Pony up for a mini vacay at Canada’s oldest and most original dude ranch, The Flying U—where you’re allowed to ride out on your own.
TRAVEL ADVISORY | I never went to a dude ranch as a kid, but my husband did. He and his brother spent a week as buckaroos at The Flying U guest ranch in B.C.’s Cariboo. It was their favourite childhood holiday. “Better ’n Disneyland” is how they described the experience to their friends when they got home, and the way they continued to speak of it years later.
The Flying U has that effect on people. At 90+, Canada’s oldest guest ranch (and B.C.’s oldest continuously operating business) has a cult following. “That’s because the Flying U is a free spirit kind of place,” explains my friend Meredith, who vacationed there two summers ago. “The U is nowhere close to fancy. You are never going to find high thread count sheets and a Hudson Bay blanket on your bed—in fact, you might want to bring your own pillow, if you’re fussy. And there is no massage therapist on staff, or a four star chef in the kitchen like at luxury riding resorts. That’s part of the attraction of this place—it feels real cowboy, totally unpretentious, and all about the riding, really. ”
Dude, Where’s My Ride?
The Flying U is one of a handful of guest ranches in North America offering unsupervised all-day riding, even for beginners. Owner/ manager Robert Fremlin, known for his uncanny ability to perfectly match horse to rider, says, “We have people who have never ridden a horse before who have made the decision before they come to give it a try. For them it’s mostly about realizing they are going to be a driver not a passenger, that they have to operate the horse, something they wouldn’t necessarily have to do on an organized trail ride.”
The Flying U’s rustic accommodation, family-style meals and bathrooms housed in a communal building make the place feel a bit like summer camp, in the best way of course, as do things like getting your very own horse (and tack) to ride all day every day, hay rides, square dances, canoeing and old western movies viewed in their sweet little theatre. Guests are also invited to shop at the The Flying U’s general store or enjoy a drink at the kitschy Longhorn Saloon.
Flying U visits can be as short as two days, unlike many horseback riding resorts that insist on a longer stay. The all-inclusive prices seem reasonable considering everything you get ($180 per day for adults, $140-$160 for kids; $70-$110 for non-riders), making The Flying U an ideal mini vacay.—Carolann Rule
The Flying U Guest Ranch (located on the shore of Green Lake near 70 Mile House) is a five hour drive from Vancouver. The toll free number is 1-877-456-7717. Visit www.flyingu.com