Quintessential Colorado

Devil’s Thumb Ranch, Resort & Spa provides a family-friendly winter getaway with zero chance of boredom
Guest Room Private Cabin

A mere hour and a half from Denver, adventure abounds at Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Whether your idea of a high- country getaway involves mountain biking, horseback riding or lounging around a campfire, this beautiful resort will leave you saying “wow!”

My husband, 14-year-old son and I dusted off our cowboy boots and made the easy drive from Denver to Devil’s Thumb in late November, dropping our bags in our cozy log cabin just in time to make our mid-morning fat-tire bike tour. Marie, a former professional mountain biker from Lyon, France, greeted us and sized us up on our bikes. We hit the trail fast, heading upward to find the snow in the high country. It was a challenging ride on both singletrack trails and open dirt roads, with grand views of the Continental Divide and Winter Park Resort. The downhill return ride was definitely more fun.

Activities Horseback Riding Winter 2

For both native Coloradans and visitors alike, it’s an unforgettable experience to take a horseback ride in the glistening, snowy meadows while listening to the guides weave stories about Devil’s Thumb’s extensive history in the Ranch Creek Valley.

After a quick lunch on the deck at Heck’s, where we refueled on heavenly Wagyu burgers and hearty salads, we headed out on a hike through the property with Libby as our guide. (It was supposed to be a snowshoe tour, but the warm fall prevented us from our originally scheduled activity.) We made our way back to the lodge to check in for a laser rifle biathlon, only to find out it had been cancelled due to an incoming weather front. Once back in our cabin, we fell soundly asleep in our comfy beds for an afternoon nap, waking up an hour later to a virtual winter wonderland, with soft, beautiful snow falling in every direction.

Activities Nordic Cross Country Skiing 3

With 120 kilometers of trails, it’s no wonder Devil’s Thumb was rated top cross-country ski area in North America by USA Today’s readers. Guests can take private lessons or head out on their own, exploring miles of untouched beauty on the pristine 6,500-acre property.

We took our pup Rosie for a romp in the dumping snow, and then enjoyed an exquisite dinner at The Ranch House, where we were treated to a well-seasoned, flaky halibut, the signature ancient grains vegetarian entree, and an astonishingly tender Wagyu filet mignon. (The Wagyu cattle are born and raised on the property.) A garlic black butter side added depth to an already exceptional dish.

Activities Horseback Riding Winter 2

The wranglers take enormous pride in their well-mannered horses, picking just the right one for first-time adults, hesitant children, or experienced riders. The guides take the time and care to teach each guest how to mount and control their horse on the scenic trails through the snowy valley.

Our evening wrapped up with some cutthroat Scrabble by the fireplace at Heck’s, s’mores at the outdoor fire pit, and an intimate concert by folk musician and singer-songwriter David Wilcox in the adjacent Broad Axe Barn. Wilcox sang with heartfelt emotion in a warm, James Taylor-like voice, capturing the audience with his philosophical and insightful lyrics. When I was growing up outside of Philadelphia, my dad was a concert producer and brought Wilcox to his folk music series many times, so I know his music well. It felt like coming home to hear his enchanting voice light up the rustic barn and provide smiles and laughter to so many guests.

Dining Wagyu Beef

Devil’s Thumb Ranch raises its own Wagyu herd of 150 cattle in a stress-free, natural environment and prides itself on raising its cows in a sustainable way—letting the cattle graze on local high-altitude grasses.

The following morning, we hit the extensive breakfast buffet at Heck’s before embarking on another action-packed day. My son and I headed to the stables for a snowy horseback ride, while my husband opted for a yoga class. Our guide, Stacy, paired me with Chex, a large and in-charge quarter horse who boldly passed my son and his horse before Stacy told me to tell him who was boss. I stepped it up and pulled the reigns in tight, after which Chex provided an enjoyable, sure-footed ride. It was a magnificent morning on a snowy path with my boy and another couple, who had just gotten engaged the night before.

Guest Room King Continental View

A rustic hotel room in the main lodge.

After hours on the trail, I made my way to the spa for the Ranch Creek Signature Facial. Sharon worked her magic on my face, soothing my dry skin with organic cleansers, a mask and moisturizers that calmed the redness and brought my face back to a radiant glow.

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Rebecca and her son Max on a morning horseback ride through the pristine wilderness.

As far as accommodations at Devil’s Thumb Ranch, our lodge, aptly named Cabin Creek, was cozy and well appointed, with luxurious full-size bath products in the shower, a compact but functional kitchen, and even a dog bed, homemade biscuits, bandana, and food/water bowls for Rosie. The cabins are a 15-minute walk from the main buildings, but we loved being in the forest surrounded by pine trees overlooking the creek.

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Rebecca, about to embark on a fat-tire mountain bike ride through the Rocky Mountain wilderness of Devil’s Thumb Ranch.

When we finally got in the car for our drive back to Denver, we were a bit stunned. “Wow,” my husband said. “I’m really surprised by the range of activities offered here. I had no idea.” And this, from a third-generation Coloradoan. Sure, there were a few hiccups with the Ranch being short-staffed, but the overall friendliness and warmth of the team made up for it. Overall, I think few resorts in Colorado capture the essence of our majestic state as well as Devil’s Thumb Ranch. For three decades, I have traveled around our state but had never been here until now. It was worth the wait.


Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa
3530 County Rd. 83, Tabernash, 80478 970.726.7000 devilsthumbranch.com

HISTORY Founded in 1938, the rustic property sits on 6,500 acres of pristine, untamed wilderness located 12 miles from the ski slopes of Winter Park Resort.

It was given its name by Ute and Arapahoe tribes, who, after feuding for decades, settled their differences and “buried” the devil, leaving only his thumb exposed as a reminder of the evils of war.

GETTING THERE The drive is approximately 1.5 hours from Denver; 2 hours from Boulder; 2.5 hours from Colorado Springs; and 2 hours from Denver International Airport.

LODGING Elegantly rustic lodge rooms offer TVs and DVD players; some have private patios and views of the Continental Divide. The one- to four-bedroom cabins include antiques, wood- burning fireplaces and claw- foot tubs, as well as mini- fridges and microwaves or kitchenettes. Select cabins are dog friendly.

ACTIVITIES Horseback riding, laser rifle biathlon, daily yoga, pool and hot tub, snowshoeing, hiking, ice skating, fat-tire biking, horse-drawn sleigh rides, cross-country skiing (75 miles of groomed trails), skijoring, snowcat tours, and shuttles to Winter Park Resort.

THE SPA The rustic log spa sits in a quiet corner of the property overlooking the valley. Homemade tea, infused water, and panoramic Colorado mountain views set the stage for rejuvenating massages, skin treatments and seasonal offerings.

RESTAURANTS Heck’s Tavern (lodging guests only), Ranch House Restaurant, and Hallowed Grounds Coffee Shop. Guests don’t need to leave the property for dining.

JANUARY- FEBRUARY RATES Lodge rooms start at $319, cabins at $1,489

Categories: Colorado Destinations