A Visit to Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado
I had never stayed at a dude ranch, so when Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch invited Ryan and I to stay at the ranch last March, we jumped at the opportunity. After all, despite the ranch being 20 minutes from our home, we’d only been there once, for a wedding.
The property was just beginning to turn a minty spring green when we arrived on a sunny, Friday afternoon. Our cabin was surprisingly modern, and while there was no television, there was a contemporary bathroom with a beautiful clawfoot tub. And take it from me, a nice long bath is preferable to watching tv after a long day on horseback
The best part of a visit to Sylvan Dale is that we felt a million miles from anywhere, but in reality, the ranch is just over an hour from Denver and 15 minutes outside of Loveland.
The feeling of remoteness only grew as we explored the property on foot, picking our way along a low creek bed and then huffing and puffing to the top of Green Ridge. You’ll feel the burn on this hike, but the views from the top are well worth it.
When we returned from our hike we plunged our feet into the frigid waters of the Big Thompson River that flows through the ranch. Three years ago, this river overran its banks and wreaked havoc on the historic ranch. They’d been through it before, and the family pulled up their bootstraps and got to work. Today, a newcomer to the ranch will be unable identify the flood’s damage although longtime guests will notice some changes.
Dinner was alfresco and juicy, grass finished beef hamburgers were on the menu. The beef was provided by Sylvan Dale’s very own herd of cattle. The family has run cattle on the ranch since the mid-sixties.
That evening we joined ranch owners, Susan Jessup and her husband Dr. David Armstrong, as well as the ranch’s other guests for a campfire singalong next to the river. Susan played guitar and we sang old songs that I hadn’t heard since I was in summer camp as a kid.
The next morning we fueled up in the dining room on eggs and cinnamon French toast. After breakfast, Dr. Armstrong led us on a Nature Walk around the ranch. Dr. Armstrong (everyone just calls him Dave or David) is a retired University of Colorado biology professor and his love of the ranch and all its critters, domestic and wild, is palpable.
Sylvan Dale is alive with creatures of every shape and size, in fact, mountain lions are routinely spotted on remote cameras that have been strategically placed around the 3200 acre property.
A Nature Walk is just one of several activities guest of the ranch can do during their stay. There are also wagon rides, trap shooting, fishing and more.
Our last activity was a trail ride with longtime Sylvan Dale wrangler, Lonnie. The trails around Sylvan Dale are picturesque; we wound through trees, crossed gurgling brooks and listened to Lonnie’s entertaining stories about the ranch.
We left Sylvan Dale feeling as though we’d experienced a small slice of the American West in just 24 hours. I can only imagine how folks feel after a week-long stay at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch; the reality of traffic, telephones and television must be rather jolting.
Thank you to Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch for hosting us on this stay.