Out and About: Enjoy the Good Ol’ Days This Summer: Old-Style Ranch Resorts

WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTOS l RANCH RUDOLPH

Our busy lives are filled with deadlines and a seemingly never-ending list of things to do. Many Michiganders would welcome the chance to escape our routine obligations for a while, to focus on family and enjoy the outdoors.

In the Grand Traverse area, two old-style ranches — Ranch Rudolf and Wolf Lake Ranch — are great destinations for escaping the hustle and bustle of our daily routines.

At Ranch Rudolf, just 12 miles southeast of Traverse City, visitors are encouraged to “get unplugged.” The rooms have no televisions (though the resort does have WiFi) and the property harkens back to a simpler time.

“Ranch Rudolf allows visitors to enjoy an ‘Out West’ experience right here in Michigan,” according to Melody Hamill, owner with her husband, Sid. “Our resort has its heart in the horses, but there is something for everyone.”

Outdoor activities include stocked trout pond fishing and river fly fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and inner-tubing.

The Boardman River is a treasure as it meanders through the Boardman Valley. Wildlife may appear on the banks and in the sky while paddlers travel through the woods of the Pere Marquette State Forest.

Horse lovers can enjoy riding lessons and breathtaking horseback riding tours through nearly 200 acres of the Pere Marquette State Forest and Boardman River Valley. Additionally, group hayrides can be scheduled. Horse programs include Little Ranchers, Meet the Herd, and Guest Wrangler for a Day. Camps include Barn Buddies and Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced Horse Camps (call in advance to make reservations).

The heritage of the ranch helps visitors take a step back in time and feel transported to the Old West. The main lodge dining room has a Western theme, with high vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors, and a huge circular fireplace. The bunkhouse is original to the property; former owner Rudolf actually stayed here in 1922. During the summer season (mid-June through Labor Day) the ranch operates as a guest ranch, providing meal service exclusively to overnight guests.

“We strive to embrace our guests with genuine warmth and true Western hospitality and to provide a family-friendly environment and the spirit of togetherness,” states Hamill.

Wolf Lake Ranch is just a short drive from Traverse City and is just as charming.

Wolf Lake Ranch has been voted among the best ranches in the United States, but it is the number of guests who return each year that truly attests to its charm.

“Eighty-five to ninety percent of our guests return every summer,” stated Peter Libby, who started visiting when he was just six years old and has owned the ranch with his wife Marlena since 1981. “Any newcomers discover us by word of mouth.”

Bordering the Manistee National Forest in Western Michigan, Wolf Lake Ranch offers a unique family vacation that allows folks to take a step back and relax. Visitors will enjoy clean air, crystal clear Wolf Lake, and majestic forests that have remained virtually the same since the ranch was established in 1945.

The site offers breathtaking views, with mist burning off the lake in the early morning and wildflowers blooming in Hidden Valley. “Our staff welcomes visitors like good friends, and we work hard to make everyone feel welcomed and comfortable,” stated Libby.

Highlights include horseback riding through the Manistee National Forest as well as special events throughout the season, including a breakfast ride and an extended ride to serene Lost Lake.

In addition, there is tennis, basketball, archery, swimming, kayaking, and canoeing on clear Wolf Lake.  Organized activities include volleyball, soccer, softball, hayrides, dancing, casino night, a speed show, campfires, and games.

Bear Lake, a short trip southwest of Traverse City, is home to The Rockin’ R, a dude ranch with a relaxed and personal atmosphere located along the Lake Michigan coastline.

The Rockin’ R has been a favorite travel destination for families for over 25 years and has been voted “Best Dude Ranch in the Midwest” by American Cowboy magazine.

The Rockin’ R includes cabins, camping, horseback riding, hayrides, special events, and more.

Summers in Michigan are lush and green and fleeting. Visit a local ranch this summer to return to the Good Ol’ Days.

Ranch Rudolf 6841 Brown Bridge Road, Traverse City MI 49696 (231) 947-9529 l RanchRudolf.com

Wolf Lake Ranch 3640 Wolf Lake Drive, Baldwin MI 49304 (231) 745-3890 l WolfLakeRanchandResort.com

The Rockin R 8805 13 Mile Road, Bear Lake Michigan 49614 l (231) 864-3539 l TheRockinR.net