By Contributing writer: Veronica Fassbender
It’s refreshing, to see a long-time Rondout Valley establishment rebranded and rejuvenated by someone with longstanding ties to it. The former Pinegrove Dude Ranch closed in 2017 with a unfortuitous end. Fortunately, a great group of people who had strong relationships (loyal guests) with the former Ranch stepped up after the doors closed to resurrect the glory days of the Ranch, and rebrand as Pine Ridge Dude Ranch.
Typically a “Dude Ranch” experience entails “urbanites,” who are not necessarily familiar with the country, venturing outdoors away from their respective cities to have a hands-on experience with nature and the great outdoors. Current owner and operator, Mike Offner, had the quintessential “Dude” experience. Having grown up in Westchester, he summered with his family at the former Pine Ridge Dude Ranch, then named Pinegrove Dude Ranch. Inspired by his vacations at the Dude Ranch, he always devoted a part of himself to working with horses. He pursued both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at SUNY New Paltz, to be close to the horses he grew up with at the Pinegrove Dude Ranch. He maintained close ties with the Dude Ranch by assisting with the barn and horses while attending college.
After the unexpected passing of the former Pinegrove Dude Ranch owner, Pinegrove’s barn manager, who happened to be Mike Offner, was able to secure the purchase of the Ranch with the assistance of two silent partners, one of whom was a former guest from the time when Offner visited the ranch during his childhood. They invested two million dollars into the renovation of the ranch, rebranded as “Pine Ridge Dude Ranch,” and saved all but four of the original horses (the other four went to happy family homes!). To Offner, and the rest of the Pine Ridge Dude Ranch family, the horses and the outdoor, “dude” experience, are the backbone of this establishment. One can see how well-cared for the horses are, and how they are essential to the dude ranch experience. It’s not every day that many of the guests get to experience fresh air in an unobtrusive manner day-to-day, Pine Ridge ensures that each guest receives a free trail ride, and enjoys an “all-inclusive” atmosphere with as few worries as possible.
Upon entering the Pine Ridge Dude Ranch, one can feel the warmth of this welcoming environment (there’s no mistaking that you’re at a dude ranch by the decor). It is also apparent that the Pine Ridge Dude Ranch has invested in their guest experience by many of the amentities featured. Almost all of the buildings have been renovated over the past two years, including guest rooms, the dining hall, the bars and nightclubs, the main lobby, and so much more.
This impressive operation involves almost 90 employees, many of whom were brought back from the previous Ranch. Additionally, for the renovations, dozens of local contractors were, and are recruited to assist with the two million dollar renovations, day to day operations supported by local suppliers, therefore continuing to benefit much of the local and surrounding communities.
The Pine Ridge Dude Ranch boasts an ideal location, and attractively draws tourists up to the Rondout Valley. Just ten minutes from Minnewaska State Park, guests can get their fill of the diverse landscapes that surround the Ranch, while having plenty of time being surrounded by horses. Its close proximity to New Paltz, Kingston, and Poughkeepsie allows guests to patronize additional tourists destinations in the Hudson Valley.
There is an extensive program of events daily at the Pine Ridge Dude Ranch, and upon check-in, a guest receives a new sheet detailing the many activities available, as well as a new sheet in the evening for the next day. The Ranch emphasizes time with the horses, but there are plenty of other great ways to be outdoors, and bond with friends and family. There is a giant bounce pillow, a rock wall, archery, paintball, a luxurious swimming pool, arcade, bars, and other group activities like scavenger hunts and horseshoe competitions.
There are also perks for locals: on the Fourth of July, Pine Ridge offers a entertainment day-pass for locals, that includes admission to the grounds, live entertainment, as well as the spectacular fireworks show. There also other exciting events coming up this summer and fall at the Pine Ridge Dude Ranch. There will be a “BBQ and Brews” event featuring Arrowood Farms and Rough Cut Breweries, a Cowboy Camp (in which children of all ages can learn about horses, their behavior, horsemanship and how to handle them, etc. in a small setting. On the anniversary weekend of the Woodstock Concert, there will be a Woodstock-themed “Peace on the Ranch” weekend, featuring a live music retro dance party. Pine Ridge Dude Ranch also caters to all families, including those with Single Parents, and will host a “Single Parents Weekend.