Zapata Ranch

The historic Zapata Ranch is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed through a one-of-a-kind partnership with the Duke and Janet Phillips family—a third generation ranching family. The ranch is a 103,000-acre bison and guest ranch located on the eastern wall of the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. It borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, the newest national park in the United States, and the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The high desert grasslands, alpine forests, wetlands, sand dunes, creeks, and lush meadows offer one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse landscapes in the nation. The ranch and surrounding valley are a wildlife mecca and are home to thousands of elk, bison, deer, coyotes, birds, and many other species.

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Location

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Nearby
Latitude: 37.6544241 Longitude: -105.583126 Elevation: 7819 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
David Leach

Lodging Style and Amenities

Each guest room is equipped with either two double beds or a single king, its own private bathroom, and free wi-fi access. The lodging is built on the original Zapata homestead with buildings that date back to the 1800s. The buildings are all restored chinked log and boast high comfort and rustic elegance. Daily maid service and laundry facilities are included.

Utilizing our own grass-fed beef and bison, along with local San Luis Valley produce, our style is down home gourmet with meals served family-style in our dining room. We use only the best ingredients and prepare them with creativity and respect. Guests are welcome to bring any alcoholic beverages to enjoy during their stay.

Award-winning chef Mike Rosenburg has run and owned several restaurants, has been the personal chef for the Carnegie family, and has catered all sizes of events. Special diets, requests, and allergies are all easily accommodated.

Breakfast Style Served

Full and Hearty Breakfast

Season Open

March–October

Ranch Activities Available

Join us at any time of the year and immerse yourself in the day-to-day life of a real, working ranch or experience the great outdoors. Each experience may be customized and trips may consist of activities from both programs.

Ranching With Nature: Move bison from one pasture into a fresh one; Help maintain irrigation flow in our pivot fields; Monitor water levels and grass growth; Participate in a traditional branding; Have one-on-one horsemanship instruction ; Fix barbed wire fence or stretch electric fence to prepare for cattle moving pastures.

Great Outdoors Experience: Ride through our wild herd of 2,500 bison that roam on 50,000 acres; Summit one of six bordering 14,000-foot peaks (trail heads just five minutes away); Take a leisurely horseback ride and picnic through the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve; Rise before dawn and photograph the sunrise over one of our lakes; Go on an intrepretive walk through our grasslands and learn about bison as a conservation species; Spend the morning hiking up to a high mountain lake and fish for the afternoon; Whitewater raft down the Arkansas out of Salida*; Flyfish on some of the nation's top water*; Ski in Colorado's best, unexplored terrain*. *These experiences incur additional cost

Rate Range

$250–$350 / night (includes gourmet breakfast, lunch, and dinner)

Driving Directions

No matter where you're traveling from, you'll easily find us only two miles South of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve on Highway 150.

From Alamosa Airport (30 minutes)

From Denver Airport (3 hours, 45 minutes)

From Albuquerque Airport (4 hours)

Eco-Friendly Notes

Conservation is an important product we produce through our ranch management practices. Life as a rancher puts us out on the land almost every day. This firsthand experience provides us with a valuable understanding, respect and knowledge of the land, livestock, and wildlife. In our ranching philosophy efforts, we combine our perspectives with ecologists, botanists, and biologists. Conservation on the ranch is achieved through a multi-dimensional partnership with several organizations in the ecological community here in the San Luis Valley, both state and federal.

Some of the ways we implement conservation goals are as follows:

  • Employ monitoring transects to analyze grazing programs and make management decisions.
  • Study bison, elk, and other plant and wildlife populations, and map findings scientifically.
  • Implement intensive time-controlled cattle grazing programs to achieve land stewardship goals that improve the soil, water table, and health of the ecosystem.

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