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.

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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 17-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.

Learn More About the Ranch


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. It drifts across the vibrant fields of purple wildflowers and through the noble cottonwood trees where magpies gossip and mourning doves welcome the day. It is in the presence of majestic bison, grazing cattle and the biggest jackrabbit I have ever seen bounding up the Great Sand Dunes. It is cast in stories of the trail and life lived in moments shared over delicious meals around a weathered picnic table looking out over a field at dusk.


What sets the riding experience at Zapata apart from virtually every other riding experience is the amount of freedom allowed to ride and enjoy the amazing landscape at their disposal. 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. Additionally, the amazing rides were made even more special by the “one on one” dialogue and educational opportunity we had with our wrangler. Not once did we feel like we were “along for the ride” or on a preset schedule.


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. You won’t find a zip line nor will you find a spa…but you will have the greatest rides everyday (except Sunday) in the most beautiful scenery you can imagine.


This was easily the highest quality riding outfit I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. The horses are well-broke and know their jobs, and the staff are great at matching horse and rider. Highlights (on top of an already BRIGHT field) include canters along the dunes, the excitement of the cattle drive, and seeing the massive herds of bison against the backdrop of the mountains. It felt straight out of the old West. The food honestly felt like a five star meal every dinner. The kind you’d pay a lot of money for in any major city. Creative!! The staff are an incredible group and go out of their way to make the vacation feel like YOURS. We had our own wrangler the whole trip, and she essentially allowed us to do whatever we felt. Itineraries are flexible, so if you feel like making a change, that’s very do-able at least the night before. I cannot thank them enough for making our stay something we will cherish forever!


Rates & Availability

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.

A group of riders trotting out of the corrals at Zapata.
A small group of Sandhill Cranes take flight on the Medano.
Two horseback riders move a group of cows and calfs with mountains in the distance.
An icy landscape on the Medano.
A drone photo of bison crossing a creek on the Medano.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

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