Into a Billionaire’s PlaylandTed Turner is the largest private landowner in the United States, and 590,823 Vermejo Park Ranch (280,823 acres larger than Grand Teton National Park) is his biggest property. Since Turner snapped up the stunning high-country spread in 1996, biologists working for his Endangered Species Fund have overseen the restoration of Rio Grande cutthroat trout, black-footed ferrets, prairie dogs, and bison (the ranch has one of the only genetically pure bison herds in the world). Next year Turner, channeling Willy Wonka, will open his wonderland to the golden-ticketed clients of Montana-based Off the Beaten Path. "We’ve got what amounts to a private national park," says Cory Lawrence, the outfitter’s CEO. "It’s absolutely wild and serene." The lucky few (groups of ten) will mountain bike, hike, and horseback ride into the far corners of Vermejo, learning about Turner’s progressive land management tactics in short-grass prairie, ponderosa pine forest, and alpine tundra. En route, they’ll experience an American safari, scouting for brown bears, elk, deer, pronghorn, and bobcats. The ranch is equally rich in natural and cultural history: An associate of Kit Carson owned the land in the 1840s; in the 1920s a group of Hollywood actors, including Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, used it as a hunting and fishing getaway. At night, guests repair to deluxe safari camps or to Turner’s private residence turned lodge, an early 20th-century stone manse with a world-class library of Civil War literature.
Outfitter: Off the Beaten Path; offthebeatenpath.com
Length: 6 days
Departs: May, September
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