Tag Archives: Guest Ranch

A Perfect Escape to Montana’s Flathead Lake Lodge

There are some places that you visit that feel like a total escape from daily life. One such place: Flathead Lake Lodge.

The main lodge and gathering area for guests.

The main lodge and gathering area for guests.

A tipi in the woods at Flathead Lake Lodge.

Tipis in the woods at Flathead Lake Lodge.

Located just south of Bigfork on the east shore of Flathead Lake, this family-owned and operated guest ranch has been welcoming guests since 1945 and after a recent stay there, I completely understand how they’ve been in business for more than 70 years. Upon arrival at the lodge, I felt completely comfortable. Maybe it was the lush grounds and herd of horses that greeted our group as we pulled in or the fresh air and lakeside setting that made my heart me feel totally at home. All I know is this: I loved it.
Sidenote: Flathead Lake Lodge is not just a great getaway for adults. My friend Angie visited last summer with her family. Check out her recap here.

Upon arrival, we got outfitted with custom-shaped cowboy hats by Larry Shore from WesTrends. And I will tell you this: if you ever get the opportunity to have a hat shaped to your face—and basically made specifically for you—take it. I can’t say enough good things about how fun it was to pick out a hat and have Larry shape it just for me.

Our crew in our custom-shaped cowboy hats.

Our crew in our custom-shaped cowboy hats.

I'll give you a yee-haw.

I’ll give you a yee-haw.

After becoming properly outfitted, we were ready for a great couple of days at the ranch. On the agenda: a horse roundup, water fun, cocktail making, horseback riding, a steak cookout and s’mores by the campfire. And while we had a lot of western activities to accomplish in a short period of time, we were ready to pack in as much as we possibly could.

Here’s a look at our stay at Flathead Lake Lodge…

There's nothing quite like seeing horses run into an open meadow at full speed.

There’s nothing quite like seeing horses run into an open meadow at full speed.

This little lass was spunky.

This lass was spunky.

Horses + a lush meadow + Montana's big sky = not a bad little Monday.

Horses + a lush meadow + Montana’s big sky = not a bad little Monday.

The makings for Montana-flavored cocktails.

The makings for Montana-flavored cocktails.

Yep, those are indeed huckleberries in that drink.

Yep, that is indeed a huckleberry in that drink.

After rounding up the horses and making cocktails (rumor has it there were many tasty options to choose from), it was time to head to the lake. One of the many cool things about Flathead Lake Lodge is that it sits right on the shore of the largest freshwater lake in the West and has a variety of water-based activities, including boat cruises, sailing excursions and canoeing.

One of the (many) cool things about Flathead Lake Lodge: it has waterfront access to the largest freshwater lake in the West.

Off for a cruise around the lake.

Taking in the view.

An idyllic setting for a guest ranch. 

My (stunning) friend Kate taking in our time on the water.

My (stunning) friend Kate taking in our time on the water.

After cruising along the lake, it was time for one of the best western experiences I’ve ever had…an outdoor steak fry. The thing that’s so special about the steak fry at the lodge is that it’s held up in the mountains in a beautiful forested spot and Kevin, the lodge’s longtime general manager, cooks up steaks on an open fire.
Disclaimer: if you order below a medium, he’ll tease you for it while still making you the tastiest steak you’ll ever have.  

Our ride to the steak fry was on horseback.

Our ride to the steak fry was on horseback.

Riding through the woods.

Riding through the woods.

The steak fry setting. It's kind of perfect.

The steak fry setting. It’s kind of perfect.

Oh hey, perfect BBQ dinner.

Oh hey, perfect BBQ dinner.

Cowboy singer-songwriter Gene filled the forest with his music.

Cowboy singer-songwriter Gene filled the forest with his music.

After two fun-filled days at the ranch, we spent our last night in true Montana and Old West style…around a campfire. And to be honest, it’s one of the best nights I’ve had in a really long time.

Sitting on the dock, watching the sunset.

Sitting on the dock, watching the sunset.

Oh, hey cowboy.

Hey cowboy.

One of the places to be in Montana: around a campfire.

One of the best places to be on a cool Montana night is around a campfire.

