It really did get its name from a ranch. Steve and Gayle Henson opened a dude ranch in California in 1954, and they served a delicious dressing that Steve made up while the couple was living in Alaska.
They did a nice business at their Hidden Valley Ranch, but guests were always complimenting them for the tasty dressing. The Hensons started bottling the stuff, and the popularity grew so quickly that they had to hire a crew to help mix up each batch. Steve’s creative dressing turned out to be quite lucrative and in 1972 Clorox paid $8 million for the recipe.