"Smith Fork Ranch" Crawford by cmonet

Crawford Travel Guide: 1 reviews and 7 photos

Intimate Guest Ranch+Remote Wilderness= A+ Getaway

Located outside the West Elk Wilderness area and only minutes from America's newest national park, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Smith Fork Ranch offered us a better value than any vacation I'd yet enjoyed. The ranch had been a guest ranch since the 1930s, and the buildings were completely refurbished with beautiful tile bathrooms. The guest cabin we stayed in was cozy, with a back deck overlooking the meadow. We had wonderful featherbeds, and the art work and historic artifacts placed around were done so with a discerning eye, and a discriminating taste. It was all very elegant, and not at all "dude ranchy" or kitschy. I imagine this is how Robert Redford's guest cabins would look! Considering it was all-inclusive (except alcohol), we tried to get a real value out of our stay by participating in as much as possible! I would say that cutting out all the frivolous expenses, it was absolutely worth the price.

Not just horses...

The horse program was superb: a full orientation, guided by professional lesson instructors, had us really moving with our horses and feeling a new connection to them as individuals! Because we were advanced riders, we were able to take (and pass) the "lope test," so that we could enjoy team penning and faster rides on the trails. For less advanced riders, steer soccer, lessons, and other trail rides were still available. Because we visited in fall, we were the only ones on all our rides and lessons. The wrangler taught us several games, which she said were used in the kids' rodeo during the summer, as well. She said generally during the summer there were only one family, or about four people, per ride.

We both enjoy fly fishing, but I had better luck on the trophy trout ponds than on the river. The river was slightly more technical, since there was a lot of brush around to avoid. I enjoyed the simple, quiet beauty of the ponds. I practiced casting to the fish I could see without spooking them. Had some great catches! Fishing on the Gunnison River was awesome! The canyon walls came down to the river gracefully, and there were wide banks from which I could cast without catching the bushes behind me. I caught an 18" brown who had apparently been in a couple of battles! It was a great time on the river.

We tried glassblowing in town, with Jared and Nicole Davis who have a wonderful studio a few miles from the ranch. SO recommended! This was an extra cost, but it was inexpensive and definitely worth it! Great people, really fun to learn to art of glassblowing, and we could participate in the entire process! This wasn't a "watch and learn" situation, it was totally hands-on!

We took a hike up to the swimming pond, but it was far too chilly for a dip. The ranch offered us massages at a romantic outdoor pavilion, yoga in the morning, artisan and winery tours, and much more intensive hiking, but we opted for a trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was incredible! Straight down, such a steep, narrow canyon the likes of which you've never seen! We did some hiking, enjoyed spotting deer and a fox, and really just relaxed with our really personable guide. Back at the ranch, the hot tub has such a clear view of the night sky, you'll stay awake for far too long counting shooting stars.

Full bellies, sweet dreams!

The food was well-presented, and the waitstaff extremely pleasant. Each meal was different, and had a lot of local meat and greens picked from the large garden the chef maintains. In fact, all the staff was incredible! You felt as though they really had a vested interest in the ranch, as well as in you as a person.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Value, activities, horseback riding, great people, great history, new national park
  • In a nutshell:True western guest ranch will leave you longing for the mountains!
  • Last visit to Crawford: Sep 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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