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Platte River Fort
Photo courtesy Platte River Fort

Relish Cowboy Culture at Platte River Fort

This northern Colorado location offers unique western experiences for families.

Have you ever gone on a hayride through a pasture of Texas Longhorn cattle… or slept in a real covered wagon? Dozens of unique Colorado experiences await families at Platte River Fort, where director of business operations Erin Johnson says, “We offer something no other place in northern Colorado offers.”

The fort was built in 2001, as a replica of historic Bent’s Fort in La Junta, where Colorado’s early settlers traded with Plains Indians and trappers. Standing in the courtyard at Platte River Fort, between stockade walls, visitors are immersed in pioneer history as they explore ground-level chambers: a fur room, a blacksmithing station, and barracks-style bunks, the latter of which offer a lodging alternative to family-friendly suites. The accommodations are rustic enough to feel authentic, but Platte River Fort delivers modern comforts, too, including clean showers and a state-of-the-art dining space outfitted with a gourmet chef’s kitchen.

After getting up close and personal with dozens of Longhorn cattle on a hayride led by a real cowboy, my children and I explored the 235-acre property by foot. Hiking on designated trails by the riverbed, we passed a handful of yurts that were recently added for “glampers,” as well as a covered wagon with beds that sleep up to four.

While roaming the grounds, we watched guests with older kids tube down a calm, 1.5-mile section of the South Platte River. “People can get into the river and swim,” says Johnson, adding that dogs are welcome to camp with their families. The river is also a great spot for birding, so bring binoculars and keep an eye out for bald eagles, great blue heron, sandhill cranes, and hawks.

Back at the fort, we fed a small pack of alpacas that will be joined, this summer, by miniature ponies and donkeys in a large-scale petting zoo. There’s also a bull available for viewing, but definitely not touching.

“Early summer is a fun time for animal lovers to visit, because our Longhorns have just had their babies,” Johnson explains, noting that there are already eight calves in the pasture.

My kids learned to lasso when we practiced roping a plastic steer (I failed miserably), then we all tried archery before tossing horseshoes on the front lawn, where guests can also play badminton, croquet, volleyball, ladder golf, and bocce ball.

All lodging guests get a continental breakfast during their visit; for lunch and dinner, guests are invited to cook their own meals in the kitchen, or venture a few miles northwest into Old Town Greeley, home to Stuft, a burger bar, and WeldWerks Brewing Co. Nearby, the Colorado Model Railroad Museum is a worthwhile stop for train lovers, and history buffs will love Centennial Village Museum, a living history experience featuring more than 35 historical buildings, costumed interpreters, and heritage farm animals.

After dinner, s’mores are served nightly at Platte River Fort, around the fire pit in the courtyard. The best way to end the day is cuddled up with family in the barn, watching a movie projected onto a big screen, hands still sticky from those melty s’mores marshmallows.

Check it Out:
22999 U.S. Highway 34, Greeley
Need to Know:
Overnight reservations are required when visiting the Fort.
Family-friendly suites start at $179 per night; prices include continental breakfast and most activities.
Insider Secret:
Traveling with a herd? Consider booking an all-inclusive Overnight Family Retreat Package, starting at $2,700 per night for groups of 12 or fewer.

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