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 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.
While Yosemite was the starting point of this trip, I have to say, our stay at the Rankin Guest Ranch was our absolute highlight. It’s located in the California southern Sierras in northeastern Kern County in the little mountain valley of Walker Basin.
The most noticeable thing about Rankin Ranch upon check in, is the lack of electronics. There are no TV’s 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 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 kids 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 are extremely easy going and hospitable. They 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.
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 haywagon 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 horsehoes and a lot more.
One of the evenings we visited included 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.
Been to a guest ranch? Love to hear your experience! Please share in the comments below.
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.
Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.