While I’m not sure when my travels will take me to Flathead Lake Lodge again, I do know this: that place is magic.

xo,
TT

Take me for a Sleigh Ride (in Montana)

Being from the countryside of Montana, it’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of horses and now, seeing as I live in the “city,” I welcome any opportunity to take a horseback ride, wagon ride or sleigh ride. Earlier this month, I headed out to one of my favorite guest ranches (Bar W Guest Ranch near Whitefish) for a snowy sleigh ride behind Dutch and Duke, two beautiful Percheron horses.

Dutch and Duke.

Dutch and Duke.

Upon arriving at Bar W, my traveling buddies and I were greeted with hot chocolate, donuts and a cozy fire in their main lodge.

Donuts = my kind of welcome.

Donuts = my kind of welcome.

Ladies and gents, please meet the best hot chocolate I've had in a long time.

Ladies and gents, please meet the best hot chocolate I’ve had in a long time.

After fueling up my body with hot chocolate (that they let me take on the sleigh ride!), we headed outside to load up the sleigh, say hi to the boys and settle in for a cozy ride in Montana’s fresh mountain air.

Our wranglers? Two cute girls!

Our wranglers? Two cute girls!

These horses have the winter off.

These horses have the winter off.

Take me for a horse-drawn sleigh ride and I'll probably love you forever.

Take me for a horse-drawn sleigh ride and I’ll probably love you forever.

Our tree-lined path.

Our tree-lined path.

A peaceful morning at Bar W Guest Ranch.

A peaceful morning at Bar W Guest Ranch.

If you want to take a sleigh ride in Montana, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
-The sleigh rides at Bar W Guest Ranch are 45 minutes long; be sure you’re bundled up properly (long johns, cozy coat, gloves, boots, hat, etc.).
-Sleigh rides at Bar W are $55/person (kids 3 and under are free) and include hot beverages.
-If you’re visiting Western Montana during the summer months, Bar W also offers horse-drawn wagon rides, a chili dinner ride and full dinner ride. Learn more here.

xo,
TT

Playing in Montana’s Blackfoot Valley at The Resort at Paws Up

As you might remember, earlier this summer I visited Montana’s luxury ranches with a friend of mine who was coming to Big Sky Country from out of the country. We started our ranch visits at The Ranch at Rock Creek (read more about that here) and Triple Creek Ranch (check out that visit here), before venturing to our last destination in Montana’s iconic Blackfoot Valley: The Resort at Paws Up

Located about 30 minutes from Missoula, Paws Up is a luxury guest ranch that sits among 37,000 acres in Western Montana, including 7 miles of the Blackfoot River—one of the state’s premiere fly-fishing streams.

The welcoming committee.

The welcoming committee.

The largest of Montana’s guest ranches, Paws Up offers various lodging options throughout its property, including luxury homes, a ranch house, lodge and gorgeous luxury camps.
Sidenote: while Paws Up has various styles of accommodations, I wholeheartedly recommend staying in one of their luxury camps

Here’s a peek…

This is my favorite tent at Cliffside Camp.

This is my favorite tent at Cliffside Camp.

Some of the homes also have a private glamping tent.

Some of the homes, like Panfish Popper, also have a private glamping tent.

The living room in one of the wilderness estates.

The living room in one of the wilderness estates.

The resort is also home to "Spa Town." AKA the town where I'd like to spend all of my time.

The resort is also home to “Spa Town,” AKA the town where I’d like to spend all of my time.

One of the treatments tents at Spa Town. Sigh.

One of the treatments tents in Heaven…I mean Spa Town. Sigh.

Trough, the main dining location at Paws Up.

Trough, the main dining location at Paws Up.

While we were only at Paws Up for a short time, we filled our two-day stay with as much Montana fun as possible. During our time there, we saw a cattle drive, took an ATV tour, filled our tummies at a riverside chuckwagon dinner, heard cowboy poetry, met Pete + Repeat and listened to the rushing sounds of the Blackfoot River from our camp’s nightly campfire.

My favorite cow at Paws Up.

My favorite cow at Paws Up.

The view of the Blackfoot Valley from Lookout Rock.

As part of our ATV tour, we made a stop at Lookout Rock and had this view of the Blackfoot Valley.

Montana banditos.

Montana banditos ready for our ATV tour.

The view from the top of my ATV.

The view from the top of my ATV.

The chuckwagon dinner along the Blackfoot River was one of the highlights from our stay.

The chuckwagon dinner along the Blackfoot River was one of the highlights from our stay.

For some reason, food always tastes better outside.

For some reason, food always tastes better outside.

