Authenticity, Hospitality, and Nature: A New Family Tradition

Growing up in Texas, I’m relatively familiar with the allure of Dude Ranches. I fondly remember riding my first horse as a young girl, experiencing the quintessential Texan atmosphere, and purchasing my only-to-be-worn-once cowboy hat. It was all for the experience, of course, and added a particular flavor of “fitting in” that I coveted as a British-born trying-so-hard-to-be-Texan cowgirl. Put simply, Dude Ranches are vacation destinations that provide guests with an experience of the Western lifestyle; 4UR Ranch added a depth to this seemingly simple portrayal with a dynamic experience we won’t soon forget. 

Cruising through the still snow-capped peaks of the San Juan Mountains in June, we sat admiring the majestic landscape as my partner and I drove his ’99 Toyota Tacoma into the welcoming arms of Wagon Wheel Gap where 4UR Ranch is nestled. Known for their unbelievable fly fishing, inviting community, stunning views, historic hot springs, and beloved horseback riding, 4UR prides itself on its extensive offerings. Whether you’re receiving a horseback riding lesson from one of their knowledgeable wranglers, testing your hand at fly fishing on their highly acclaimed six and a half miles of private tail-waters, or relaxing in the hot springs that originally enticed visitors as far back as the early 1800s, there is no shortage of experience to be had. And the cherry on top, the cuisine is truly spectacular. 

With a background in hospitality and agriculture, my deep appreciation for these industries extended into my interactions with Executive Chef Blake Bond, our bartender, Kylie, and our wonderful waitstaff, Emma, Sam and Blair. Each name became a familiar face I was excited to see, and every meal was a pure delight that nourished my mind, body and soul. We touched on Chef Blake’s inspiration from his recent European travels and the blessings that the Rocky Mountain environment gifts to our seasonal selection. To call me a foodie would be an understatement, my nerdy side was fully seen and celebrated on this trip. My memories as a summer camp counselor resurfaced quite a few times as I happily felt my longing for those cherished days being satisfied. A summer camp for adults and children alike, the child in me giggled in awe while the adult in me felt pleased by the relaxation and adventure available at any given moment. Even the old bell that greeted my ears at the start of every meal touched the memories of camp while sending my mouth into salivation like a Pavlovian dog. Our visit was exponentially enhanced by the unbelievably wonderful company of the Leavell’s, the family that has continually enriched 4UR Ranch over their three generations of ownership. A wildly impressive feat, the family is committed to refurbishing and reviving the natural beauty of the ranch and surrounding lands, honoring every aspect of this area’s history to the best of their ability. Every dollar made goes back into sustainable improvements, with the guest’s experience and land conservation at the forefront of their minds.  

Discovering awe-inspiring people and places has been a huge theme in my life, and I can confidently share that my time at 4UR Ranch imprinted an everlasting love for this home-away-from-home—an experience I’d happily keep coming back for every year.  In my humble opinion, few places on the Earth have cultivated this amount of genuine authenticity. On our tour around the property, Lindsey and Brian Leavell invited us inside perhaps the oldest still-standing concrete building in Colorado that once was Wagon Wheel Gap Hot Springs Hotel. Keeping the historic integrity was an important aspect of design for the new indoor spring, so when it came time for our evening soak, it was magical to feel a sense of history while basking in the healing power of the appropriately named Little Medicine Hot Springs.  Each tired muscle relaxed after the weekend that we’d just weathered camping in Moab. I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to end the day. Refreshed and ready, we rose in the early morning to traverse the stunning terrain on horseback. My partner, Jeff, had never been riding before, but with an approachable lesson from Head Wrangler, Damon Gibbons, he was quickly on his way to being the new sheriff in town. The journey itself was sensational, reviving childhood memories with reins in hand, wind in my hair, and sun gracing me from my Western-hat-wearing head down to my borrowed cowboy boots.  After some enlightening conversation, a few film photos, and an introduction to trotting, our trusty steeds carried us safely home to the stables. A quick swing of the leg gracefully landed my feet to the ground, and I was back to the normal vantage point of my 5’3” stature. Looking up to my horse Rein’s gorgeous caramel-tinted mane, I thanked her for gifting me an intimate new perspective of the surrounding lands.   

The story of this ranch would not be complete without understanding its relationship to the local community of Creede. If at any point you’re looking to expand your horizons, unique happenings abound—the renowned Creede Repertory Theatre, the innovative small houses of Creede America, and the vibrant Stephen Quiller Gallery to name a few—in this charming old miners town. Despite its size, this tiny town sure does pack a loving punch and compliments 4UR Ranch’s experience in a big way.     

Across the board, 4UR Ranch shines as a glowing example of what is possible through dedication to authenticity and providing only the best. Arriving as curious strangers, Jeff and I left in touch with a palpable sense of feeling like family. If you’ve been looking to introduce a new family tradition, this is certainly the place.