Explore Zapata Ranch


Ride horses with two thousand bison or in Great Sand Dunes National Park, hike the wild Sangre de Cristo Mountains, join in with the daily ranch work, and enjoy gourmet meals. All riding levels welcome.

Open March – October

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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. Guests who desire a working ranch experience are welcome alongside our wranglers and ranch staff on various ranch projects. For those seeking to just experience the ranch and its surroundings, horseback rides through the herd of 2,000 wild bison or the neighboring Great Sand Dunes National Park are favorites.

Other possible activities during your stay include whitewater rafting, rock climbing, hiking in the nearby mountains, ecological tours of the ranch, fly fishing, massages, and more.


Accommodations are in the ranch’s historic 17-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 ranch’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 made-to-order 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, the newest national park in the United States.

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, such as horseback riding, guided hiking, and naturalist tours. 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 our 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 our 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 on Thursdays and Saturdays. Tours depart the Zapata Ranch Lodge at 9am. Advance reservations are required. Please contact us at 719.257.3043 or stay@ranchlands.com to book.

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Writing Workshop with Pam Houston

July 10 - 17, 2022
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Fabric Dyeing with Textile Artist Edie Ure

July 24 - 31, 2022
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Somatic Riding with Cassandra Ogier and Silver Bramham

July 31 - August 7, 2022
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Food as a Doorway to Memory: A Writing Workshop with Molly Wizenberg

August 14 - 21, 2022
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Foundations of Horsemanship with Cam Schryver

August 28 - September 4, 2022
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Intermediate Horsemanship with Cam Schryver

September 4 - 11, 2022
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Advanced Painting Horses with Jill Soukup

September 11 - 16, 2022
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Harvest Weekend

September 16 - 18, 2022
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The Strenuous Life Retreat with Ed Roberson

September 18 - 23, 2022
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Harvest Weekend

September 23 - 25, 2022
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Writing Workshop with Pam Houston

October 9 - 16, 2022
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Equine Gestalt & Herbal Wisdom with Kelly Dukarski & Jordan Stanton

October 19 - 22, 2022
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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 three meals per day, beginning with dinner on your arrival day and ending with lunch on your departure day. Ranch activities such as horseback riding are not included and cannot be added a la carte.

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.




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