If you’re looking for something from the more rugged end of the vacation scale, consider moseying along to one of the growing number of gay-welcoming ranches that have cantered onto the horizon in the wake of Brokeback Mountain and other such country classics. More and more dude ranches are gay-welcoming and can often be booked in their entirety by a group in order to offer an all-gay or all-lesbian stay; others are happy for LGBT folks to join them and their other guests. If you’re going solo or as a pair, there are a couple of very popular, annual LGBT weeks at one of the best ranches in the Rockies, and, for gay men, there’s an always-all-gay option awaiting out there on the range.
1. The Lazy E-L Ranch, Montana
Flower-decked alpine meadows, rushing rivers and severe, soaring peaks provide the backdrop to gay weeks in the saddle (and raft and hot tub) at the 12,000-acre Lazy E-L Ranch, a working cattle ranch with 2,000 head of cattle just 48 kilometres from Yellowstone National Park. Long-established tour operator OutQuest Global Adventures (formerly OutWest Global Adventures) offers two stints of hiking, biking, white-water rafting, fishing and horseback riding, from July 12 to 18 and July 19 to 25, 2015. After days of exploring picturesque peaks and pastures, evenings find guests perched on the porch, taking in views of the 3,800-metre Beartooth Mountains. OutQuest’s gay (but straight-friendly) tours are suitable for everyone from those who’ve never clambered into a saddle before to those well acquainted with equines.
2. Poller View, New Zealand
A working sheep and cattle station on New Zealand’s rugged South Island, Poller View gay-owned ranch is exclusively for gay men. The owners offer breakfast, dinner (by reservation), working-dog and shearing demos, and a chance to see a busy Charolais cattle station in action. It’s a good option if you fancy combining a few days here in the elevated flats country with other South Island sights, such as Queenstown (home to August’s DNA Gay Ski Week), the old gold-rush town of Wanaka, the dramatic fjords of Milford and Doubtful sounds, and Te Anau, where the stunning coastline and mountains are home to yellow crowned parakeets, fur seals, crested penguins and the world’s largest population of black coral forest. The towns of Balclutha and Milton are 20 minutes away by car, and there’s a billiards room and spa pool on-site.
If your heading to New Zealand, check out our feature on gay Auckland.
3. Nez Perce Ranch, Montana
For those for whom cows are not an essential component of a country escape, Nez Perce Ranch offers a summer selection of gay-friendly cabins on a 100-acre ranch in the Bitterroot Mountains of Northwestern Montana, on the Nez Perce River and on the historic Nez Perce Indian trail, just west of the town of Darby. Fishing, hiking, canoeing, tubing, biking, bird watching, wildlife watching and swimming are all on the schedule, and the log cabins offer rustic luxury on the riverbanks.
If you’re heading to Montana, discover one of our 10 Great summer cities.
4. Red Rock Ranch, Colorado
Two and a half hours south of Denver — in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, near the old mining towns of Silver Cliff and Westcliffe — Red Rock Ranch is a private ranch estate available for groups of friends. Three separate homes come with this deal — an 1880s homestead cabin, a 1920s prairie Victorian with a wraparound porch and a railroad-baron-style ranch house (complete with a saloon bar, billiards room and parlour) — as do a pool, sauna and Jacuzzi. The gay-friendly property sleeps up to 40 and rates start at $1,700 a night.
5. Spring Creek Ranch, Wyoming
The state of Wyoming was as much a star as Jake Gyllenhaal or Heath Ledger in Ang Lee’s heart-wrenching Brokeback Mountain, and Spring Creek Ranch still offers front-row seats to this spectacle. Situated in Grand Teton National Park, 300 metres above liberal enclave Jackson Hole, this all-welcoming, luxe dude ranch caters to all clientele with upscale accommodations, horseback rides, roaring fireplaces, chuckwagon dinners and easy access to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. An award-winning restaurant and spa are on-site, so guests don’t have to rough it too much. Or, well, at all. Rafting and fishing the Snake River, wildlife safaris and skiing are options for more active guests. The views of the forbidding, 4,200-metre Grand Teton Mountain are without equal from the ranch.
6. Glynn House and Rocky River Ranch, Maine
If you prefer your agrarian adventures to occupy no more than an afternoon, trot to Ashland, New Hampshire’s Glynn House Inn. This White Mountains gem is a pet-friendly, 12-room 1896 Victorian inn with a ranch — the Rocky River Ranch — conveniently situated 10 minutes away. The Lakes Region ranch offers six scenic horseback rides each day, including at sunset, on trails around the ranch and along the Mad River. There are also overnight camping, pony and wilderness adventure rides available. Glynn House actively markets to the LGBT community and offers gluten-free food.
7. Home Valley Station, Western Australia
A working sheep station in the dusty red dirt of the East Kimberleys, in the remote northwestern reaches of Western Australia, far beyond cellphone signal reach, Home Valley Station is a vast 615,000-acre ranch sits below the Cockburn Ranges’ tabletop mesas, looking down on the crocodile-crammed Pentecost River. This is ranching with a uniquely Australian flavour, accessible only by bone-juddering track up the Gibb Valley stock road (120 kilometres from Kununurra Airport or 1,000 kilometres from Darwin Airport) or by small plane to the Station’s private air strip. It’s owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation and offers a range of accommodation, from eco-tents to rustic chic Grass Castle suites complete with cowhide rugs and air-conditioning. Guests get to walk through the bush of Bindoola Gorge, fish the creek, horseback ride, join a cattle muster, watch birds such as purple-crowned fairy wrens and cockatoos go about their days, go on four-by-four tours, or simply sit on the generous veranda with resident barking owls Ollie and Lily and watch the light change the incredible landscape.
Read more about Western Australia.