Wide Open Spaces
Head to Cíbolo Creek Ranch, a 30,000-acre West Texas ranch where the buffalo—and elk, javelinas, and bobcats—really roam. Three restored adobe forts from the 1850s house 22 guestrooms with hacienda-style furnishings and Mexican antiques. Explore the rugged Chinati and Ciénego mountains expanse on horseback or by Humvee tour, or look for ghost town remains and Native American rock art. This part of the state has some of the darkest night skies in the contiguous United States, so snag a view through the twelve-inch Meade telescope and study vivid constellations. Tip: Birders, bring your binoculars. More than 500 species of birds have been spotted in the Big Bend region, including roadrunners and bald eagles.
Cíbolo Creek Ranch, 34 miles south of Marfa on Highway 67; 866-496-9460; cibolocreekranch.com; rooms from $250.
At 330 acres, the Inn at Dos Brisas, near Brenham, may be smaller than some of its neighboring ranches, but it’s plenty spacious to urbanites looking for a high-end country escape. A bottle of wine greets guests in one of nine accommodation options, where the plush casitas have beds with Egyptian cotton linens, L’Occitane bath products, well-stocked pantries, and French doors leading to expansive patios. Upgrade to a new 2,900-square-foot hacienda for screened-in porches and private plunge pools. Everything from fresh Hakurei turnips to lacinato kale makes its way from the ranch’s thirty-acre organic farm to its restaurant, where Raj Dixit, the executive chef, artfully pairs the fresh vegetables with local dishes like Texas Akaushi rib eye. Tip: After dinner, hit up the cigar humidor and choose from 22 types of smokes.
10000 Champion Drive; 979-277-7750; from $630/night, including breakfast and one activity per night.
Join the ranks of Lyndon B. Johnson and Princess Margaret when you book a private stay at Picosa Ranch, south of San Antonio. Old photographs in the Main House—including one of President Richard Nixon with some mariachis—speak to the property’s storied past. (The ranch was once the homestead of former Gov. John Connally.) Custom all-inclusive itineraries can include exotic animal photo safaris and kid-friendly rodeo games. Guests who like to hunt can channel their inner Teddy Roosevelt and pursue white-tailed deer, dove, and upland game like quail, chukar, and pheasant with Robert “Bubba” Ammann, the hunting manager, and his crew of personal guides. Tip: The guestrooms are stocked with Lady Primrose amenities, including keepsake crystal perfume decanters.
830-393-9262; picosaranchresort.com; starting at $9,000 per night for eighteen people, all inclusive.
As many avid hunters know, the Hill Country has a similar terrain and climate to parts of Africa where many hoof species thrive, making exotic animal breeding and hunting a viable sport. At Star S Ranch’s fifteen-square-mile property close to Kerrville, guests can buy hunts for white-tailed deer or dozens of exotic breeds, including animals like the markhor and Nubian ibex. Modeled after African hunting lodges, the main house has a huge trophy room where, among others, three leopards chase a baboon up a tree, and a Tanzanian crocodile dangles from the ceiling. Though this great outdoors is surrounded by ten-foot fences, Will Scott, the vice president of operations, said that the ranch’s size and animal variety makes it similar to some African landscapes. “We have 4,000-acre pastures where breeds intermingle,” Scott said, “and once an animal leaves the area where he was originally sighted, you may never see it again.” At night, pop open a Texas brew and toast the one that got away. Tip: Between hunts, fish for trout in the natural springs-fed James River, which runs through the property.
James River Road, Mason County; 830-285-8753; star-s-ranch.com; hunts from $2,500.
There’s a reason guests fly in from Britain and the Netherlands to holiday at Wildcatter Ranch, ninety miles northwest of Fort Worth: It’s a cowboy-hat-wearing and yee-haw-worthy adventure. With 35 horses and over twenty miles of trails, riding is the choice activity, though skeet shooting, spa treatments, and A.T.V. trips—with stops for canoeing and archery—can also be scheduled. “And I’m not opposed to free help in the barn,” Jay Brewer, the barn manager and a former bullfighter, said with a laugh. Group or private-led horseback rides take guests through the property’s 1,500 acres, where riders spot armadillos and turkeys. Guests retire to cabins with tasteful Western décor, kick off their muddy boots on the back porch, and sink into rocking chairs to watch the sunset. Tip: The Buffalo and the Butterfield Stage cabins are the best rooms to book for their log-framed or converted wagon beds.
6062 Highway 16 South, Graham, 940-549-3500; wildcatterranch.com; cabins from $129