Working Cattle Ranch :: About the Zapata Ranch

The Zapata Ranch is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed through a one-of-a-kind partnership with the Duke and Janet Phillips Family– a third-generation ranching family. The ranch is a 103,000-acre cattle, bison and guest ranch located on the eastern wall of the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado. It borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, the newest National Park in the United States. The high desert grasslands, alpine forests, wetlands, sand dunes, creeks and lush meadows offer one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse landscapes in the United States. The ranch and surrounding valley is a wildlife mecca and is home to thousands of elk, bison, deer, coyotes, birds and many other species.


The Zapata ranch manages around 1,000 head of cattle seasonally and a herd of 2,500 bison. We supply meat for commercial markets as well as for grass fed/finished markets. Our ranch management philosophy combines old ways of living and ranching on the land with new and innovative ideas in conservation and land management. We strive to manage the land in a way that mimics natural grazing patterns, which have existed for thousands of years in high desert grasslands.


he guest services arm of Zapata ranch offers an extensive program where guests can get an indepth and educational experience learning about ranching, horsemanship, and conservation practices, while also enjoying fine lodging and meals. Guests typically come to spend their days on horseback, moving/working cattle, working on cattle handling and riding skills and riding out to enjoy scenerey. Our guests can also be integrated into the daily ranchwork for “hands on” learning about ranch life and management. This includes work that needs to be done on the ground and on horseback. Guests also come and participate in our extensive nature programs, which include interpretive hikes, photography, bird and other wildlife watching and education on the geology and ecology of our the San Luis Valley.

“We believe that ranching today must lead the way in the stewardship of our western lands and living old ways of life that preserve not only the land, but human values that should not change through time, such as family, an honest days work and living in harmony with nature.”

Duke Phillips, General Manager