Visit Loveland

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.

A visit to Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Loveland, Colorado. View from Green Ridge. Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer
The view of Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch from Green Ridge.

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.

A Visit to Sylvan Dale Ranch. Hiking at Sylvan Dale. Photo by Ryan Schlaefer

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.

A Visit to Sylvan Dale Ranch. Playing in the Big Thompson River. photo by Ryan Schlaefer
The water was so cold & my husband was thrilled to capture this action shot.

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.

A Visit to Sylvan Dale Ranch, grass finished beef hamburger. photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer
Yes, it was as good as it looked.

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.

Mallard Ducks on the Big Thompson River at Syvlan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland Colorado. Nature Walk.
We didn’t see any mountain lions, but we saw ducks and rabbits.

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.

A Visit to Sylvan Dale Ranch. A trail ride with Lonnie. Photo by Ryan Schlaefer

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.


  1. Sounds like a blast Heidi! We need to get back there, they used to do a Father’s Day bluegrass jam there that we loved!

  2. I love Sylvandale Guest Ranch. I was an employee there in 2000-2001. I was a nurse working for a traveling agency from Loveland. It was stressful. I took a second part time job at the ranch to not only increase my income but to have a fun job that i had always Dreamed of. I was in rancher heaven! The Jessups soon become like family to me and my family and i rented a house right on the ranch. It was a beautiful old home right on the Big Thompson River at the end of the lane. I do hope it did’t get washed away in the last flood. We could see the Big horn sheep right out our windows. Herds of mule deer visited the fields every day. I swear i once saw a mountain goat standing at the top or the canyoun. Back then bears also wondered though from time to time. These people treated my family like we were part of the ranch. It is an experience that i will carry with me always. So many good memories and real cowboy and cowgirls. I hope to one day come back to visit the ranch. I could tell you so many good things about Sylvandale Guest Ranch.

  3. In regard to my recent comment on Sylvandale Guest Ranch, i just need to add one more thing…The bottom line is: If the people running the ranch treat their employed well then they will certainly treat their Guest so good that you will want to come back again for a real quality adventure…And you probally will feel like a real cowgirl or cowboy when you leave.

  4. Sylvan Dale Ranch understands you may be concerned about your health and safety when traveling to and staying at our facility. We want to assure you that guest concerns are important to us and that we consider it a top priority to protect your health during your visit.

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