If you spend some time at The Ranch at UCross, you can feel like a Wyoming rancher riding the hills on horseback, then come back to a fine dinner and comfy bed at night.
UCross is not a dude ranch in the real sense of that term: you won’t be getting up before dawn to milk cows and you won’t be herding cattle across the range. Instead you take in the mountain scenery, hike the hills, and go horseback riding in the beautiful countryside about a half hour east of Sheridan. It’s set up more like a resort than a guest ranch, with an attractive swimming pool, a TV room with books and games, and a full bar with a good selection of spirits, beer, and wine.
There’s a nice lake on site with a walk around it. We ended up seeing a fox and a deer. We also borrowed two of the many fishing rods and tried our luck, to no avail. There’s also a creek where you can try fly fishing, though you need a state license for that waterway. When we went hiking past the creek, we got mountain views that went on for 100 miles.
Many guests use UCross as a stopover between Yellowstone National Park and the Devil’s Monument or even South Dakota. This means how many people you’re sharing the place with can vary drastically from night to night. One night of three we had the place to ourselves, one night there were two other couples, then another night there was a tour bus of 40.
The resort can take on a big crowd if needed: there are 31 rooms in all and some of them sleep four people. There’s a wide variety of choices for lodging, so poke around the site to see what looks interesting. There’s the original stone ranch house from the 1800s, the much larger house that came later (in 1902) when the ranching family needed more room for kids, then some more buildings, including some that were built in the 1990s as guest lodging rooms.
We stayed in the Ranch House, made from stone quarried from nearby hills. It ended up being quite convenient since it was upstairs from the dining room, lounge, and bar. Our room was decorated like a B&B room and had a separate sunroom sitting area that was very cozy and comfortable. The other rooms have different layouts and one has two queen beds.
The ones that are in the newer buildings are either typical studio rooms with a day bed and balcony in The Pineys or larger suites with two queen beds and a separate living room in The Cottonwoods. These also have a furnished terrace area outside. There’s also a Hunting Lodge with six rooms, so that’s a good choice for an extended family or small group traveling together.
All rooms have amenities like coffee makers, hair dryers, and bath amenities, though there are (fittingly) no TVs and WiFi is dicey at best outside of the main ranch house. Hey, this valley didn’t even have electricity until the 1940s. Grab a book to read or take a hike instead, or gather around the fire pit at night.
The dining options tend to vary with occupancy, with a big hearty breakfast buffet when there are a lot of guests around, or “What can we cook for you?” when there are just a few guests, accompanied by fresh fruit and using eggs from the ranch’s chickens. Dinner is more elegant and often focuses on what’s plentiful locally, like beef and fresh water fish. The kitchen is often closed for lunch, but they’ll make a boxed lunch for you or you can head into Sheridan where there are several places to choose from.
The horseback rides are a real highlight at UCross, with docile horses that are used to inexperienced riders, or ones that are ready for more experienced riders that are up for more of a challenge. The ranch itself has 70 acres, but it backs up against public land that extends as far as the eye can see.
The ranch is a staple of the local community and has a foundation that provides a summer residency program for creatives. The staffers during our stay were friendly and professional and always made sure we were comfortable the whole time.
Rates start at $449 double with meals and horseback riding included from May through September. In winter the rates drop below $100 without meals or riding. The best bet is to book direct with the ranch so you can talk with the manager about the room options and activities, but the Ranch at UCross is also listed on Expedia.