Experience the days of the Wild West with a cattle drive holiday

Become a real cowboy and embark on an authentic cattle drive in Wyoming and Montana where the old ways live on.

Cowboy drives cattle to a new pasture

While some enjoy spending a few days at a dude ranch in Texas, others may prefer the cowboy experience of seeing cattle pull up in Montana and Wyoming (Bandera, Texas in particular, proclaims itself the cowboy capital of the world). Dryhead Ranch’s cattle drive began in 1937 and has been a family tradition ever since. They drive their cattle down the 500-year-old Old Sioux Trail into beautiful Dryhead Country.

In some ways, modern agricultural practices are almost indistinguishable from what they were in the past. But other farming practices seem stuck in time. In some places, cowboys continue to herd and herd cattle as they have for centuries.

Father and son cowboys

Father and son cowboys

Why you should take part in an authentic cattle drive

Cattle drives are a romantic part of western United States history. For many, they conjure up images of the 1860-1890s. Dryhead Ranch is a working ranch that preserves the legacy of the past and offers an authentic cowboy experience. It attracts people from all over the country and even from Europe and Australia.

The cattle drives at Dryhead Ranch take the cows 50 miles from Lovell, Wyoming to the Pryor Mountains of southern Montana. As an authentic experience, it remains as difficult today as it was in the 1860s (think tired calves hiding behind bushes, unpredictable weather and wind blowing your hat).

See also: This is what it’s like to stay at the Urban Cowboy Hotel in Nashville

Cowboy experience in the USA

Cowboy experience in the USA

Join Dryhead Ranch’s Spring Cattle Drive

The spring cattle drives take place in April and May, during which 200 to 250 suckler cows and their calves are transported. It lasts four days and there is a designated pen or paddock where the cows can stay each night to be fed and watered. Being part of the experience of driving 500 suckler cows and baby calves around 50 miles is a unique holiday experience. The cattle drive brings the cows from their winter pastures in Wyoming to their summer home in Montana.

  • spring drive: April and May

The biggest challenge is keeping the calves moving (and they expect everyone to join in).

Guests at the cattle drive ride multiple horses during the week (so don’t get too attached to one particular horse). The horses are fed in the corral every night and some are rotated every day (cowboy horses are rotated daily). The drive is a slow stroll so everyone can immerse themselves in and enjoy the area’s spectacular scenery.

Note that there is no camping during the cattle drives. Instead, guests are driven back to the ranch each evening, where they enjoy a hot meal and a comfortable bed.

View in Butte, Montana
Photo by Natalie Nicks on Unsplash

View in Butte, Montana

Spring in Montana can be cold, so be sure to wear an appropriate change of warm clothing for spring (light and heavy clothing is best). Some gear is available for rent at the ranch (like rain gear, mud boots, etc.).

Be a cowboy/cowgirl at Dryhead Ranch in the fall

In the fall it’s time to bring the cattle back to Wyoming and people can come and take part in the fall drive. The autumn trip is from late September to early October. These are also the weaning weeks when the calves are weaned and shipped to Wyoming. There are other activities such as pregnancy testing the cows and planning how to pant unproductive cows.

  • descent: Late September to early October

These are busy days and a time when guests can really experience and understand how the cow business works. They don’t fall for cattle drives with ranch guests.

Related: Think you could survive cowboy days in the Wild West? Here’s what they had to eat

Dude Ranch in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Dude Ranch in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

What to expect from a stay at Working Dryhead Ranch

Weekly rates at Dryhead Ranch start at $2,100 and include lodging in a bunkhouse with a private bedroom and home-cooked meals. Guests get well-trained cow horses to ride, riding lessons, cattle to work with, 32,000 acres of Montana to explore and much more. For more information, contact the ranch directly.

  • Costs: Starting at $2,100 for weekly rates

Dryhead Ranch is a historic ranch built in 1907 from logs pulled there by horse and cart. The Bunkhouse has seven private bedrooms (three upstairs and four downstairs). Some rooms have queen block beds, while others offer accommodation for groups or families in one room. Each of the rooms has its own decor and charm, blending the old with the new.

There are also five other modern cottages providing a perfect quiet place to spend a week horseback riding and experiencing a working cow farm.

Another place to experience being a full fledged cowboy is in Fort Worth, Texas. Alternatively, head north to Canada and take part in the Cowboy Stampede – the largest outdoor rodeo in the world. The United States and Canada each have their own parallel – yet different Wild West/Last Best West stories.