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Ranchlands is seeking a large-scale ranch. Learn more!

Explore Zapata Ranch

Mosca, Colorado


Ride horses with two thousand bison or in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, hike the wild Sangre de Cristo Mountains, learn how to rope with a wrangler, and enjoy gourmet meals. All riding levels welcome.

Open March – October

After 18 wonderful years at Zapata Ranch, the 2024 season will be our last year offering stays at this location. Learn more.

Book Your Stay

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Activities & Programs

Zapata Ranch offers extensive programs based around horseback riding and nature programs, and also the opportunity to experience life on a working cattle and bison ranch while enjoying high-end amenities and gourmet food. Ride through the herd of 2,000 wild bison, in the neighboring Great Sand Dunes National Park, or with the cattle herd to learn about our rotational grazing practices. Spend the afternoon with ranch staff learning how to throw a rope or work with leather, or take a stroll around the nature trail to look for wildlife.


Accommodations are in the ranch’s historic 15-bedroom Lodge, the original ranch homestead built in the 1800s.

Rooms are beautifully furnished with elegant southwestern decor, include private tiled bathrooms, and views that are private, peaceful, and beautiful in any season.

Food & Drink

The dining experience at the Zapata is second-to-none. Using local produce and meats, including bison from the Medano's herd, our chefs craft an unforgettable and uncommon take on traditional comfort foods with a modern twist. With dishes like bison tenderloin, wild caught trout from the Arkansas River just a few miles away, and herb roasted carrots from local farmers cooked over wood grown on the property, our kitchen provides a more organic encounter to cuisine seldom displayed elsewhere. Enjoy breakfasts of pancakes, fresh fruit, bacon, fig and cheese toast, and frittatas, and bagged lunches to slip into your saddlebag and enjoy on the trail.

About the Ranch

The Medano-Zapata Ranch is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed by Ranchlands in a partnership model that emphasizes environmental conservation practices. Located on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado, the ranch borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Home to a conservation herd of bison that run in a single 50,000 acre pasture, the ranch also runs a herd of Angus mother cows. Additionally, the ranch has a 15-bedroom Lodge that welcomes guests from around the world who are interested in exploring the ranch’s scenic and ecologically diverse meadows, wetlands, sand dunes, and cottonwood groves and learning about ranching’s role in preserving and protecting these natural landscapes.

Joy is everywhere at Zapata; in the capable hands and confident, patient manner of everyone who supports the ranch, in the soft eyes of the horses who enjoy lush green pastures and share their sweet souls and quiet strength with visitors.

- Irene

What sets the riding experience at Zapata apart from virtually every other riding experience is the amount of freedom allowed to ride. Unlike most riding experiences where everyone is lined up nose to tail and not allowed to “roam,” Zapata’s team of highly experienced and confident wranglers allow a level of freedom we had not experienced elsewhere.

- Keith

My best friend and I have gone to 5 ranches this year. I will share my conclusion with you – Zapata was THE BEST! It is a ranch that is a true ranch.

- Lorraine

Ranch Vacations

Our all-inclusive ranch vacation packages include all meals, lodging, and activities on the ranch. All packages are priced per person. Taxes and gratuities are not included.

There is a 3-night minimum for ranch vacations.

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Overnight Stays

A limited number of overnight stays at the ranch are available every month. These packages include accommodations at our historic 17-bedroom Lodge, as well as breakfast and dinner, prepared daily by our on-site chefs.

No ranch activities such as horseback riding are available for these packages. Instead, use the ranch as an ideal location from which to explore the surrounding region, including the Great Sand Dunes National Park, hot springs, hiking trails, and Zapata Falls.

Please note these reservations are only available to book 30 days prior to the check-in date.

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Bison Tours

Take a tour and learn more about the Zapata Ranch bison herd. A knowledgeable staff member will guide you through the 50,000 acre portion of the ranch known as the Medano, with the aim of getting you up close to the herd of 2,000 North American plains bison.

The tour is designed to provide you with opportunities to view and photograph the bison, but, more uniquely, it is also designed to educate you about the ways in which we manage this “conservation herd.”

Bison tours are available Thursday through Sunday. Tours depart the Zapata Ranch Lodge at 10am. Advance reservations are required. Please contact us at 719.257.3043 or to book.

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Learn More about the Zapata

What Zapata Means to Me
by Jill Soukup

How a relationship with Zapata Ranch launched the artist's career as an acclaimed painter of horses.

The Bison and the Rancher
by Brandon Sickel

How ranchers and the bison they manage might save each other from extinction.

The History of Zapata Ranch
by Claudia Landreville

Ancient big game hunters, Mexican land grants, sheep ranching, and construction of the Medano Ranch.

Antler Tips
by Lindsey Davis

Rushes, sedges, robins, flickers, and mule deer on a walk through Zapata Ranch.

Our 16 All-Time Favorite Bison Works Photos

Bison Works, which takes place annually at the Medano-Zapata Ranch, is a photographer’s dream.

