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Stay and Play at These Resorts

The basic idea of the group tour hasn’t changed much in decades: You round up a bunch of people, take them from place to place and stop to see the highlights as you go. But what if your last group trip was less about going places and more about doing things?

The diversity of landscapes and environments across North America means that no matter where your group goes, you’re probably not far from some great outdoor adventure. And if adventure appeals to you or your travelers, consider building a trip around it by spending some time at a resort that specializes in outdoor activity.

Around the country, numerous hotels and resorts have become hubs for outdoor exploration. And it’s not just ski resorts; these properties specialize in everything from white-water rafting to horseback riding, kayaking, zip lining and archery.

Outdoor adventure resorts come in a variety of sizes and configurations and span the price spectrum from homegrown to highbrow. If you want to offer your travelers experiences they wouldn’t get on a typical group tour, consider taking them for a long weekend at one of these properties.

Ranch at Rock Creek

Phillipsburg, Montana

In the western part of the state at the base of the Sapphire Mountains, the Ranch at Rock Creek exists to make travelers’ Montana dreams come true.

“Outdoor adventure is what we’re all about,” said Kasey Denton, the ranch’s director of group sales. “You come to Montana for outdoor adventure, so we package all of our activities in an all-inclusive program.”

Denton said the ranch’s owner searched for about 20 years to find just the right property and finally settled on a tract with more than four miles of creek running through it. As a result, groups can take part in a variety of horseback activities, learn to fish for trout, take guided wildlife hikes or traverse the on-site high-ropes course.

Horseback riding is one of the key components of most group visits.

“It’s very customized,” Denton said. “If you’re part of a group, you don’t ride with other guests that aren’t part of your group. We try to facilitate as much bonding as possible. We have 70 to 80 horses at the ranch at any time, so there’s a horse here that can be matched to any person. We can do a flat ride on the banks of Rock Creek or climb up to an area called Paradise on a beautiful vista for views overlooking the ranch.”

The resort offers a number of shooting activities, including trap and skeet shooting on a private course, as well as bird hunting during legal season. All the gear for any activity, from horseback riding to fly-fishing and shooting, is included in the price of guests’ stays.

The ranch’s accommodations run the gamut from rooms attached to the main lodge to multiple-bedroom cabins; a barn converted to a guest house; and “canvas cabins,” which are permanent tents with en suite baths that give visitors a glamping experience.

Meals and drinks are included for all visitors to the Ranch at Rock Creek. Breakfast and lunch take place in two different on-site dining rooms throughout the day, and dinners are hosted in a variety of interesting locations around the ranch.

“One night we might have a Montana barbecue in a very casual setting; then the next day, we might have a Chef’s Grill somewhere else, with the chefs preparing food and talking to the guests.”

Red Mountain Resort

Ivins, Utah

Visitors to Zion National Park get to admire remarkable desert rock formations but are often surrounded by throngs of other travelers, especially during the busy summer season. But at Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah, about an hour from the main park entrance, guests can soak in a similar landscape without the crowds.

“We’re situated on 55 acres of incredible landscape that really invites and intrigues you to get out and explore,” said Tracey Welch, the resort’s general manager. “It’s beautiful, striated red sandstone. We’re surrounded by towering cliffs of rock, 1,500 feet or higher. It’s craggy and jagged, and depending on the light, the colors in the landscape all look so different.

There are a variety of activity options available at Red Mountain Resort, but the main emphasis is on hiking. Hikes go out with groups of 10 guests accompanied by two guides, so visitors get intimate and informative experiences with the landscape.

The resort offers hiking experiences for three different activity levels. The Explorer level takes guests out on an easy walk through trails in Snow Canyon State Park, and the Challenge level is a longer hike that covers three to four miles and a greater change in elevation. The most strenuous experience, the Endurance hike, travels up to eight miles in two and a half hours and takes participants into undisturbed natural areas.

After a morning hike, guests often come back for lunch and then enjoy a yoga session or a fitness class in the afternoon. The resort can also work with outfitters and partners in the area to offer canyoneering, rock climbing, rappelling and horseback-riding tours in the nearby parks.

Accommodations at the resort include traditional lodge-style hotel rooms as well as 24 two-bedroom luxury villas with fireplaces and balconies. Groups can choose from fully inclusive meal packages or a la carte plans. The resort staff can also arrange culinary experiences such as chili cook-offs.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.