Paradise Guest Ranch offers adventures and family togetherness in a stunning outdoor setting

By Eileen Ogintz

Thanks, Iris! She is my accommodating horse who splashes through a rushing creek, up a steep rocky trail, and over fallen logs. Iris has Just welcomed me to Paradise.

We were riding in a beautiful section of the Bighorn National Forest adjacent to Paradise Guest Ranch, near the town of Buffalo in the northern Wyoming. The setting is a meadow studded with purple, white and yellow wildflowers. There is a spectacular view of the snow covered Bighorn Mountains, including Cloud Peak, at 13,171 feet the highest point in Wyoming. 

Eileen riding Iris at Paradise Guest Ranch in Wyoming
Eileen riding Iris at Paradise Guest Ranch in Wyoming

“The pay off!” says our Wrangler Tom McKelvey gesturing at the view.  “I’ve been to a lot of ranches but these are the best views,” agreed guest Robert Bobo.

Paradise Guest Ranch, sixteen miles west of Buffalo, sits at an elevation of 7,500 feet. This has been a dude ranch since 1907, its 160 acres surrounded by a million acres of the Bighorn National Forest.

“There’s plenty of places to play,” says Clay Miller, who runs the ranch with his wife Leah, who has been here since 1984.

Truly this is paradise for families and why so many return year after year. Sherilyn Rice, for one, has been coming with her family since she was a kid, and now Is here with her husband, three kids aged 20-12, her parents, siblings, and their kids—21 of them, including great grandchildren

“The kids never get tired of it,” she said. There are kids, tweens-and-teens overnights, horseback riding, and lessons, a kids rodeo, face painting, a kids talent show, special kids dinners, cowboy entertainment, and more.

The kids can horseback ride with their parents but typically prefer riding with other kids, said Clay Miller. There are many family friendships that start here as well as romances. Some college kids who started out coming with their parents now are working here. Others who worked here in college now are returning with their families, Leah Miller said.

The pool and kids activities area of Paradise Guest Ranch
The pool and kids activities area of Paradise Guest Ranch

“You see the chemistry that happens between families,” said Clay Miller.

There are 18 cabins that range from 1-4 bedrooms with big front porches, ideal for gatherings. Three meals a day are served at long tables in the lodge also conducive to family togetherness.  The special kids’ dinners a couple of times a week enable the adults to connect and the kids to make friends as well as to connect with cousins they might not see often.

Families come from around the country—this week from Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina among them. Though kids can’t ride on their own until they are six, this is one of the few ranches I know where day care is provided, even for infants. “I’ve made reservations for babies who aren’t even born yet,” said Leah Miller.

Paradise Guest Ranch owners Clay and Leah Miller
Paradise Guest Ranch owners Clay and Leah Miller

You won’t go hungry — choose bagels and lox, pancakes, or eggs any way you like them. Lunch may be themed – Greek would include chicken and beef, pita bread, hummus, Greek salad, and fresh cookies for dessert. Those heading out on all day rides or all day fishing excursions pack their lunches.

There is a weekly chuck wagon dinner (ribs and chicken), a gourmet dinner for adults while the kids are off on their overnight adventures, and a Saturday night steak dinner. Guests typically come for six nights, with adult weeks Aug. 11-Sept 15. Rates vary depending on dates starting at $2795 for adults, $2695 for kids 6-12, $1495 for kids 3-5, and $1005 for kids under two (plus gratuities).

This ranch has an extensive fly fishing program where a guide can help you hone your skills on the ranch or to a nearby canyon, river, or alpine lake. While I was riding Iris this morning, my husband Andy went fished French Creek with a ranch guide, catching-and-releasing several trout.

Andy with a trout he caught and released at Paradise Guest Ranch
Andy with a trout he caught and released at Paradise Guest Ranch

There are also a range of hikes. “I love going for a two hour walk and not seeing a single person,” said Steve Rice. “The Scenery doesn’t get old.” 

The Millers say what families want really hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years except that parents and grandparents are glad to get kids off their devices. They thank the Millers for not having Wi-Fi in the cabins, though it is available in the common areas. 

Our cozy cabin "Big Sourdough" at Paradise Guest Ranch
Our cozy cabin “Big Sourdough” at Paradise Guest Ranch

“It’s so cool to see the kids reattach to the outdoors,” Clay Miller said.

He added that a stay here can be a real confidence booster, whether kids get in front of others performing at the talent show or honing their horse skills.

That goes for adults too.  Said Cherilyn Rice: “You are able to tailor what you want to do…relax or go hard.”