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Review: Cherokee Park Colorado Dude Ranch


By Julie Bielenberg

It’s always the simplest and most basic of things that you remember, and usually, the first time you attempt something. Case in point—square dancing. Taught all over the world, you would be surprised how many folks have never given it a go. Square Dancing’s roots originate in 17th Century Europe, but the cowboy take over of the genre really took hold as people began to romanticize the West. Nowadays, most people associate square dancing with ranch activity.

I think my husband of a decade was quite surprised to learn that not only did I understand the calls, but square dancing was a required unit in physical education until I graduated from my primary years. And, I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, so I suppose it’s easy to understand why my unbridled talent of the grand square would be of shock. With a nervous and embarrassed husband, and Hank and Dora in tow, we were now half of Square 4.

Cherokee Park Ranch’s next generation, Townsend, and his wife Caree the Ranch Managers, alongside Townsend’s mom and co-owner Christine Prince (co-owner and husband Dickey was away in Wyoming) began shuffling their feet immediately.  They were the perfect juxtaposition of Western Charm and patience as they partnered with my 5-year-old daughter and other guests. We danced for over two hours on a warm and breezy June night. The other guests alongside the staff—dressed in their best cowgirl & boy and ranching clothes—hooted, hollered and trotted like the horses they ride so well to the calls of Roger Schappell, who has been calling the square dancing at Cherokee Park Ranch for over 30 years

Sweat beads were pouring down the face of guests as they refused to be corralled into bed before some of the most classic and complicated dances wound down the evening. Many ranches throughout the Colorado Dude Ranch Association offer square dancing evenings.

“Horseback riding is, typically, what brings most folks to a dude ranch, but there are so many exciting activities to get involved in while vacationing at one, it’s always interesting to see what people fall in love with on the ranch—river rafting, skeet shooting, nature walks, mountain hikes, fishing, team penning, fly fishing instruction, hay rides, art classes, horsemanship classes, etc. There is something for every age member of the family, ” explains Christine Prince. “And for those who just want to experience this part of the country with no humidity, curl up on your porch swing with a great novel.”

Happy Tails AND Adventure!

Julie Bielenberg is a Denver-based writer. She contributes over 50 stories per year to various outlets including: AAA, Cowboys & Indians, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles, The MotherList, Mountain Magazine, Mile High Mamas, Colorado & Mountain Meetings + Events, and many more. She is the State’s #1 agritourism writer, covering more ground and events and publishing in more outlets than any other Coloradan. She travels in search of fields, farms, families and more. Sometimes . . . she finds herself in often uncovered, or understated locales. Follow her at slowandgo.org for her travels and adventures and on instagram and facebook @slowandgotraveler.

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