Built in 1922, Ranch Rudolf is all about horses, hitching posts, and hay bales, with plenty of campfires and family activities to boot.
Its Western-themed main lodge features beamed, vaulted ceilings and hosts a restaurant and bar. There’s a guesthouse styled like an old bunkhouse, 16 motel units, 25 campsites, and a low-slung, wood frame building that has a general store and rental equipment for outdoor activities.
Established as a Northern Michigan guest ranch in 1922 by Chicago chef Rudolf Paziener, it was a guest ranch and retreat for Chicago businessmen and their families. He ran and owned it until his health started to fail in the 1960s.
After a string of myriad owners, the ranch was sold to horse lovers Melody and Sid Hamill in 1982.
“It fit the lifestyle we wanted and the guest ranch that we envisioned operating,” said Melody, who along with her husband grew up with horses. “That was how the ranch got its start nearly a century ago, a love of horses, and that was why we bought it.”
Still the only place in Grand Traverse County where people can rent horses on a daily basis, the Hamills offer rides up to three hours as well as children’s horse camps in the summer.
Horses aren’t the only thing going on at the ranch. Perched on the Boardman River with close to 400 feet of frontage, there are canoe, kayak and tubing rentals. It’s the only outfitter servicing the mostly uninhabited upper Boardman, something fly fishermen seek out.
With trails like Muncie Lakes Pathway, the North Country Trail and Shore-to- Shore Trail crisscrossing state land adjacent to Ranch Rudolf, it offers endless miles of hiking and riding possibilities.
There is guest access to archery equipment, volleyball, basketball, horseshoes and a large outdoor pool, which tubers can warm up in after gliding down the chilly Boardman River.
The ranch also offers hayrides and a stocked trout pond where guests can catch their evening meal.
In spite of all the activities, the Hamills say they like to keep ranch life simple and natural.
“We haven’t changed a thing since we’ve owned the ranch except for upkeep,” said Melody Hamill, whose grown children also work there.
She says keeping the past alive at the ranch has been – and will continue to be – their way of doing business.
“Rudolf wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” she said.
Ranch Rudolf is located about 13 miles southeast of Traverse City on Brown Bridge Rd. For more, visit ranchrudolf.com.