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The 8 Best Dude Ranches in Montana

A chance to put away all of your modern sensibilities and embrace the simple life of the cowboy. Things have changed a lot since their heyday, but you would hardly notice in the dude ranches in Montana. These places hold the spirit of the west; a rustic adventure of traversing the wilderness on horseback and wrangling cattle.

Visit one of Montana’s dude ranches and live life like a cowboy – with a few modern comforts of course.

1. Elkhorn Ranch, Gallatin Gateway

elkhorn ranch gallatin
Image: Elkhorn Ranch Gallatin

This traditional dude ranch has been run by families, for families, since 1922. 

Guests of all ages are welcomed to the Elkhorn Ranch. Little has changed in the 100 years since opening – the focus is still very much on family and the great outdoors. A few of the activities available include horseback riding through the wild mountain ranges of Montana, fly-fishing on blue-ribbon fishing streams, and exploring Yellowstone itself, only a mile down the road.

On the ranch, you’ll stay in a rustic log cabin. Though the cabins – largely built in the 1930s – feel part of a time long since passed, they do have many 21st century comforts. Modern bathrooms and electricity ensure that your stay will be charming and rustic, but comfortable.

The cabins, which weave between the tall trees of the National Forest, are strategically placed to afford the guests the best sense of privacy, and the most scenic views. Though the lodges are private, there’s a real sense of community at the ranch. People gather in the lodgepole dining hall for meals filled with fun and laughter.

Capacity – 40
Season – June – Mid September
Website – https://www.elkhornranchmontana.com/ 

2. Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch, Martinsdale

bonanza creek guest ranch
Image: Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch

Away from the dizzying lights of the city and never-ending bustle of modern life, the working ranch of Bonanza Creek is an escape into nature.

This ranch has the smallest capacity of any listed here. The staff use the manageable number to create bespoke, personalised experiences. Every vacation at Bonanza Creek is different, according to both the desires and riding ability of the guests. There’s no head-to-tail riding at the ranch – each trip out into the wilderness is an authentic adventure, wandering the rugged backcountry of Montana on a horse specifically chosen to suit your needs. 

It’s really the closest you can get to life as a cowboy, traversing the plains of the Old West.

Bonanza Creek offers the most authentic, hands-on ranch experience. Being a working ranch, you can help with the day-to-day chores of running the place, like cattle herding.

Capacity – 8 to 12
Season – June to September
Website – https://bonanzacreekcountry.com/ 

3. Bar W Guest Ranch, Whitefish

bar w guest ranch
Image: Bar W Guest Ranch

The picturesque backdrop of Whitefish is the setting for the Bar W Guest Ranch, which sits at the base of Spencer Mountain, framed on both sides by dense pine forest.

The spectacular Glacier National Park is only 30 miles away. 

Bar W offers the full western experience. On top of riding through thousands of acres on horseback, you can try your hand at skeet shooting, fly fishing, roping, archery, cattle drives, rodeo games, wagon rides and square dancing. Closing out the day with cookouts and campfires.

Guests are quickly made to feel like family at Bar W – friendly staff and a strong community are an essential, often understated part of the dude ranch experience. Accommodation options at the ranch include the main lodge, cabins, and glamping.

Capacity – 40
Season – Open all year round
Website – https://www.thebarw.com/ 

4. Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, Emigrant

mountain sky guest ranch
Image: Mountain Sky Guest Ranch

For those looking to combine the dude ranch experience with a little more luxury, the upscale Mountain Sky Guest Ranch is the perfect choice. The ranch, close to Yellowstone, was opened as a dude ranch in 1929.

Fine dining and gourmet chefs, a wellness center and world-class golf course are just a few examples of the extra amenities available. It’s a luxurious resort that blends the elegance of high-end accommodation with the rugged backcountry of Montana.

