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Drowsy Water Ranch feels more off the beaten path than it actually is. The 700-acre dude and guest ranch is tucked into a narrow forested valley about a mile-and-a-half off Highway 40 in the Colorado Rockies. Situated about six miles west of the town of Granby in Grand County, the ranch is only a two-hour drive from Denver International Airport. But once you turn onto the dirt road leading to the ranch—look for the covered wagon with “Drowsy Water Ranch” sprawled in fire-engine-red writing for your cue to turn—the real world dissipates like the dust in your rearview mirror.
This is really the last time you will need your car because everything at the ranch is within walking distance, and it is an all-inclusive experience. Check in on Sunday afternoon, and check out Saturday after lunch. For everything in between, the Fosha family—Ken, Randy Sue, Justin, Gretta, Ryan, and Ellen—has you covered.
“Forget about everything back home,” Ken encourages at guest orientation on the first night after a tasty Thanksgiving-style dinner (a real treat in June!). “No matter what your profession is, forget that. You are one of two things this week: a cowboy or a cowgirl.” None of the staff asks guests about what they do for a living. Instead, visitors are encouraged to leave work and electronics behind (cell service is spotty and Wi-Fi is limited in the valley) while embracing a simpler way of life
Guests can choose from private cozy cabins (one to four bedrooms available) tucked into the wooded hillside or individual rooms in the Horse Thief Den. Daily housecleaning is included, as well as a living area and a front porch (shared if you’re staying at the Horse Thief Den) for gathering with friends and family or sitting back to take in the alpine views while relaxing with a steaming cup of coffee and a good book. A mini-fridge and coffeemaker are available in most rooms.
The log-cabin-style main lodge houses many activities, including check-in, shopping at the Drowsy Water Ranch Store for necessities and novelties, most family-style meals (BYOB if you are inclined), and meet-ups in the rustic, inviting living room. The door is always open for coffee, tea, and ice. There’s a heated pool onsite and an adults-only spa for soaking sore muscles after a day on the trail.
Dave and Raelynn Vrooman from Ohio have brought their 13-year-old granddaughter Hannah to the Drowsy Water Ranch for the past four years. They take the Amtrak train from Chicago to nearby Granby—a 22 hour excursion—for a weeklong stay in their favorite spot, cabin No. 3. “They make it feel like you are coming home,” says Raelynn of the Western welcome at Drowsy Water. Dave adds that it’s hard to pinpoint just one aspect of the ranch experience that makes it so special. “It’s a package deal, and we just love it!” he says.
Led by Ken and Randy Sue who have owned the ranch since 1977, the Foshas have a knack for making guests feel like members of an extended family, thanks to the help of theirs. Justin, his wife Gretta, and their two children live on the ranch where Justin and his younger brother Ryan also grew up. Ryan and his significant other, Ellen, live just down the road with their young daughter. Each member of the family plays their ranch role, but they aren’t tied to titles—everyone simply pitches in to make sure the guests have the best possible experience.
“Our family is really involved, and that’s what makes Drowsy Water different,” says Randy Sue. “It’s interesting, other ranches have had their kids come in, and it hasn’t worked so well. I don’t know what makes it work for us, really!” Randy Sue and Ken encouraged both of their boys to get a college education, figuring if the ranch wasn’t a fit, they would have something to fall back on. Ryan is a pilot who still flies and instructs students, especially in the winter. Justin and Gretta met at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo., where they both earned engineering degrees. But the ranch is where they want to be.
“You don’t have very many chances in your life to work for people who love what they do, and Ken and Randy Sue have laid such a great foundation for loving what they do and sharing what they love,” says Gretta. “Ken and Randy Sue have really poured their heart and soul into this place, and it’s so cool to get to learn from them and grow with them. All of us in the family truly want to share this with our guests: It’s not just a job for us.”
or 16 weeks from late May to mid-September, the Fosha family host 50 to 60 guests per week at Drowsy Water Ranch, their home. The summer season is dominated by families of all types: parents with their children, grandparents traveling with grandkids, and multi-generational gatherings. During the fall, the ranch offers adults-only vacations and discounted rates. Prices during the regular season are $2,300 per week for adults and less for the younguns: $2,100 for teens 13-17; $1,900 for kids 6-12; $1,200 for children 2-5; and $700 for infants under two.
The vacation package includes cozy lodging, hearty homecooked meals (all you can eat, with accommodations for special diets), guided horseback riding complete with spot-on instruction, an optional all-day whitewater rafting trip on the Colorado River, and lively evening entertainment. Other activities—such as golfing, zip-lining, mountain biking, hiking, fly-casting lessons, and massage—can be worked in (some activities cost extra) to customize your experience.
Thanks to the robust supervised children’s programs, parents can enjoy themselves knowing their kids are well taken care of during the day. The Rangerider program for kids 6-13 years of age offers instruction-based horseback riding that also includes counselor-led activities such as an obstacle course, horse brushing, swimming, hiking, rafting, lassoing a steer head, and more. Children 5 and under are enrolled as Buckaroos and enjoy horseback rides around the ranch, games, crafts, and picnic hikes. Infant care is also available for the littler ones. Families reconvene for meals and evening entertainment, which includes Western dancing, campfire sing-a-longs, a staff show, and the Drowsy Water Carnival.
All of this is made possible by the well-trained and hand-selected seasonal staff—nearly 30 in total—that helps the Fosha family lovingly take care of its guests. The service they provide is topnotch, from the wranglers who help out in the barn to the kitchen staff who serve up the meals featuring recipes handed down for generations.
The horses, which come in all shapes and sizes, are the stars of the show at Drowsy Water Ranch, and each guest is paired with a horse for the week based on their experience and the temperament of the horse. There are 120 horses that live on the ranch year-round, and they are turned out to pasture each evening so they can run, kick, and play.
“We’re in the horse business in a pretty big way,” Ken points out. “The horses are the bread and butter of the Drowsy Water operation, so they are treated with a great deal of respect.” Since he and Randy Sue took over the ranch four decades ago, thousands of people have ridden their horses—something that makes them extremely proud.
“Our goal is that no matter your skill level coming into the week, you will learn a little something and become a better rider,” Ken explains. They accomplish this by carefully matching rider to horse and then offering thorough instruction in the arena and on the grounds of the ranch before heading out on the mountain trails that feature Continental Divide vistas, lush meadows dotted with wildflowers, stands of quivering aspen trees, and rolling hills of sagebrush and cactus. It’s individualized attention offered by attentive wranglers on well-trained horses—a winning combination that instills confidence no matter your riding capabilities going into the week.
And don’t be surprised if your horse isn’t the only connection you make during your stay at Drowsy Water Ranch. Ken says over the years they’ve seen lasting friendships built between people who just happened to come to the ranch at the same time for a week’s vacation. “That’s sort of a magical thing that happens at a dude ranch,” he explains. “It’s very easy to make friends.”
To learn more about Drowsy Water Ranch or to book a stay (reservations are recommended well in advance), visit drowsywater.com.