Hello, boys.

Hello, boys.

Each night at Cliffside Camp, all of the guests would gather around the campfire to make s'mores. And I loved it.

Each night at Cliffside Camp, all of the guests would gather around the campfire to make s’mores. Photo: Donnie Sexton

My favorite spot at Cliffside Camp overlooked the Blackfoot River.

My favorite spot at Cliffside Camp overlooked the Blackfoot River.

It was the perfect place to end our trip.

And just in case you’re planning a stay at The Resort at Paws Up, here’s a few things to note:
-Paws Up offers packages throughout the year, including notable events like Montana Master Chefs, Upper Crust and Cowgirls Spring Roundup.
-Paws Up has a phenomenal kids program, The Kids Corps of Discover, that’s great for various ages of children.
-Nightly rates include lodging, breakfast, lunch and dinner each day (as well as beverages), round-trip transportation to/from Missoula International Airport, on-property transportation and some recreational activities. Additional guided excursions and spa services are available at a-la-carte rates.

xo,
TT

A Chuckwagon Dinner at Montana’s Z5 Ranch

There’s a new sheriff in town. Okay, not really, but there is a new guest ranch in Western Montana (and that’s kind of like the same thing).

Last night, the folks at Z5 Ranch in Arlee had their first ever chuckwagon dinner and because I love all things ranch, Montana and—let’s be honest—food (you can read more about that here), I jumped at the opportunity to attend. I grabbed two of my best girls and we made the short drive (about 25 minutes) to the ranch from Missoula.

Upon arrival, the chaos of the day drifted away. Here’s why…

This view greeted us upon arrival.

This view greeted us upon arrival.

Yeehaw.

Yee-haw.

Z5 is located on the Flathead Indian Reservation. An added bonus: guests can stay in the tipis at the ranch.

Z5 is located on the Flathead Indian Reservation. An added bonus: guests can stay in the tipis at the ranch.

The view from the bed in the tipi.

The view from the bed in the tipi.

As part of their chuckwagon dinner event, the folks at Z5 also let you pet/visit the animals that call the ranch home. Last night’s furry guests include horses, baby chicks, rabbits, a cow that literally wandered around (she was cute) and adorable goats.

The goats and I quickly became BFFs.

The goats and I quickly became BFFs.

I may have fallen in love with this rabbit.  She reminded me of my own rabbits that I tricked my parents into getting me when I was little. Sidenote: my rabbit's names were Sally and Hot Stuff. I hope no one ever lets me name kids.

I may have fallen in love with this (super soft) rabbit. She reminded me of my own rabbits that I tricked my parents into getting me when I was little. Sidenote: my rabbit’s names were Sally and Hot Stuff. I hope no one ever lets me name kids.

Hey baby.

Hey baby.

Summer perfection.

Summer perfection.

I took advantage of the shade and tranquility by the pond.

I took advantage of the shade and tranquility by the pond.

Soon, the dinner bell rang (which I loved) and we all gathered in the barn for a dinner that was comprised of locally sourced bison steak, seasonal potatoes and a tasty peach and huckleberry crisp. After dinner we headed outside for the evening’s entertainment. And you guys, I have to tell you one thing about last night’s entertainment: it was kind of perfect.

Kyle and Zach Felsman kicked off the night with drumming and singing.

Kyle and Zach Felsman kicked off the night with drumming and singing.

This cowboy poet was, hands down, the best I've ever heard.

This cowboy poet was, hands down, the best I’ve ever heard.

Local musicians Matt and Dan (who are also in the popular Montana band Shodown) serenaded us.

Local musicians Matt and Dan (who are also in the popular Montana band Shodown) serenaded us.

The night's entertainment ended with Salish dancers.

The night’s entertainment ended with Salish dancers.

At the end of the night, I knew that I’d been part of something special. I’ve been a Montana girl my whole life, but there was something different and completely authentic in the way the stories of the evening (from the family history and being welcomed in Salish to the cowboy poetry and the American Indian dancing) came together to tell a beautiful, well-rounded story.

xo,
TT

PS: Z5 Ranch hosts chuckwagon dinners throughout the summer. For the most current schedule, be sure to visit their website.

Two Days at Montana’s Triple Creek Ranch

Truth time: some of the best meals I’ve ever had were at a guest ranch tucked into the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. The dining experience at Triple Creek Ranch was one comprised of culinary delights that you’d expect to find in a city, as opposed to the quiet mountains of Montana.

