We’re buckled into a beefed-up UTV with binoculars suctioned to our eyes, following bull elk before the first crack of light strobes across the short-grass prairie at Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve. The luxury resort sits on 560,000 acres of private restored land that straddles the New Mexico-Colorado border. A visit here is like exploring your own personal national park—from the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains to Pixar-perfect lakes.
“Nice rack,” our guide whispers. It’s October, just past breeding season—a.k.a “the rut.” All the bulls do is fight and fornicate in September (yes, it’s a noisy month). But now, the studs can mosey in bachelor groups without the looming threat of an antler-clashing brawl.
At sunrise, nature’s dimmer pulses amber, and the park shimmies to life. A bobcat saunters on the dirt road. Golden eagles and red-tailed hawks soar in lazy loops. Wild horses, spooked by our hard-charging side-by-sides, thunder over a ridgeline. This isn’t your typical red-blooded American safari.
Vermejo earns the distinction of being a Beyond Green property—a global portfolio of forward-thinking lodges, resorts, and hotels that exemplify sustainable tourism leadership. All uplift local communities, revitalize ecosystems, restore endangered species, and protect cultural heritage. Properties undergo a rigorous vetting process based on 54 globally recognized sustainable tourism standards that must be upheld: Once “inducted,” all properties must undergo (and pass) site inspections every two years.
At Vermejo, conservation efforts have had a domino effect. Managing wildlife populations established optimal grazing levels that let favorable grasses and trees thrive and support wildlife. Vermejo is a crucial sanctuary for the genetically unique Castle Rock bison herd that originated partially from Yellowstone National Park, which helps re-establish the region’s wild bison and protects genetic diversity. To preserve the native ecosystem, Vermejo restored the Rio Grande cutthroat trout to more than 100 miles of stream habitat and 18 lakes.
As far as accommodations go, Vermejo has a smattering of guest rooms (Turner House) and intimate historic cottages for rent (Chandler, Bartlett, Gourley, Pennzoil, Maxwell). The eco-friendly Costilla Fishing Lodge is perched in the mountains roughly 45 minutes from headquarters; available to book per room or a full buyout, this solar-powered respite offers seclusion with creature comforts like a mammoth porch out front, stone fireplace, and in-house chef. Lastly, there’s Casa Grande, a turn-of-the-century mansion full of 1920’s grandeur; book a room (from $1,400 per night/offseason) or the whole damn thing (from $15,000 per night/offseason). Find all rates and booking info here.
Riding horses through open fields, exploring turn-of-the-century charcoal kilns, and fly-fishing for trout doesn’t just quell your thirst for culture and adventure. It forges a deeper connection to what once was and what still needs protecting. And if you can do all that while staying in a turn-of-the-century mansion with a Wagyu tomahawk in your belly, all the better.
Ted Turner said it best: “When we spend time in nature, we heal ourselves. When we protect nature, we heal our planet.”Book Now
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