Colorado, United States

Zapata Ranch


Hide and chic


Colorado prairie

A working ranch near Great Sand Dunes National Park, Zapata Ranch is a luxurious stay in the Colorado wilds. Its restored chinked log cabins – shaded by towering cottonwoods, with awe-inspiring prairie views – are shared by nobody ‘cept Mother Nature. Riders of all levels can enjoy riding the pasture among Zapata’s thousand-strong bison herd. For the saddle-shy, there are hiking trails aplenty, and activities such as fly-fishing and landscape painting to fill your days. Zapata’s fire-based culinary wizardry is key to its appeal; meatpits, coals and smokers are all used to showcase ranch-reared beef, locally caught fish and veg and herbs fresh from Zapata’s garden.

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Evening cocktails in the meadow


Photos Zapata Ranch facilities

Need to know




10am. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.


The Seventies-style Stewart House is named for Malcolm Stewart, a Texas oilman who bought the ranch in the 1940s. Today it’s owned by the Nature Conservancy, hence its conservation-minded approach to farming.

Hotel closed

The hotel is closed annually from November to February.

At the hotel

Riding stables, garden, lounge with free WiFi, shop, sun deck, laundry. In rooms: Los Poblanos bath products.

Our favourite rooms

All rooms have a romantic cabin feel – log-lined with beamed ceilings and all ensuite. There are three accommodation lodges, the most secluded of which is Stewart House: this charmingly retro outpost, 1970s in style, is ideal for families or large groups, with uninterrupted dune views, a kitchenette, lounge and pool table. Home to the hotel lounge, affectionately called the snug, the main lodge is handily positioned for the dining deck, too. A third building, the single-storey bunkhouse, is more luxurious than it sounds and has rooms with private entrances.


No pool, but a long hot soak in your bath tub should work wonders.


There’s no spa at the hotel but they can arrange in-room massage treatments at extra cost.

Packing tips

Zapata sends you a packing list of what to bring, from riding helmets to boots.


The Zapata team will call you two weeks ahead to discuss your personalised itinerary. The ranch shop stocks accessories made with Zapata leather, crafted by artisans. This historic homestead, also a working ranch, is not set up for wheelchair users.


With so much livestock at this working ranch, no pets are allowed. See more pet-friendly hotels in Colorado.


Welcome. An extra bed (for under 9s) or cot can be added in some rooms.

Best for

Over 10s are best placed to enjoy the adventures, horseback and otherwise, this rugged ranch affords.

Recommended rooms

Zapata’s Triple Queen is ideal for families of all sizes; Queen Doubles sleep four in two beds.


With no childcare on offer, Zapata Ranch is a place to enjoy with your children.


Under eights can enjoy a led pony ride around the corral.

Swimming pool

The ranch can provide highchairs, and depending on where you’re staying, you’ll have access to a fridge for storing milk.

Sustainability efforts

On the edge of a national park in southern Colorado, the ranch is owned by the Nature Conservancy and managed with the goal of protecting and enriching Zapata’s grasslands setting. At the ranch itself, there are no single-use plastics; guests are given water bottles to refill and lunch tins, to avoid using plastic wrap on the trail. As well as rearing beef and bison, Zapata grows organic veg and herbs in the ranch garden and the hotel sources ingredients from Valley Roots Food Hub, which only uses growers and producers who practise ethical and regenerative agricultural techniques in southern Colorado – primarily the San Luis Valley. The hotel is developing a compost system to reduce food waste, too.

Food and Drink

Photos Zapata Ranch food and drink

Top Table

The sizable deck is a sociable spot and has the best views of the chefs-cum-alchemists working their magic over the coals.

Dress Code

Nobody bats an eyelid at denim and plaid in this laid-back hotel.

Hotel restaurant

If great barbecues in the great outdoors get your coals smouldering, you’ve come to the right place. Meat features heavily – be it slow cooked underground, barbecued or smoked. But alongside dishes such as bison tenderloin, you’ll also find wild trout from the local Arkansas river, and herb-roasted carrots cooked over wood from the ranch. Veg and herbs from the garden provide the freshest of accompaniments, and all other ingredients are sourced from a regional food hub of ethical-only producers and growers. Breakfast is a hearty affair of cooked-to-order pancakes, bacon, fig and cheese toast and frittata. Dine at picnic tables, either on the cottonwood-shaded lawn or deck.

Hotel bar

You can make yourself a tea or coffee in the dining room of the main lodge any time of day. As for alcohol, you’ll have to bring your own supply of wine, beer or spirits to enjoy on the deck or in the snug.

Last orders

Breakfast is served on the deck at 8am; lunch at 12 noon and dinner at 6pm.

Room service

When hunger calls, you’ll need to head to the deck or main lodge – there’s no in-room dining at Zapata.


Photos Zapata Ranch location
Zapata Ranch
5305 CO-150
CO 81146
United States

Zapata Ranch is in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado, near Alamosa and the Great Sand Dunes National Park.


With connections to Denver International, San Luis Valley Regional Airport (Alamosa) is 35 minutes from Zapata Ranch and the hotel can arrange transfers from $50 each way.


Although once on the Rio Grande Western Railroad, Alamosa’s rail days are over.


Car hire is recommended and makes sense in this rural spot where the nearest town is half an hour away.


To cut out the domestic flight connection, you could pick up wheels at Denver International Airport, a four-hour drive from Zapata.

Worth getting out of bed for

Horse riding and playing ranch hand are the main attractions at Zapata Ranch, but there’s a wealth of adventures to be had on its doorstep. The Great Sand Dunes National Park is visible from the ranch: sandboard or climb the dunes, or seek out the shade on cool trails beside Mosca Creek. There are hiking trails from Zapata Ranch, too, and Zapata Falls are a short drive away. The hotel can arrange lasso or riding lessons for cowboys in training. More genteel pursuits on offer include painting and yoga. A half-day trip to go fly-fishing is worth getting up early for. Learn about the area’s ecology on a guided conservation tour.

Local restaurants

If you’re heading into Alamosa to stock up on cowboy threads, you could stop for coffee and donuts at Blessed Brews or Roast. Come evening, though, after a rewarding day in the great outdoors, the ethically sourced, organic fare freshly cooked at Zapata makes staying put a no-brainer.


Photos Zapata Ranch reviews

Anonymous review

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this rural hotel in Colorado and unpacked their cowboy boots and bandanas, a full account of their ranch break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here’s a quick peek inside Zapata Ranch in San Luis Valley…

Arriving at Zapata Ranch down a long driveway flanked by soaring cottonwoods and sweeping lawns, you come to a collection of chinked log cabins – whose weathered exterior and huge surrounding trees betray the age of this 19th-century working ranch. Refurbished rooms that retain character with beamed ceilings, exposed log walls and rustic soft furnishings have been upgraded with luxury touches such as cotton-soft beds and ensuites – all with baths (a real boon after hours spent on horseback). Breakfast and dinner are served on a lawn-side deck of picnic tables edged by prodigious barbecues. Days spent in the saddle exploring the plains or helping herd bison are as immersing as they are unforgettable. There are walking trails from the ranch, conservation-themed tours, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park on your doorstep. Anything from lasso lessons to painting can be arranged. Yoga and in-room massages take care of relaxation, assisted by breathtaking grassland views all the way to the mountains. 

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