, rather than a cabin. There are 16 family-friendly cabins on site, with several perched right next to the creek running through the property. There are also multiple Airstream trailers available for guests.

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I was able to fit right in with the other guests during my holiday, as meals were served family-style. Together with the wranglers, we shared stories of our horseback riding adventures, fishing successes at the pond and who managed to capture a picture of the resident bald eagle in flight. I confess, that my picture was a blur – but we all saw the beautiful eagle.

I met a mother/daughter horse-loving duo from Redwood City, twin adult siblings celebrating Father’s Day with their dad visiting from San Diego, and a family from Texas that was experiencing a California dude ranch for the first time. While we all had different levels of riding experience, the head wrangler was able to match a horse to each guest.

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Guests are paired with the same horse throughout their ranch vacation to create a bond with the animal. One of my favorite parts about Greenhorn Ranch was the ability to go on loping rides. You will need to pass a riding assessment if you want to join the advanced trail rides. However, your ranch holiday includes the option of a horseback riding lesson in the arena. This is a great perk for the new rider and those who would benefit from a refresher course getting back in the saddle.

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Laura Schiller and her husband from Mountain View, California have been coming to the ranch for 5 years. They love the staff and attentive wranglers. Laura mentioned that her father-in-law enjoyed surveying the ranch activities and watching his grandchildren play all from the comfort of the deck off the saloon. After checking out the heated swimming pool, fishing pond and the riding stables below, I had to agree with his assessment that the wooden deck with its lounge chairs offers a great place to observe all the action.

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All inclusive rates are $495.75 per night, per adult, juniors (6-15 years old) are $392.52 per night with a two night minimum stay. Rates include taxes, lodging, meals and activities with special rates in the spring and winter. You can also go to to compare rates.

Ranch review and photography supplied by equestrian travel expert Nancy D. Brown. She received a complimentary stay for review purposes, however all opinions are her own.

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