If you’re looking for the quintessential dude ranch experience, make your way to Wolf, Wyoming. That’s where you’ll find Eatons’ Ranch – a place stuck in time, in the very best way.
Opened in 1879, Eatons’ Ranch is now on its fifth generation of ownership. Located on the eastern slopes of the Bighorn Mountains, the ranch prides itself on being the first dude ranch in the country, providing guests the opportunity to experience the intrigue of the cowboy way of life for themselves. Catering to guests for nearly 140 years, Eatons’ Ranch sets the bar for true western hospitality.
“We have had seven generations in one family come here,” boasts Frank Eaton, retired general manager. “We’ve been having people come for generations. Guests here become part of the family,” Jeff Way adds. Way is the current general manager and the 5th generation of Eaton ownership. He didn’t always intend to run the ranch. He dabbled in a few careers, but it didn’t take long to return to his roots. “I chose a lifestyle and a way of life over a larger paycheck,” he says.
While many family members are actively involved in the ranch operations, not everyone at Eatons’ was born into this lifestyle. Kristin Dwyer, a wrangler at Eatons’ was not born into the ranch. In fact, she wasn’t even born in the west, but you’d have a hard time convincing her to leave.
“I lived in the Boston area and I knew I wanted to go on an adventure, and there’s no better place for an adventure than the west,” she shares with a smile. Dwyer spends her days taking guests out on the trails and caring for the ranch’s 200+ horses. “I wake up every day and I get to do what I love… It doesn’t feel like work to me,” she chimes. It didn’t take long for her to decide that this place is something special. “Wyoming is not only stunningly beautiful but also the people here are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
Dwyer’s experience is not unique when it comes to Eatons’ history. Many friends, family, locals and adventurous “outsiders” have found themselves at Eatons’ as either guests or staff, and have formed a genuine connection and love for the ranch.
If an authentic western experience is on your itinerary, Eaton’s is your place. For the ultimate insider’s experience, we suggest requesting a cabin along Wolf Creek, trying your hand at fly fishing, taking a hike into the Big Horn Mountains, partaking in the Friday night dance at Howard Hall, and waking up early to watch the wranglers bring the horses in.
Ready to try your hand at ranch life? Plan your stay at Eatons’ Ranch and become part of the family, or check out one of Wyoming’s other traditional ranches or resort dude ranches. Once you’re in Wyoming, be sure to share your own story with the hashtag #ThatsWY.