Colorado Dude Ranch Rides
Enjoy your horseback riding vacation with our experienced ranch wranglers winding through the mountain valleys surrounding North Fork. A fine string of horses ensures that there will be a horse suitable to your riding skills. We begin with orientation and instruction at our guest ranch to accommodate those who have done very little riding. Rides will take you into the breathtaking mountain scenery of our own 520 acres and the adjoining Pike National Forest and wilderness areas. Ranch wranglers will tend to your every need and provide instruction all week long.
Our experience is our guarantee that whether you are a first time rider or a seasoned horseman, we can offer you the right horse for your level. Ride for a day or just a few hours, at a walk, trot or lope, our flexible program insures you’ll enjoy a one-of-a-kind opportunity to reconnect with your western spirit.”
Experience the serene Colorado backcountry up close and personal! Rising up to 13,000′ and 14,000′, the peaks are truly awe inspiring. Our guided hikes into this amazing country are intended for all levels of hikers. You’ll hike Square Top Mountain at 13,800′. At the midway point, the perfect spot to pull out your book or fishing rod and enjoy the pristine mountain lakes. This moderately easy two mile hike through the open tundra brings you to it’s base.
For the more adventurous hiker, the peak of Square Top Mountain is achievable with a little extra huffing and puffing. To step foot on top of a mountain is an emotion that is indescribable. To understand the Colorado phrase “This is Gods country,” all you have to do is take our guided hikes into the Colorado backcountry.
World Class Fly Fishing
North Fork Ranch became the newest Orvis Endorsed Colorado Fishing Lodge in 2009.
After your first cast you have left ordinary time behind! Welcome to life at North Fork Ranch and the rush of the North Fork of the South Platte River. If fly fishing is your passion, you’ve found the perfect spot! Our pristine stretch of water, over two miles, is conveniently located within one hour southwest of Denver. Only fifty yards off the back porch of our Colorado fishing lodge you’ll find the tranquil North Fork of the South Platte River teeming with Rainbow, Brown, Cutthroat and Steelhead Trout. Fish you will remember for a lifetime. Whether you are here for the day, multiple days, or the entire week, you will always want “one more day”.
A day at the ranch just isn’t complete without one of Karen’s hearty, scrumptious lunches . . . including warm home-baked cookies! Check out our fly fishing vacation packages that include meals and lodging along with your spectacular Colorado fly fishing experience. Every day, any season, is a great day for fishing at North Fork Ranch!
Your day is not complete when the sun goes down, enjoy evening activities such as: Hay Ride & Campfire complete with marshmallows and Western Ballads by Will Dudley Square Dancing Family Game Night Mountain Man story telling North Fork Ranch, Then and Now How the “Colorado Guest Ranch” Got its Start Dude ranches got their start in the west in the 1880’s. Wealthy foreigners took site-seeing and hunting trips to the American west to enjoy the magnificent scenery and hunt wild game. One of the more famous of these was Theodore Roosevelt, who enjoyed riding horses, hunting and exploring the frontier.
Following WWI, these Colorado guest ranches and others throughout the west became wildly popular, especially in the 20’s and 30’s as people began exploring the country and painters captured the romance of cowboy life on canvas. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was a huge success in the east and in Europe. At the same time, with the increase of factories and industry, there were less wild places found in highly populated areas. The open spaces and freedom of the Wild West drove many to travel to dude ranches to experience the excitement of wild horses, cattle drives and the cowboy way of life. The coming of the railroad to the northern plains provided a way for folks from the east to travel more easily to the west. In order to experience the lifestyle first-hand, they often stayed with ranchers in their bunkhouses and guest rooms, helping out with ranch chores in exchange for meals. The easterners were easily identified by their “duds.” Westerners eventually referred to their new found friends as “dudes” and the “Dude Ranch” was born.
North Fork Ranch Today
Established in 1985, North Fork Ranch rests quietly along one-half mile of the tranquil North Fork of the South Platte River. Our 520 acre ranch sits at an elevation of 8100 ft. and adjoins the Pike National Forest, Lost Creek Wilderness and Mt. Evans Wilderness. The Continental Divide with its 14,000 foot snow-capped peaks is always visible to our west. The North Fork valley is oriented east and west, boasting amazing sunsets and long relaxing days of sunshine. The fresh evening air will sway your curtains and the quiet of the mountains will give you a magical night of sleep. Dean and Karen (Kaiser) May met in the summer of 1984 while working at a Colorado guest ranch. Little did they know that their summer jobs would turn into a life-long journey of sharing their ranch and family while taking in friends. They married in 1986 and made their home at North Fork Ranch in Shawnee, Colorado.
The history of this ranch property goes back to the early 1900’s and was named for the section of river that runs through it, the North Fork of the South Platte River. At one time, it was the home of the National Organization of Wild American Horses, preventing the destruction of wild horses and burros on open lands that were about to be developed. The animals were brought in for care and then put up for adoption. Many of these horses and burros are still in the area today.
The Staff and Your Hosts
One of the unexpected joys of a vacation at North Fork Ranch is getting to know our exceptional staff. They truly make you feel at home. You can count on them, whether it’s helping you map your trip, cleaning your fish or handing you a glass of cold, refreshing lemonade. Each and every one of us is committed to making your stay at the ranch the adventure of your life. As your hosts, Dean and Karen May, along with our daughter Hayley and son Tyler, we welcome you to our home. We are a small family-owned and operated ranch. You’ll find us each day involved with all of the daily activities. We take great pride in getting to know each one of our guests and sharing our special kind of western hospitality. We look forward to meeting you soon!
Gourmet Meals and Family Dining
The ranch takes great pride in feeding you well! Exceptional family dining with gourmet flair is sure to satisfy every appetite. Full, hearty breakfasts, unique lunches, and dinners that are anything but typical! Champagne Brunch Steak Cook-out Barbeque Candlelight Farewell Dinner Afternoon Appetizers Special Diets Accommodated