uests at the Zapata Ranch can choose from a wide range of activities and programs offered both on the ranch and at nearby locations. In addition to our full-slate of ranching and horseback activities, we offer gold medal fly fishing, nature hikes, birding, wildlife watching, rock climbing, photography tours, and more.
Come ride with us, work and drive cattle, ride through the bison herd, and explore the Sand Dunes National Park while we help you to focus on improving your horsemanship and riding skills. We invite you come and ride one of our ranch horses, or to bring your own horse. We welcome guests of all experience levels as we have a solid herd of horses and will take time to provide education opportunities
based on a rider’s skill set. Formal instruction and horsemanship demonstrations from our expert wranglers are available at any point during your stay.
For riders who desire a more rustic horseback experience, several weeks each summer feature overnight pack trips, where riders venture into the nearby Sangre de Cristo mountains, exploring the surroundings on horseback by day and camping in the remote wilderness by night. For information on when our pack trips are offered, please consult our Events Calendar.
While we try to use horses as much as possible in our ranch work (“use grass, not gas”), not all of a modern day cowboy’s work occurs horseback. For those interested in experiencing the full range of a rancher’s daily work, guests are invited to join our cowboys as they monitor herd health, check and fix fence, irrigate farmland, assess pasture conditions, and perform any number of other activities required on a working ranch. Guests will also learn about important land conservation management practices, grass-fed cattle and bison production, and our prescriptive grazing program. Our programs are designed to put guests safely in the middle of this work, allowing our visitors to contribute and learn by gaining hands-on experience.
Not all Zapata guests choose to be in the saddle each day. For those who want to learn about our majestic surroundings in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, we offer a full slate of nature experiences to ranch guests. Simply let our staff know your preferences, and we can organize hikes into the adjacent Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Medano meadows, or the many lakes that dot the ranch and the nearby mountains. These expeditions can be self-guided or led by a local guide knowledgeable in our area’s history, geology, bird species, and other native plant and animal life. We also offer photography-themed outings, interpretive nature walks, and informational tours of our bison herd.
Guided Naturalist and Birding Tours
Our guided outings are half-day or whole day, your preference, and are offered at no additional cost. These tours are a great way to learn about the San Luis Valley and local ecology. Tours are based on where you'd like to go and can include trips to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, our historic ranch headquarters and wild bison pasture, as well as other nearby locations and preferred hikes, where you will have opportunities to identify native plants and wildlife.
Wildlife & Landscape Photography Tours with Professional Photographer Steve Weaver
Spend a day honing your skills and exploring the ranch and San Luis Valley. For beginners to pros, you'll learn everything from basic techniques to high-level skills and discovering more about your camera. What you'll learn is up to you and can be completely customized as you're out in the field with Steve. Click here to see Steve's work. This activity incurs an additional fee of $150 pp (Please note there is a 50% cancellation fee).
Ranchlands and Zapata Ranch also offer special themed weeks, including horsemanship clinics, photography workshops, cattle branding experiences, and food-themed weeks. For more information, please see our Events Calendar.
(these activities incur additional costs)
Overnight Camping Trips
Available Mid-May to Mid-September - Spend a night out under the stars in our breathtaking 50,000 acre wild bison pasture where you will camp in rustic luxury with meals prepared over an open fire. This activity incurs an additional fee of $100pp.
Nearly half of the rivers that comprise Colorado’s gold medal trout waters are located within an hour’s drive of the ranch. With the Arkansas River to the north, the Rio Grande River to the west, and the Conejos River to the south, the Zapata’s central location makes it a prime headquarters for trophy trout fishing. There are also several seasonal lakes closer to the ranch for those seeking a nearby outing. Guests are free to explore any of these waters on their own, or can schedule guided trips through local fly shops. Fishing trips are not included in our normal fee, but we are happy to help you book your trip with a high quality guiding service. We recommend scheduling prior to your visit in order to ensure availability. This activity incurs additional costs - ask for a custom quote.
Available May to Mid-August - For those with a thirst for adventure, whitewater rafting is available an hour north in Salida, Colorado. These trips offer a unique—and adrenaline-filled—way of viewing the scenic Arkansas River and the canyon that meanders with the river’s rushing waters. Whitewater rafting fees are not included in the price of a normal stay, but the Zapata Ranch staff is happy to assist you with your reservation. In order to ensure availability, we recommend you make arrangements before arriving for your stay. This activity incurs additional costs - starting at $60pp/half day.
Renowned climbing and bouldering for beginners to experts. Available in two locations that climbers from around the world specifically seek out - Penitente Canyon outside of Monte Vista, Colorado, and Tres Piedras, New Mexico. This activity incurs additional costs - starting at $30pp.
Massage & Wellness Services
We offer a variety of massage and wellness services. This activity incurs additional costs - starting at $85/pp.
Banner photo 1 by Karen Myers