Located a short drive southwest of Darby, Triple Creek Ranch isn’t a typical ranch getaway. It’s comprised of beautiful log cabins, an outdoor pool, mountain meadows and trails that are ideal for horseback riding. Oh and in 2014 it was named the #1 hotel in the world by the readers of Travel + Leisure.

The entrance to the main lodge at Triple Creek Ranch.

The entrance to the main lodge at Triple Creek Ranch.

During the two days and nights I spent at Triple Creek Ranch, one of the elements that impressed me was how comfortable it was. Of course, you’d expect to be comfortable at any place with the word “ranch” in its name, but there was something extra special about Triple Creek Ranch. Maybe it was the elk that came to fill their tummies in the mountain meadows or the lush green landscape that seemed to surround the property no matter where I looked. Perhaps it was the extra attention to details made by their staff that had me (and my traveling partners) feel so welcome and comfortable. Or maybe it was the palate pleasing culinary delights that left me looking forward to the next meal and seeing what the chef would whip up. (Sidenote: Chef Jacob introduces a new dinner menu every night using fresh ingredients he has on hand. Um, hello deliciousness). More than likely, it was the effortless combination of all of those that left me with a big Montana crush on Triple Creek.

Welcome bags and handwritten notes greeted us in our cabin.

Welcome bags and handwritten notes greeted us in our cabin.

I LOVED the outdoor pool. I'd say it has one of the most beautiful pool settings in all of Montana.

I LOVED the outdoor pool. I’d say it has one of the most beautiful settings in all of Montana.

I spent a lot of time at this pasture. The reason: the brand new colt that made its debut two days before my arrival.

I spent a lot of time at this pasture. The reason: the brand new colt that made its debut two days before my arrival.

Hey baby.

Hey baby.

The bartender whipped up huckleberry cocktails. Rumor has it they were TASTY.

Unwinding with handmade huckleberry cocktails in the rooftop lounge. 

My favorite: the huckleberry lemonade.

My favorite: the huckleberry lemonade.

I loved my cozy room!

I loved my cozy room!

Yum.

Yum.

One of my favorite moments was at breakfast. I was trying to decide between the pancake and french toast and the waitress said "Get both!" I listened to her.

One of my favorite moments was at breakfast. I was trying to decide between the pancake and french toast and the waitress said “Get both!” I listened to her.

The ranch also offers a variety of activities both on- and off-property. My favorites included mining for sapphires and the on-ranch trail ride.

Mining for sapphires.

Mining for sapphires.

My buddy Ruger.

My buddy Ruger.

Upon our return to the cabin, we had these framed photos from our ride.

Upon our return to the cabin, we had these framed photos from our ride.

Taking in the view.

Taking in the view.

Needless to say, it was the best two days.

And if you’re planning a trip to Triple Creek Ranch, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
-The ranch is open year-round and is an adults-only getaway. All guests must be at least 16 years old to stay at the ranch.
-Throughout the year, the ranch offers signature and holiday events that include vitner, women’s adventures, fly-fishing and cowboy school getaways.
-If you’re coming to Triple Creek, be sure to spend some time in nearby Darby. I recommend a stop to see Jimmy at Double H Hat Company, check out Bandit Brewing and Old West Antiques Gallery & Candy Store.

xo,
TT

A Weekend in Montana at The Ranch at Rock Creek

Earlier this summer, one of my dear friends called and told me that he was planning a trip to Montana to visit the state’s luxury guest ranches. I (quickly) volunteered to travel with him while he was here and we soon made plans to visit The Ranch at Rock Creek

Located a short drive from Philipsburg in Montana’s Flint Creek Valley, The Ranch at Rock Creek encompasses 6,600 acres that include mountains, meadows and the blue-ribbon waters of Rock Creek. While I had been to the ranch before, this was my first time spending any amount of time there and I have to tell you one thing: I LOVED IT.

The view of the ranch.

Hello, beautiful.

From the setting to the activities and the food to hospitality, I was blown away by the beauty and attention to detail. Also, I’m fairly certain that The Ranch at Rock Creek has the nicest staff in Montana. I’m not kidding when I tell you that everyone we met was not only genuinely nice and kind, they asked (and remembered) each of our names.

One of the meadows at the ranch.

