Colorado's Majestic Mountains

As home to some 415 square miles of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado is synonymous with breathtaking mountain ranges. And what could be more Western than taking in the views of these granite monoliths from a dude ranch? The Drowsy Water Ranch, outside of Granby (90 miles northwest of Denver and 21 miles from the park), has more than 600 acres for would-be cowboys and cowgirls to indulge in trail rides, hayrides, trout fishing, square dancing, and daylong rafting trips on the Colorado River through Gore Canyon. Owner Ken Fosha aims to give his guests an authentically Western experience: "There's been cattle ranching here since the 1800s. This is the way that cowboys saw these mountains when they were herding cattle around," he says, noting that trails to higher ridges offer 200-degree views of the Continental Divide. School-age kids love the gymkhana rodeo: "It's basically games on horseback - barrel racing and pole bending, which is like a slalom course," says Fosha. "At the end of the week, kids show off to their parents how much they've learned about riding."

If WiFi is more your speed than bunk beds and campfire songs, there are amenities galore (along with plenty of Western appeal) at Devil's Thumb Ranch, in Tabernash, which sits at the base of the Continental Divide and is minutes away from downhill skiing at nearby Winter Park. If dodging kamikaze snowboarders isn't your idea of getting close to the mountains, stay nearer to home (i.e., in your cozy log cabin) on this 4,000-acre ranch and take in the impressive Nordic trail system of 63 groomed, well-marked trails ready for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (or hiking in the summer, which includes bird-watching and nature treks). Or, sign up for an all-day guided backcountry ski tour. Horseback riding and a full spa are also available. For an eagle's-eye perspective of the Centennial State's mountainous landmarks, take a turn in a tandem paraglider (you fly with an expert pilot in a cross between a hang glider and a parachute) with Vail Valley Paragliding; you'll take in views of the mountains, of course, as well as of the Eagle River and the towns of Vail, Beaver Creek, and Cordillera. And when you're in Boulder, do your best to score a table at the white-hot Frasca Food and Wine. Its cuisine is inspired by that of Italy's Friuli region, which is situated at the foot of some other very impressive mountains, the Alps.

Natural Wonders | COLORADO

Rocky Mountain National Park
(800) 365-2267
$20 (per vehicle) entrance fee

Drowsy Water Ranch, Granby
(800) 845-2292
$1,525 per adult, $1,190 per child (inclusive), for a six-night stay

Devil's Thumb Ranch Tabernash
(800) 933-4339
from $170

Vail Valley Paragliding, Avon
(970) 845-7321
from $150

Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder
(303) 442-6966