In Pursuit of Radical Joy
by Pam Houston

Time stopped, we say, in moments of great joy or sorrow, but don’t we really mean that a moment of time imprinted itself on us, left its mark on us.


The Zapata Ranch is located in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado, and is adjacent to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. To navigate to the ranch, use the following address.

5305 CO-150

Mosca, CO


Many Zapata guests fly into Denver (~4 hours north), Colorado Springs (~3 hours north), or Albuquerque (~4 hours south) and rent a car and drive to us. Some guests are able to get a connecting flight into Alamosa Airport (~40 minutes away). Alamosa is the only airport we offer shuttle services to for $50 each way.


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Journey of the Sandhill Cranes I

March 13 - 15, 2024
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Journey of the Sandhill Cranes II

March 15 - 17, 2024
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True West Horsemanship with Ben Longwell

April 21 - 28, 2024
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Painting Horses with Jill Soukup

May 5 - 10, 2024
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Spring Restorative Retreat

May 26 - June 2, 2024
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Women, Horses, and the West with Dr. Bonney MacDonald

June 9-16, 2024
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Exploring Creativity with Mari Andrew

June 16 - 21, 2024
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Capturing the Western Landscape with Katie Rodgers

June 23 - 28, 2024
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Writing Workshop with Pam Houston

July 7 - 14, 2024
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Pack Trip

July 21 - 28, 2024
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Poetry Retreat with Joy Sullivan

July 21 - 28, 2024
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Pack Trip

July 31 - August 7, 2024
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Pack Trip

August 11 - 18, 2024
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Foundations of Horsemanship with Cam Schryver

August 11 - 18, 2024
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Intermediate Horsemanship with Cam Schryver

August 18 - 25, 2024
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Pack Trip

August 21 - 28, 2024
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Food as a Doorway to Memory with Molly Wizenberg

August 25 - 30, 2024
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Harvest Weekend

August 30 - September 1, 2024
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Advanced Painting Horses with Jill Soukup

September 15 - 20, 2024
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Harvest Weekend

September 20 - 22, 2024
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Pack Trip

September 1 - 8, 2024
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Fall Restorative Retreat

October 2 - 6, 2024
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Equine Gestalt and Herbal Wisdom with Kelly Dukarski

October 9 - 13, 2024
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Writing Workshop with Pam Houston

October 13 - 20, 2024
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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I bring my well-behaved dog?

Unfortunately we cannot accommodate any pets. Dog boarding facilities are available nearby in Alamosa.

Why can't I book a night three months from now?

Our rooms are held for ranch vacation guests until 30 days prior to the check-in date. Overnight stay reservations are therefore only available within 30 days of your desired check-in date.

What is included in the pricing for a ranch vacation?

Our ranch vacation packages include lodging, ranch activites (such as horseback riding, guided hikes, naturalist tours, etc.), and three meals per day, beginning with dinner on your arrival day and ending with lunch on your departure day.

What is included in the overnight rate?

Overnight stays include lodging and two meals per day, beginning with dinner on your arrival day and ending with breakfast on your departure day. Lunch can be added a la carte. Ranch activities such as horseback riding are not included and cannot be added.

Can I bring my horse?

Ranch vacation guests may bring and board their horses at the ranch for $25/night. We provide an outdoor stall with dirt floor and water. We require proof of Coggins/health certificate, guests supply their own feed, must trailer their horse to the day's riding locations, and must be accompanied by staff member on all rides.

Do you accommodate allergies and food restrictions?

Absolutely! Please make sure to note any allergies or food restrictions when making your reservation.

Will my child be able to ride?

Children must be at least eight years of age to partake in rides on the ranch. We offer pony rides at the corrals for children under the age of eight. All minors (under the age of 18) must be accompanied by a parent or guardian for all activities.

Can I book a day ride at the Great Sand Dunes National Park?

Horseback riding is only available to guests staying with us on a ranch vacation package.

Is there a weight limit for horseback riding?

We cannot accomodate riders heavier than 230 lbs.

Is wi-fi available?

While wi-fi networks are available at the Lodge, due to the remoteness of the ranch, we can't guarantee good connectivity at all times. Use this as an opportunity to disconnect from the real world and fully experience all that Zapata has to offer! There is cell service throughout most of the property.

What is your cancellation policy?

If a confirmed booking is cancelled more than 30 days from the arrival date, 50% of the deposit is refundable and 45% is retained as a credit, redeemable for a future stay within two years from scheduled arrival date. The remaining 5% is retained as an administrative fee.

If a confirmed booking is cancelled within 30 days of arrival date, 100% of the deposit is forfeited and is non-refundable.

If a new government-mandated travel ban that directly affects your itinerary is put into place between the time of booking and time of stay, your full deposit will remain on file as a credit for two years.

Travel insurance is recommended in order to protect yourself from unforeseen circumstances that may interfere with your stay.

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