South of Traverse City, the Boardman River Valley cuts a wide swath in the landscape, and twisty roads turn from blacktop to gravel. This lush landscape is home to Ranch Rudolf (6841 Brown bridge Rd., 231-947-9529, ranchrudolf.com), a lodge, campground, canoe livery and horse ranch.
Head in to the general store to get your tickets for the trail ride (prices start at $30; rides leave about every 90 minutes, starting at 10 a.m.), then drive the dusty lane that leads to Circle H. You’ll find stables filled with more than three dozen horses.
Adults and children at least four and a half feet tall are qualified to ride; there’s also an arena where children eight and under can ride. Put your foot in the stirrup, swing up into the saddle, and hang on as you meander along behind your guide on the bumpy walk around the ranch and through the quiet woods. Your relaxing ride is capped off with a splash through the Boardman River, the slow current licking at your heels just below your horse’s flanks.
Post-ride, keep the slow pace going all day: guests are welcome to unwind on the banks of the ranch’s fishing pond. Or, rent a canoe or inner tube from the ranch for a lazy cruise on the river.
Stay the night:The 195-acre Ranch Rudolf offers overnight accommodations—motel, bunkhouse and modern campsites—as well as an on-site dining room at the ranch’s cozy lodge restaurant.