Ever been glamping before? Our family of “City Slickers” gave it a try at Goosewing Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and now we’re hooked on this adventurous, outdoorsy, and family-centric experience. Think dude ranch meets Laura Ingalls Wilder: sleeping in covered wagons, having a private chef for campfire meals, and riding with a real life cowboy. Easily one of our best family vacations of all time!
Glamping is a new word coined to show the merger of glamour and camping. Imagine this combination as chocolate and marshmallow on a graham cracker for s’mores-a perfect pairing! While glamping accommodations can vary range in (tents, cabins, yurts, treehouses, igloos), one of the newest arrivals on the glamping scene is a covered wagon village at Goosewing Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They take the best components of a dude ranch vacation and kick it up several notches as my family has experienced on two different summer vacations.
Discolsure: Thanks to Goosewing Ranch for hosting our stays. All reviews are 100% our own.
Why try a glamping vacation?
Here are the top reasons to try a glamping vacation:
1. Gets Families “Off the Grid” for a Totally Unplugged Vacation
Getting unplugged is one of the major benefits to a glamping vacation. Be forewarned: there is NO cell service at the glamping site and only recently added wifi. On our first trip, there was no Wifi, so we simply told the kids it wasn’t available on our second stay. It only added to the charm and mystique of the experience. As the parent of two teens, I welcomed the ability for myself and them to disconnect.
It’s absolutely refreshing to stay off devices. Instead of looking down at a screen, we were constantly looking around us and at each other. Forget video games and Snapchat: we had real life games like archery and skeet shooting, and chats only “snapped” fireside with s’mores or on a horse-drawn hayride.
One of our best memory was sitting in the glamping tent as a group playing “telephone” as we passed the story around. Hilarity ensued, lots of laughter, and many tall tales were shared. That NEVER would have happened had phones been pulled out.
2. Meeting New People
Glamping at Goosewing bonds families together. In our first year, our fellow glamping family hailed from England with two kids close to ours in age. We had instant camaraderie and shared trail rides, activities, and meals together.
We suggested tubing down the Gros Ventre River to our English pals, and they were totally game. It looked innocent enough and we planned well by moving our truck down the river at our exit spot from the river. Everything seemed to line up well. And then we got in that chilly water and attempted to stay together, which turned out to be an effort in futility for a while.
The hour long tubing adventure wound up being chilly and a bit bumpy but remains one of our fondest shared Goosewing memories. We had several mishaps floating down, from falling out of our tubes to brushing branches to bumping our bums on rocks in the shallow water. And yet we’ve laughed more about that chilly, wild tubing adventure that we’ve long forgotten about the bumps and bruises.
On our second trip, we bonded with our fellow glamper Connie from Minnesota and she became like Aunt Connie by the end of the vacation. Between trail rides and decorating our wrangler Wayne’s wagon with flowers (since he called my daughter Hippie Girl when she put flowers in her horse’s mane), we have so many shared memories with Connie that it’s easy to want to keep in touch with one another.
3. Glamping is a Unique and Memorable Experience
Truth: Families are all looking for sensational, unique vacations. Another truth: When I say that Goosewing glamping is a one of a kind, stand out experience, I don’t say it lightly. On this family vacation, we talked more, appreciated the grandeur and splendor of nature, and really lived in the moments.
This is what true family travel looks like, and yet it doesn’t mean that we had to compromise on quality. Frankly, the adventure and outdoors activities are what put this vacation over the top!
And being within close proximity to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks (roughly 1 hour and 2 hours respectively), two weeks could easily be filled. The glamping site had 4 covered wagons, so it will fill up fast (as will the cabins at Goosewing Ranch which total 11).
Glamping at Goosewing Ranch
Goosewing Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming was both our first dude ranch and glamping experience-way to set the bar WAY high!
I’m definitely not a camping girl, so I must say that glamping is way more my speed. Forget sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag. Hello to a cozy covered wagon with king size down comforter bed and bunk beds for the kids.
This unique outdoors experience comes with its own private chef and wrangler, and the glamping site’s location 4 miles from the main ranch makes it feel even more like stepping back in time. Horseback rides are on different trails every day, and the home-cooked meals would make cowboys’ mouths water in anticipation. The proximity to nature is unparalleled without sacrificing luxury.
Here are all the reasons why our family adored this unique dude ranch glamping experience.
1. Glamping Means Awesome Accommodations
Wagons are a throwback to a bygone era. Thank goodness I wasn’t born in the time of covered wagons and migrating West. I wouldn’t have been able to cut it. But THIS is totally my speed.
First of all, the wagon squeezes a lot in its space. There’s a king sized bed for the grownups, and bunk beds for the kids.
We and another family from England were the first to stay in the glamping wagons, which made it feel all the more special. Seriously, no one had done this before! We were embarking on brand new territory. So for those looking for something few others have done, this is the ticket!