A visit to the ranch is an adventure for a lifetime. Go white-water rafting, cattle wrangling and tour the unmissable Yellowstone National Park during your stay. Whether you want a cowboy adventure or a stay of relaxing recuperation, the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch will suit your every need.

Capacity – 85
Season – May to October
Website – https://www.mountainsky.com/ 

5. Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky

lone mountain ranch
Image: Lone Mountain Ranch

Only 18 miles north-west of Yellowstone National Park and adjacent to the Big Sky ski resort, the Lone Mountain Ranch was made for adventure. 

In winter, you can take to the slopes on 80 miles of world-class Nordic trails, while the summer offers activities like horseback riding, canoeing and axe-throwing. The long summer evenings are made memorable with farm-to-table cuisine and live western music.

The ranch’s Horn & Cantle restaurant is one of the finest on Big Sky.

The cabins are made to feel rustic, but chic; there’s a touch of luxury to the Lone Mountain Ranch. It’s the perfect ranch for families – proven with its win of ‘Best Family Ranch’ by Top 50 Ranches.

Capacity – 105
Season – Open all year round
Website – https://lonemountainranch.com/ 

6. Triple Creek Ranch, Darby

triple creek ranch
Image: Triple Creek Ranch

The adults-only Triple Creek Ranch is a proud member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux, and an example of ‘refined rustic elegance’.

The award-winning alpine resort is located on the southern side of Trapper Peak, in the Bitterroot Mountain Range of western Montana. All of the usual western adventures are available, but what really sets Triple Creek Ranch apart is its emphasis on being the pinnacle of luxury. A world-class restaurant serving gourmet cuisine and award-winning wine, 5-star service all over the ranch, and cabins where even the smallest attention to detail is not missed.

It’s the complete package – when partnered with the lush scenery of alpine forest and rugged peaks, it makes one of the best hotels in the world.

Thanks in no small part to being adult-only, the Triple Creek Ranch is the most romantic getaway on this list; enjoy a relaxing stay with your loved one in serene countryside away from it all.

Capacity – 46
Season – Open all year round
Website – https://www.triplecreekranch.com/ 

7. Triple J Wilderness Ranch, Augusta

triple j wilderness ranch
Image: Triple J Wilderness Ranch

Triple J Wilderness is an authentic, family-run dude ranch in Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, between the Glacier National Park and Yellowstone. The ranch has an excellent kids program, wilderness packs and the option to stay during adults-only weeks. 

It’s an ideal choice for those hoping for a vacation tailored to their tastes. The smaller number of guests makes for a more intimate experience; you can create your own personal western adventure at the ranch.  

If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, you can go hiking, fly-fishing or try one of the numerous other outdoor activities on offer. For the epic horse riding adventures, the staff cater to all abilities – from the most experienced equestrian to a complete novice – and venture deep into the untouched wilderness of Montana. To add to the special experience, you are assigned the same horse for your entire stay, allowing you to bond with the animal, creating unforgettable memories together throughout your stay.

End your busy day with cookouts and campfires, complete with cowboy poetry, tall tales, singing & marshmallow roasting 

Capacity – 24
Season – June to September
Website – https://www.triplejranch.com/ 

8. Circle Bar Guest Ranch, Hobson

circle bar guest ranch
Image: Circle Bar Guest Ranch

Follow in the steps of Old West painter Charlie Russell at the historic Circle Bar Guest Ranch. 

The ranch dates back to the 1800s and sits alongside the scenic Judith River in central Montana. Horse riding is a way of life here – guests of all abilities are encouraged to explore the picturesque surroundings on horseback, including the Little Belt Mountains and Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. The UTV guided tours and fat tire E-bikes offer an alternative to riding.

The historic red barn is the center of entertainment on the ranch, hosting everything from square dancing to basketball games.

Circle Bar offers all the activities you might expect of a dude ranch, including shooting and archery. The ranch has nine historic cabins and the Ranch House for larger groups of guests.

Capacity – 40
Season – Late May to September
Website – https://www.circlebarranch.com/

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