Hotel Review: Smith Fork Ranch, Crawford Country, Colorado
This lovingly restored ranch offers a taste of the wild west in a luxuriously rustic setting
Ok, Colorado is not the Wild West anymore, but I was in ranch country, where the lifestyle once prospered, I was in the mood to stay somewhere quintessentially western.
Crawford County has managed to keep much of its old west character so it was amid the Rockies that I found rustic luxury.
I negotiated twisty mountain roads to get to this 3000-acred 1930’s vintage dude ranch. It’s midway between Aspen and Telluride at an altitude of 7,000 ft. As I approached I saw a clutch of log buildings betwixt lush rising land.
Accommodation comprises a two-storey log Guest Lodge – formerly a ranch house – which has five en-suite bedrooms and a sitting room with a fireplace. There are also four detached cabins, one of which was mine for two nights. They all retain the ‘glory days’ characteristics and are furnished with antiques and original art made by Western and Native American artisans.
The ranch straddles the Smith Fork River Valley for around three miles and is surrounded by the West Elk Mountains and the Gunnison National Forest an area where the Ute Indians lived for hundreds of years.
It is a scene so serene that it inspired me to awaken uncharacteristically early. It was only daybreak yet I abandoned my plush, queen size bed with down duvet and pillows, to sit on the cabin porch and watch the wildlife in the meadows and in the mountains beyond.
The ranch is so secluded and that it has to be a destination in its own right and a myriad activities means I wasnt bored.
Manager, Jim Neilson, an avid angler, suggested I learn how to fly-fish right there on the ranch. It took two hours but I finally managed to catch a trout (which was thrown back).
Later, I sported my cowboy hat, borrowed a pair of riding boots and headed for their stable of 38 horses. The resident wranglers picked out a horse for me that was gentle enough to enable a nervous novice like me to enjoy a trot through the ranch and along the nearby streams. Sadly, I didn’t have time for the archery lessons, white-water rafting or the steer soccer.
Dinner is all about gourmet dining using locally sourced produce. It is served in the Dinner Bell Cook House - a relaxing, atmoshpheric space. I was served haut Western cuisine of sautéed trout fillets with a pumpkin-seed crust. As I dined, I admired the exposed-log walls, antler chandeliers and chestnut tables and couldn’t help feeling quite the dude.
45362 Needle Rock Road, Crawford, CO
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