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Rankin Guest Ranch: Old Fashioned Family Fun

Rankin Ranch is a California dude ranch located in the southern Sierras in northeastern Kern County in the little mountain valley of Walker Basin.

The 31,000-acre ranch has been family-owned and operated since 1863. It is a “real” working ranch that opens it doors to guests for a truly family-friendly dude ranch experience.

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I look forward to Spring Break each year because it’s time to for a road trip with my son, Roland. This year the planning started with the goal of visiting Yosemite, which is about eight hours from where we live in San Diego.

While I don’t mind a few long days in the car, I wanted to break up our drive home. Our final trip consisted of visiting Yosemite, the California High Sierras, and a guest ranch in Caliente, California.

Rankin Ranch: A California Dude Ranch

While Yosemite was the starting point of this trip, I have to say, our stay at the Rankin Guest Ranch was our absolute highlight.

The most noticeable thing about Rankin Ranch upon check-in, is the lack of electronics. There are no TVs in the cabins and there is no wifi except for a short window each afternoon of about an hour. This hour of wifi doesn’t provide much more strength than a chance to check email.

This lack of electronics and screens is purposeful. While this might seem hard to imagine in a time when wifi is a number one consideration when booking a hotel. The lack of  TV, computers and mobile phones truly created a communal atmosphere on the ranch. Instead of staring at our phones or running back to the room in the evening for TV or to get a little work accomplished, everyone hung out. We talked and got to know each other. The kids played and talked instead of texting!

The Ranch quickly becomes a home away from home. Everything about the Rankin Guest Ranch encourages guests to meet and get to know each other including the communal dining tables. A day at Rankin Guest Ranch begins with breakfast in the garden room. A buffet of cereals including oatmeal, fruit, and bread are available as well as a cooked-to-order hot breakfast.

After breakfast, it’s time to head to the stable for the morning horseback ride.


Rankin family members as well as ranch hands saddle up horses and match riders based on their riding experience.


Several rides are available to choose from and range from a walk through a meadow, to a more adventurous ride along a river and even galloping rides into the nearby hills.

The rides are led by Rankin family members or ranch hands; one leading the group and another following behind to make sure all the riders are keeping up. The rides are a couple of hours and provide a glimpse of the beautiful and quiet countryside.


After the morning ride, kids can opt for their ‘kids club’ with organized games or activities with the counselors on staff during the busier months. Otherwise, you can choose one of the many other activities available.

Roland, who is an avid fisherman, and I opted to check out their pond, which is stocked and has a row boat. It’s also a great spot to appreciate the hills and landscape of the valley. Roland doesn’t go on a road trip without his fishing gear, so we were set for a morning of fishing and exploring the pond.


It’s a full day of non-stop activity on the ranch. After the morning of riding, then either kid’s club or your activity of choice it’s time for lunch. Served outdoors on picnic benches, this is a great time to hear about everyone’s morning ride and learn more about the guests.

During our visit, we had several families from California visiting as well as a European couple who were looking for an authentic American cowboy experience.

After lunch, the kids headed to the archery range. Several hay bundles with a bulls-eye at the far end of the property offers a spot to practice archery skills with compound and traditional bows.


A second ride is offered every afternoon. Twice a day you have a choice to sign up for the type of ride you’d like such as the river bank ride. The family at Rankin Ranch is extremely easy-going and hospitable.

The Rankin Ranch family and staff go out of their way to make each and everyone feel like a part of their extended family. They extend this graciousness to the horseback rides; whether you want a ride with just your family or to head out with a bigger group, they arrange it.


Following the afternoon ride, the kids are invited to meet, feed, and care for the animals in their petting area. There are chickens, goats, donkeys, Shetland ponies, and plenty more animals to visit, brush, milk, and take care of.


During our visit to the Ranch, we were lucky enough to meet the new baby goats. Obviously, this was the most popular pen to visit.


While the children are visiting with the animals, the adults are served appetizers at a BYOB social hour. Evenings include dinner in the garden room or a hay wagon ride with a BBQ.

One of the perks of visiting during the busier months is that Rankin Guest Ranch offers a ‘kids club’ with organized games, activities, visits to the animals, games of horseshoes, and a lot more.

One of the evenings we visited included an insect and reptile show. A local expert brought up his array of cages and tanks to showcase everything from creepy crawly insects and exotic reptiles to the biggest frog I’ve seen.


My lasting impression of the Rankin Guest Ranch was the back-to-basics approach. They do a perfect job offering a family experience that is fun for everyone. Will I return? We are already planning a visit back this fall.

Rankin Ranch is located at 23500 Walker Basin Rd, Caliente, CA 93518.

For more information about Rankin Ranch visit their website: www.rankinranch.com or visit them on Facebook.

For more California adventures check out Biking the La Jolla Coast and A Day at The World Famous Del Coronado Hotel.

Been to a guest ranch? Love to hear about your experience! Please share in the comments below.

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Looking for the perfect family vacation destination? Why everyone should take a California dude ranch vacation. Learn why this is one of the best family vacation ideas for summer!


A huge thank you to rankinranch.com for their generous hospitality.  I was their guest during my stay, but as always, all opinions are my own.

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