Three reasons to retreat to Smith Fork Ranch this summer and fall |

Three reasons to retreat to Smith Fork Ranch this summer and fall

My love for Smith Fork Ranch in Crawford, Colorado, about two hours west of Aspen, near Paonia, is no secret. A wonderful guest ranch, great for families, it is a relaxed and reviving property with one of the best dining and wine programs in the region. If you haven’t had a chance to visit owners Marley and Linda Hodgson and their family at Smith Fork Ranch in the past, they have just announced new programs that should entice everyone to visit the ranch before it closes for the season in October.

New Backcountry Tour

New this year, Smith Fork Ranch has introduced a new overnight adventure guided by Landsend Outfitters that takes guests into the heart of the Colorado wilderness. The father and son team of Tony and Darby Pendergrast know every inch of Smith Fork’s backcountry and lead guests on a two-hour ride past hidden lakes and streams and through scenic panoramas and wildlife habitats. Pack mules and horses carry guests, food and gear to the final destination, Sink Creek, a private camp located 10,000 feet above sea level, under the towering Mount Guaro.

While guests enjoy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails around the camp fire, dinner is set up in a private, candlelit tent featuring grass-fed beef from a local cattle ranch and veggies from Smith Fork Ranch’s farmstead garden. Following dinner, guests can stargaze before retiring to their safari-style, walk-in tents featuring soft mattresses and cots. The next day they are roused in the morning by the scent of breakfast cooking on an open flame and coffee brewing, before heading back down to the Ranch.

A Twist on Foraging

The Ranch’s sous chef Daryl Johnson grew up in the North Fork Valley and has been foraging for mushrooms in the area for 30 years. When conditions permit, he will take people out riding and searching for mushrooms and other local delicacies then return to the ranch to create a meal. The foraged ingredients are paired with produce from the ranch’s farmstead and nearby ranches. A similar experience, “Cocktail and Horseback Riding Experience,” is a scenic, early evening horseback ride to a hilltop overlooking the ranch and valley where cocktails and food is served to guests.

Standout Wine Program

One of the great appeals of Smith Fork Ranch is their food and wine program. The majority of produce used on the ranch comes fresh from the on-site organic garden, which produces more than 80 varieties of herbs, fruits and vegetables. Guests are encouraged to help cultivate the garden on property and help harvest fresh product for upcoming meals. In addition to produce from the ranch’s garden, the ranch maintains farm-to-table relationships with the local farming community, procuring the finest cuts of meat and supplementary vegetables and herbs from ranches, farms and orchards in Crawford, Hotchkiss and Paonia.

To complement the food, the Hodgsons have created an exemplary wine program, with a selection of more than 400 fine wines from around the world, including several varieties from the North Fork Valley’s finest wineries, the only ranch of its kind to receive this level of award. The ranch also has its own signature wine brand, created in collaboration with Alfred Eames Cellars, one the premier wine makers in the North Fork Valley.

“We spend an immense amount of time sourcing our wines from winemakers who share our philosophy,” says Marley Hodgson. “We love to source from small, family wineries where passion and handcrafted come together to produce amazing results, where the small nuances created by differing terroirs, climates and specific gastronomic histories are not lost in translation but rather shine brightly in the results.

“In a week-long stay at Smith Fork Ranch guests can try and compare pinot noir from seven different growing regions or try five different vintages of cabernet from the same winemaker and same vineyard. Our cellar is the result of our family’s true love of wine and food and importantly the joy of sourcing. We all take great pleasure in visiting wine regions around the world and forming personal relationships with some of the wonderful families who produce the wines we offer to our guests and enjoy ourselves.”

Smith Fork Ranch is open to guests from May to October; rooms start at $7,500 for a six-night all-inclusive stay in the summer, and $950 per night for a three-to-five night stay in the spring and fall.