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Rocking Horse Ranch: Dude Ranch Lite

Rocking Horse Ranch: Dude Ranch Lite

Rocking Horse Ranch is a delightful all-inclusive family resort located about 90 minutes from NYC and accessible via Metro-North train. This little resort in the town of Highland was started by the Turk family in 1958, and they still run it. Rocking Horse Ranch is situated on 600 rolling acres in the Hudson Valley. The hotel and grounds are charming, with a ranch theme that is not hokey or tacky. There are 113 guest rooms, which allows for an intimacy and authenticity that is maintained throughout your stay.

We arrived around 11:30 on a Monday along with our family friends who have a 4-year-old boy--a perfect companion for our 4-year-old daughter. Upon check in we received a brochure outlining the schedule of activities and meals.

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Skiing at Rocking Horse Ranch

It was a five-minute walk from our room to the ski rental door. We were on skis, being towed by rope up the first bunny hill within 30 minutes of putting on our ski clothes. This high level of convenience scored major points in our eyes. After skiing a couple of runs on the smaller hill we headed up the magic carpet to the taller hill. This is steps away and all very easy to navigate. We skied down the bigger hill for several runs before our daughter couldn’t keep her eyes off the other activities and wanted to try something else.

To be clear, these are hills, not mountains. Also, the skis are shorter than normal skis and do not come with poles. None of this was a problem for me personally, as my goal was to share this experience with my daughter. She is just beginning to ski, and this was the perfect place for her to practice her skills. 

Rocking Horse Ranch’s Zip Line

The zip line starts at a platform that you access via stairs, then cross over a lake to a trampoline, where you land. There is a mechanism that slows you down at the end, so all you do is sit and enjoy the 30-second ride. You have to be at least 42 inches tall and weigh at least 40 pounds to ride on the zip line. This activity is only available through April 24, but the Ranch is considering adding a longer, permanent line in the near future. 

Bungee Jumping at Rocking Horse Ranch

Bungee Jumping for kids at Rocking Horse Ranch

The bungee jumper was one of my favorite activities. This area is located near the zip line and offers four jumping stations. Each station has a trampoline and a harness connected to bungee cords that suspend you, allowing you to jump much higher than a regular trampoline. My boyfriend, daughter, and I all practiced doing flips on this playful contraption. We visited this area several more times on our trip. There is also a rock-climbing wall in this area, which we didn’t try. There is no minimum size requirement for the bungee jumper; however there is a minimum weight of 45 pounds for the rock wall.

The Fun Barn

The fun barn was a huge hit with my 4 year old and her friend. This area is located behind the bungee jumper. It’s a barn filled with fun kid activities, including: a bouncy house, a climbing structure with shooting balls and a slide, badminton set up, ping pong tables, and a treadmill-style climbing wall. There are also tables and chairs where parents relaxed while their kids enjoyed the freedom of running from station to station.

Dining & Dancing at Rocking Horse Ranch

After playing in the barn we went back to the hotel and found a games area and stage downstairs, where the kids participated in a dance-off and challenged each other at mini-bowling.

Dinner was a sit-down meal in which we ordered from a menu. We had steaks, ribs, chicken, burgers as well as a salad bar. Each of us left very satisfied with the quality of the food. For dessert we dipped fruit, cookies, and other  treats into a huge chocolate fountain. The kids made an epic mess and loved every second of it.

Tubing at Rocking Horse Ranch

Snow tubing at Rocking Horse Ranch

After dinner we changed back into our ski clothes and returned to the winter fun area for the highlight of our trip, nighttime snow tubing! This took place at the same hill at which we skied, but this time we rode up the magic carpet with tubes. We began the evening by partnering adults with kids on the runs, but by the end of the night the kids were brave enough to go down alone. We ended the night roasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate at a fire pit set up at the base of the hill.

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Rocking Horse Ranch’s Water Park

Rocking Horse Ranch's Water Park

The next morning we finally made it to the highly anticipated water park. The kids took no time jumping in and splashing each other under the ranch-themed splashing structure in the center of the indoor pool. They also loved the area in the deeper end of the pool where they walked across floating buoys while holding onto ropes above them.

The upper deck of the water park was their favorite section. This area has a splash pad with three small slides and several geysers for little kids to play in. The highlight is a 250-foot-high tube slide that begins inside, takes you outside in several loops, then returns you back indoors with a splash. This feels like an adult slide but participants as short as 36 inches were bravely making the ascent up the stairs and smiled as they reemerged at the bottom. The water park was a lot of fun, but is relatively small, feeling more like an indoor pool with a big waterslide than a full-fledged water park. 

Horseback Riding at Rocking Horse Ranch

Rocking Horse Ranch Horseback Riding

The minimum age to participate in the main trail rides is 7 years old, so we didn’t experience any of these. Instead we opted for several ‘pony rides’ for the kids, which were actually done on large full-sized horses. These rides were led near the fun barn by patient staff who carefully suited up the kids in helmets and in the saddles.

We had actually already had a special encounter with the horses earlier that morning. Since she’s such an early riser, we were walking the grounds at 7am when we spotted all 112 horses walking from their stables across the street to enter the riding stables in the resort area. We met the barn manager, TJ, and watched him greet each animal by name as it entered the barn. TJ took the time and introduced us to a couple of the beauties. In addition to horses, there is also a small wildlife area where you can see a zebra, camel, donkeys, and goats. 

Summer Fun at Rocking Horse Ranch

Summer at Rocking Horse Ranch

We returned to Rocking Horse Ranch during the summer, to see how the resort is different--or not--from our previous wintertime experience. The range of activities we tried during our second visit was wide and exciting. Here’s what we did:

  • horse back riding
  • bungee trampolines
  • swam in both indoor and outdoor pools, both with a slide
  • rode a banana boat several times
  • enjoyed a chocolate fountain for dessert
  • rode inflatable tubes down a track at night
  • roasted marshmallows
  • went mining for gems
  • went fishing
  • played in a bouncy house
  • played in a ball pit climbing structure
  • climbed a rock  wall
  • shot bb guns
  • tried archery
  • saw exotic animals, a zebra and camel
  • won prizes in the arcade

All of the activities were free with the exception of a nominal fee for the mining of gems and some of the arcade games. 


Fall at Rocking Horse Ranch

This fall, the resort has a fun lineup of activities including Fall Fest, Ghost Town, and viewing the beautiful fall foliage of the Hudson Valley.

During Fall Fest, guests can partake of wine samplings and tastings from local farms, as well as apple-picking coupons for nearby orchards. They also have a shuttle that takes you to the Walkway over the Hudson, where you can take in fantastic views of the foliage. Ghost Town begins on Columbus Day weekend and offers a very scary experience for brave souls who choose to go through their live haunted house. Rocking Horse Ranch also offers trick-or-treating, costume contests, and pumpkin painting on weekends during October.


Tips on Visiting Rocking Horse Ranch

  • The food is good, with plenty of options, including vegetarian. If you have specific dietary needs, the kitchen is are very accommodating.
  • Easy access for strollers in common areas.
  • Pool towels are provided so no need to pack your own.
  • For summer visit bring sunscreen, bug spray and hats.
  • The activities are designed for kids ages 2 thru 14.
  • Everything on the resort is close by so you don’t waste time shuttling all over the property--it’s all within a short walking distance.

There are activities and entertainment for all ages, but mostly this resort caters to families with young children. Since this resort is all inclusive you never have to pull out your wallet, unless you’re in the gift shop, the arcade, or ordering cocktails. 

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Estée Pouleris


 Estée Pouleris is the creator behind blog She lives in NYC with her boyfriend and their daughter. 

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