Zapata Ranch


  • Bison at Zapata ranch by Steve Weaver

working Ranch

The Zapata Ranch is a Nature Conservancy Preserve and is run to sustain the landscape's bio-diversity and Western ranching Heritage.

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The Zapata Ranch is unique in that they run cattle, horses and bison. The property is a 103,000-acre Working Guest ranch located on the eastern side of the San Luis Valley of Central Southern Colorado where it borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Much of the ranch activity is what we would term Organic and Sustainable to ensure the land is cared for and the cattle and Bison live as natural a life as possible.

Small numbers of guests may visit year round to take part in the seasonal operations. The Zapata Ranch guest season runs from March through October. For corporate and group retreats, the ranch offers year round access to its educational centre and lodge facilities. Special weeks of branding, Women's Week with literature, overnight pack trip and Yoga retreats.

The lodge at the Zapata Ranch is located within a beautiful stand of cottonwoods and the surrounding buildings are part of an original homestead built in the late 1800's which have since been renovated. Each room features it's own private bathroom and some have a private outside entrance.

A working ranch with two separate herds, the operations will be seasonal for cattle and bison. The cattle herd consists of yearlings and mother cows that graze on native rangeland.

Cows begin calving in early April and usually finish by the end of May. Branding takes place in May and June. In the autumn, cattle are brought into the ranch's corrals and checked for pregnancy and the calves are weaned.  The cattle are used as a tool in the ranch's conservation efforts by implementing prescriptive grazing, so moving cattle happens all the time.

The Bison herd numbers some 2000 head and they are left to live their lives in a natural state. Their pasture measures some 50,000 acres. They are gathered up in November, tagged and innoculated, some are sold for meat or on to other herds.

Bison were once hunted almost to extinction but thanks to the efforts of numerouns concerned citizens, the bison were protected on private and federal lands. Several small herds formed the genetic basis for the Bison that exist and are thriving today. As a result of these efforts and careful management, Bison numbers have rebounded in recent times and nearly 500,000 are in existence today. 5000 of these magnificent creatures may be found in Yellowstome Park in Wyoming !

Horseback activities can include working and moving cattle, exploring the surrounding San Luis Valley, venturing into the adjacent Great Sand Dunes National Park or participating in one of their specially organized overnight pack trips into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There are also Horsemanship weeks and also weeks in the Spring for calving and branding.

The horse herd, averaging around 60 head, meet all abilities ranging from experienced to beginner riders. They work closely with each horse to train them for working livestock and eventually use the majority of the herd in their autumn bison gather.

Please remember, guests are also invited to ride through their herd of 2,000 wild bison. The Zapata welcomes guests of all experience levels and will take time to provide education opportunities on riding and about the ranch operation.

As a genuine Working Ranch, the Zapata will not have all the activities that a Dude ranch has on offer. Activities include interpretive nature hikes, fly-fishing in local streams, bird watching, wildlife watching, geology tours and more.  Alternatively for those seeking maximum relaxation, massages and yoga sessions are available throughout the week but these are an additional cost.

Zapata Ranch also offer special themed weeks, including horsemanship clinics, photography workshops, cattle branding experiences, and food-themed weeks.

There are some 7 speciality weeks that run from June to the end of September. There are also guided outings, half-day or whole day, your preference and these are offered at no additional cost. These tours are a great way to learn about the San Luis Valley and local ecology.

While staying at the ranch, guests will learn how Zapata and Chico Basin are operated, the land and cattle management philosophy and the natural surroundings that make this region of Colorado so spectacular.

To round off each exciting day, you are invited to join other guests and staff to a gourmet dinner.

Eco friendly ranch at Zapata Ranch
  • Eco friendly ranch at Zapata Ranch
  • Buffalo at Zapata Ranch Credit Ronnie and Ciska Holtslag
  • Accommodation at Zapata Eco Friendly Ranch in Colorado (Credit Duke Phillips)
  • Credit Grace Phillips - Horses Colorado
  • Zapata Ranch cattle drive (credit Duke Phillips)
  • Panorama bison
  • Zapata
  • Zapata Ranch with Cattle and Bison by American Round-Up


We tailor make all our holidays to suit you. We include the flights, hotels, ranch stay, car hire, transfer arrangements where we can and anything else you may require.  Let us put your perfect ranch holiday together - give us call on 01798 865 946 or send us an email from the below link - 


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Have a question about this ranch? Give us a call on 01798 865 946


Tell Us What You Think

Thank you for recommending Zapata. It was a superb experience. The riding was exciting and varied, the crew couldn't have been more obliging, nothing seemed too much trouble. Accommodation was very good, the food was exceptional!!! I will certainly be back at Zapata next year.

Penny Croft