Published in the Summer 2019 issue of Aspen Sojourner
Judging by the number of outsize spreads around the Roaring Fork Valley, it’s hard to argue with the many Aspenites who may claim to have found their perfect version of home on the range. That is, until they discover the Magee Homestead, an adults-only luxury resort that opened in 2016 in Wyoming’s sleepy southeast corner, part of a 30,000-acre ranch near the hot springs town of Saratoga.
I contemplate this from a fur-covered corner of Magee’s main lodge while sipping green juice—made fresh daily, thanks to the resort’s newest addition, the Farm, which encompasses a massive greenhouse along with a brewery, distillery, creamery, and more that are set to open this summer. My plush alcove (and the juice) is just one of the many finer touches that typically leave visitors dubious of the fact that they’re staying at an actual working ranch. Moreover, Magee, a spinoff of the larger Brush Creek Ranch resort, was named one of the world’s 58 most luxurious hotels of 2018 by Forbes.
The homestead is, indeed, part of a real ranch, though even the cattle are exclusive—a herd of prized Akaushi, a boutique breed of Wagyu. Cowboy-chic guest cabins complete with nightly views of the Milky Way under clear skies—plus, a breezy pool house, grotto, and spa—make up some of the many other five-star details of the 27-guest resort. And then there’s the food—ranch-raised (of course) and grown on-site, as well as impeccably plated and served alongside an impressive array of wine and cocktails.
Magee’s true magic, though, shines through in the activities, which include everything from guided horseback riding and cattle drives to fly-fishing, archery, and outdoor yoga. They’re scheduled daily by a flannel-clad Magee Homestead host, one of whom gently reminds me of my upcoming morning horseback ride while I take in the rolling scenery after breakfast. I can’t help but think the resort is like summer camp—only with bottles of Bordeaux passed around the outdoor firepit each night instead of s’mores.
A few hours later, my personal wrangler for the day, Luke, and I are trotting across a sage-covered expanse at the outer edge of the ranch. “You ready to take it up to a lope?” he calls over his shoulder. “Let’s do it,” I shout back. We take off across the ridge, a streak of dust kicking up behind us, and splash across a creek before slowing to a walk near a strip of weathered fencing. Some wild horses graze just up the hill from where we’re standing, and they have a foal with them that Luke guesses is just a few days old. They start to gallop toward the horizon where it meets the snowcapped peaks of the Medicine Bow National Forest, and we take it as our cue to head back to the ranch.
After all, I have a massage scheduled to nurse the ache in my shoulder from yesterday’s fly-fishing excursion on the North Platte River, and then a five-course meal will await me at the lodge. (Chef de Cuisine AJ Buchanio had mentioned something about 72-hour, bourbon-braised Akaushi brisket when I saw him last.) We’re about halfway back when I spot my cabin’s crimson-colored roof, and a wave of heartache washes over me. That’s the thing about finding your home-away-from-home on the range—knowing that at some point, you’ll have to leave it.
From Aspen, the fastest route to Magee Homestead is about a 5-hour drive, much of it via winding, rolling two-way roads. If you’d prefer to fly, United flies from Aspen to Laramie (with a stopover in Denver), about 66 miles east of the ranch. Those with their own set of wings can fly into Shively Field, a private airport just 11 miles from the ranch.
When to go
The ranch is open from May 24 through October 12 for the 2019 season. For an experience that’s beyond stellar, opt for a stay during one of the winemaker or guest chef weekends (winemaker Jack Galante of California’s Galante Vineyards, July 11–13; winemaker Jesse Katz of Aperture Cellars and Devil Proof Vineyards, July 25–27; winemaker Alex Gambal, Aug 15–17; Chef Justin Cogley of L’Auberge Carmel, Sept 26–28).
Where to stop in Saratoga
If you’re looking to leave the comforts of the ranch for an afternoon, take a dip at the local hot springs 10 miles away; Saratoga’s Hobo Hot Pool is free to the public, with two different temperatures to choose between.