One of the meadows at the ranch.

The upstairs of the main lodge.

The upstairs of the main lodge.

Pre-breakfast in the lounge area of the main lodge. Because let's be honest, we all need a pre-breakfast treat.

Pre-breakfast in the lounge area of the main lodge. Because let’s be honest, we all need a pre-breakfast treat.

Another bonus: the activity center has rows and rows of cowboy boots and other western gear for guests to borrow.

Another bonus: the activity center has rows and rows of cowboy boots and other western gear for guests to borrow.

The bed inside the glamping cabin.

The bed inside the glamping cabin.

The best views are framed by Montana windows.

The best views are framed by Montana windows.

Our tent (Sweet Grass) had a soaking hot tub and a fire pit right outside the sitting area.

Our tent (Sweet Grass) had a soaking hot tub and a fire pit right outside the sitting area.

I'm a sucker for a soaking tub.

I’m a sucker for a soaking tub.

During our two days at The Ranch at Rock Creek, we packed in as much western fun as possible, including shooting lessons, a rodeo, fly-fishing and sitting outside our glamping cabin listening to the waters of Rock Creek rush past. We also attended a barn dance (where I sang with the band, Cold Hard Cash) and filled our tummies on tasty western BBQ.

Rodeos are my favorite.

Rodeos are my favorite.

This rodeo kicked off with the singing of the National Anthem, a tradition I will always support.

This rodeo kicked off with the singing of the National Anthem, a tradition I will always support.

Yee-haw.

Yee-haw.

Fly-fishing with Pat, the director of activities at the ranch.

Fly-fishing with Pat, the director of activities and a fishing guide, at the ranch.

We caught a ride to the barn dance in this old-fashioned stage coach.

We caught a ride to the barn dance in this old-fashioned stage coach.

This may be the prettiest barn I've ever seen.

This may be the prettiest barn I’ve ever seen.

After this, I cut a rug with that bearded cowboy.

After this dance, I cut a rug with that bearded cowboy. And he dipped me. We may be in love.

It was the perfect weekend.

And just in case you’re planning a trip to The Ranch at Rock Creek, here’s a few things to note:
-The ranch is open year-round and offers various packages throughout the year.
-A stay at the ranch is all-inclusive (lodging, meals, drinks, guided activities, etc.). This was something I really appreciated, because it meant we didn’t need to worry about taking money or credit cards around with us. Instead, we were able to just kick back and enjoy every moment.
-Plan to spend time in nearby Philipsburg and mine sapphires at Gem Mountain or The Sapphire Gallery, followed by a visit to The Sweet Palace. And if you want to meet locals, head to the Philipsburg Brewery around 5 p.m.

xo,
TT

Combining My Two Loves at Montana’s Bar W Guest Ranch

Sometimes, I’ve just got to give it to you straight.

Fact: I love a place that brings out my inner cowgirl.
Fact: I love cowboys. Always have, always will.
Fact: I love a place that combines my inner cowgirl with my love of cowboys.
Fact: The Bar W Guest Ranch combines those two loves and it may be one of the loveliest places in Montana.

Earlier this month, I headed to Bar W (located a few minutes west of Whitefish) with a group of friends who were visiting from literally all over the world. And together, we had one of the most memorable and fun days I’ve experienced in a long time.

Here’s a glimpse at our day…

The meadow at Bar W.

The meadow at Bar W.

If you can't find me, this porch is the first place you should look.

If you can’t find me, this porch is the first place you should look.

Howdy, cowboy.

Howdy, cowboy.

We loaded up and headed out for a wagon ride.

We loaded up and headed out for a wagon ride.

As part of our wagon ride, we also took a group selfie.

As part of our wagon ride, we also took a group selfie.

Dutch, Duke and Dave. One of my favorite views from our day.

Dutch, Duke and Dave. One of my favorite views from our day.

Lunch tastes better when it's served in an open meadow.

Lunch tastes better when it’s served in an open meadow.

'Just doing cowboy stuff.

‘Just doing cowboy stuff.

We also tried skeet shooting, roping and rope making.

Montana cowboy Dave showing us how it's done.

Montana cowboy Dave showing us how it’s done.

Italians can indeed rope.

Liberato was a natural at roping.

Making a rope from a branch.

Making a rope from a branch.

It was a perfect Montana day.

Your turn…What’s your perfect day?

See you on the trail,
TT