Here a “behind the canvas” tour of our wagon to give a sense of how spacious they truly are:
My family had the most reservations about the bathroom situation. Were we sharing a communal bathroom? Was it a glorified outhouse? The answer to both of these was NO.
Surprisingly, the detached bath-cabins were spacious and reminiscent of our bathroom at home and all have a vanity, mirror, toilet, and shower. Added touches include shampoo and conditioner and white fluffy towels. And a space heater knocked back the chill in the early mornings.
Travel Tip: Roll with the punches. Two years ago, the only issue we encountered since we were the first families to stay at the glamping wagons was a glitch with the hot water. Taking a cold shower works better than coffee in the morning! After a few days, the management kindly moved us to a cabin at the ranch. I see it as win-win since we experienced both the glamping site and the Goosewing Ranch cabins.
Meanwhile, the only challenge we faced during our second stay was how many flies were around. Hardly something that can be controlled by the ranch. In other words, be open minded that even though glamping, nature and being in the wilderness can throw a few curve balls.
2. Glamping Means Our Own Wrangler
The glamping site wrangler is Wayne, and we learned very quickly that Cowboy Wayne is the real deal. I’m convinced he’s a horse whisperer. Beyond his wrangling skills, he’s a storyteller and jokester. (Cue the “horse walks into a bar and is asked why the long face” joke here). My son took to him instantly and wanted to be just like Wayne in getting the horses tacked, riding, and even his attire. He took excellent care of us, was constant entertainment, and truly wanted to make sure we had an exceptional wilderness experience.
As for my equestrian, she had a fun dynamic with him as well. One day she decorated her horse Juniper’s mane and tail with flowers. Wayne called it turning the horse into a hippie. So as our parting gift to Wayne, we drove back to the glamping site and decorated his wagon with flowers.
Honestly, all the ranch hands and staff are exceptional. But it feels right to single out Wayne because he essentially adopted our kids for the week and shared his stories and knowledge with them. Now I have a son who wants to be Wayne when he grows up.
None of our prior vacations have inspired THIS much love in my kids before. I sincerely believe that this glamping experience at Goosewing Ranch will be THE preeminent vacation my kids remember for decades to come.
3. Glamping Means Fabulous Food
At Goosewing Ranch, a full food preferences profile is taken ahead of time. My kids dislike peanuts and peanut butter because my daughter once had a peanut allergy, and my husband doesn’t eat red meat. All these preferences were taken into account when making our meals.
When glamping, guests have high expectations on food as well as accommodations. In our first trip, we were beyond impressed with Ryan, our chef extraordinaire. The setting couldn’t be more spectacular: meals are either in a tent or under the stars.
Hearty breakfasts started our days out right with eggs, bacon and sausage, pancakes, juice, and “Cowboy Coffee.” Most days, we were on our horseback rides during lunchtime, so they packed up bag lunches with enormous sandwiches made to order, chips, pudding, apple or orange, and a juice box.
The second summer, Jim was our seasoned chef, and I love how he encouraged the kids to help assist. By the end of the trip, our daughter had helped him make several dishes and took great pride in her contributions to our meals.
My favorite meals had to be the dinners: from pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and salad to trout with squash, rice, and potato salad, we dined like kings. Then again, maybe it was because we had a full day and I needed to refuel! It’s really impressive that both years, Ryan and Jim made all the meals on cast iron skillets or open grills.
Here’s a small sampler of our meals at the glamping site.
4. Glamping on a 50-Acre Playground
Goosewing Ranch may be 50 acres, but it’s also surrounded by the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Grand Teton National Park. So it’s more like 5 million acres of playground, according to Francois Corrand, the owner of Goosewing Ranch. I like that math, even if it means there is no way I will discover all the land has to offer.
Another fun way to explore the area is via UTV (utility terrain vehicle) which is provided to each wagon of glampers. We had more fun exploring the acreage and driving from the glamping site to the ranch.
5. Glamping Means Lots of Horseback Rides
Our first order of business when we arrived: being fitted for our horses. Someone knew what they were doing when they paired this Disney fan with a horse named Tiger Lily!
We did 4 hours plus rides every day. Every ride took us on different trails, so nothing was repetitive. We climbed hills, crossed rivers, and descended steep trails. I almost fell off once but somehow managed to stay on. All the while, I felt safe and secure on my horse and totally aware of my surroundings. It was glorious.
Kudos to Goosewing Ranch: since they have over 60 horses, they rotate them from week to week to give most of the horses a break. Having been to some tourist destinations where the horses seemed overworked, I found this incredibly refreshing that they take such wonderful care of the horses.
It’s best to plan this vacation for kids ages 6 and up because age restrictions for riding solo. Although younger buckaroos are welcome to do pony rides, part of the joy was our shared experiences on family trail rides. For more resources on planning a dude ranch vacation, check out the Dude Ranchers’ Association.