The 16 Best Dude Ranches in Montana

Mark Barnett
Last Updated: August 25th, 2023

Are you looking for the best dude ranches in Montana? You’re in the right spot so let’s dive in!

Does watching Yellowstone make you want to visit an authentic Montana dude ranch?  If so, you’re in luck with this post!

In the fast-paced and hectic tech-driven era, many would jump at the chance to put away all the modern sensibilities and embrace the simple life of the cowboy. Things certainly have changed a lot since their heyday, but you can still capture the charm of the old west in the dude ranches in Montana.

These places will transport you back to a more simple time, offering 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.

For many people, watching Yellowstone has given them an itch to visit an authentic Montana dude ranch?  If you’re one of these people, you’re in luck with this post!

What is a Dude Ranch?

Dude ranches are somewhat different from a regular farm or ranch. They have been part of vacations requiring a touch of the original west since the early 1900s, and horseback riding and western culture form a large part of the experience.

It’s not all horseback riding and cattle prodding though, as most dude ranches are also incredibly relaxing, if not rejuvenating experiences, for many visitors. Everything is taken care of including meals and activity arrangements as a large proportion of dude ranches tend to do all-inclusive packages.

Many dude ranches have features such as children’s activity programs, while others offer luxury facilities like spas and fine dining. And obviously, many of the ranches have an outdoor adventure theme, and there are for sure some pet-friendly dude ranch options.

The 16 Best Dude Ranches in Montana

elkhorn ranch gallatin
Image: Elkhorn Ranch Gallatin

1. Elkhorn Ranch, Gallatin Gateway

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. These cabins, built in the 1930s, are designed to bring you back to a time long since passed. Thankfully, they still boast many 21st century comforts, with modern amenities that ensure your stay will be both rustic and 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
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2. Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch, Martinsdale

bonanza creek guest ranch
Image: Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch

Away from the dizzying lights of the city and the 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, personalized 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. A visit here is one of the most personalized and authentic experiences when considering dude ranches in Montana!

Capacity – 8 to 12
Season – June to September
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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. After a long day of activities you can look forward to 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
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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 a perfect choice. The ranch, close to Yellowstone, was opened as a dude ranch in 1929.

Fine dining and gourmet chefs, a wellness center, and a 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
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5. 320 Guest Ranch, Big Sky

Located between Big Sky and Yellowstone National Park, 320 Guest Ranch honors its rich history and celebrates Montana’s pioneer spirit through lodging, food, and activities. They offer a variety of accommodations, ranging from 3-bedroom cabins (with a 10-person capacity) to its historic McGill Cabin with a cozy 2 person capacity.

320 Guess Ranch offers on-site fine dining at its McGill’s Restaurant & Saloon.  They also offer a coffee and snack cafe simply called The Cafe.

The great team at 320 also facilities on-site activities such as horseback riding, fly fishing, workshops, kids’ activities and more.

I highly recommend a visit to the 320 Guest Ranch, located in the heart of Big Sky country.

Capacity – 50+
Season – Open all year round
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6. Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky

lone mountain ranch
Image: Lone Mountain Ranch

Only 18 miles northwest 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. Summer offers activities like horseback riding, canoeing, and ax-throwing. The long summer evenings are made memorable with farm-to-table cuisine and live western music. It is one of the few dude ranches in Montana that offer activities year round!

The ranch is also known for its cuisine, with the Horn & Cantle restaurant one of the finest dining experiences in 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
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7. 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 the serene countryside away from it all.

Capacity – 46
Season – Open all year round
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8. 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
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9. 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
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10. Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch

Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch

Enjoy an outdoor Montana guest ranch vacation. Fun in a million-acre pristine wilderness north of Yellowstone Park away from the distractions of your busy life.

“All-inclusive” reasonable rates. Small guest numbers provide a family atmosphere and a stress-free relaxing week with many unique memory-making activities. Horseback riding is a mainstay. Blue ribbon fly fishing, a 6×6 jeep adventure, scenic river rafting, and many other activities can also be enjoyed while experiencing the warm western hospitality of a small dude ranch.

If you like the outdoors, you will appreciate life at Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch. It’s wild and remote! We are the last dude ranch at the end of a gravel road. Take part in activities with us and then you, whether single or with your family, will eat meals together with our family of staff and owners.

Spend a week of memory-making at Hawley Mountain. You’ll take away new experiences and long-lasting friendships. Contact us now and join us for a fun refreshing vacation.

Capacity – TBC
Season – Late May to September
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11. JJJ Wilderness Ranch, Augusta

jjj wilderness ranch
Image: Ranch Seeker

The JJJ/Triple J Wilderness Ranch is located in a region of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front between the Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. This working dude ranch in Montana overlooks the Sun River as well as the local Gibson Lake.

Stepping outdoors from this spot is also your gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. This established and family-owned Montana dude ranch provides an outlet for some fantastic outdoor exploration including trout fishing and hiking on top of horseback riding.

The ranch offers the typical Western hospitality long associated with the region and then some. Triple J is ideal for guests of any age or background seeking an authentic Montana escape. Singles, couples, and families alike can all enjoy a broad range of extra activities made accessible by the ranch with the main feature being horseback riding.

The genuine, western hospitality on offer here provides a welcome alternative to the fast-paced world of city life. The ranch usually accepts guests from early June until late September.

Capacity – 20
Season – June-September
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12. Blacktail Ranch, Wolf Creek

blacktail ranch wolf creek

If you are a fan of horses and exploration this dude ranch in Montana is for you. Blacktail Ranch has a heritage dating back to the late 1880’s when Gustav Rittel homesteaded the property. The ranch owners and everyone involved in the day-to-day operations is reportedly friendly and dedicated to making sure your stay is comfortable and enjoyable.

The ranch is popular due to its Continental Divide ride excursion accompanied by a guide who happens to be the owner’s charming and attentive grandson. The 16-mile ride climbs 3000 feet and follows the divide trail for 5 miles before descending to the valley via switchbacks.

Thankfully the horses from the ranch are experienced, strong, and sure-footed, and every last detail is covered before setting off on the ride, which is often like something never experienced before by many riders, including experienced ones.

You can expect the cuisine to be fantastic and plentiful in this is rustic, homely lodging, whether you stay in the lodge itself or in one of the available cabins. Here guests can experience impressively scenic trail riding with views in every direction.

Capacity – 15
Season – Open June-October
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13. Sweet Grass Ranch, Big Timber

sweet grass ranch

Sweet Grass Ranch is an authentic working Montana ranch offering vacation stays with horseback riding and other activities such as cattle work, fishing, and hiking trips to interested parties.

Located right at the base of the Crazy Mountain Range, the diverse terrain around this working cattle ranch is just made for exploration via horseback, as well as by many other means. With a 7-night stay at this ranch you get 6 full days of riding and there are special rates for children aged 12 and under.

Riding enthusiasts will love it as well as the amazing home-cooked food and comfortable lodgings which feature a hot tub to soak away any encroaching aches and pains from all that time in the saddle.The ranch is in a reasonably remote location guests will find it well worth the effort to get there.

Sweet Grass Ranch offers additional activities such as a multi-day cattle drive with overnight camping as well as single or multi-day trips up into the mountains.

Capacity – 25
Season – Open June-September
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14. The Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg

the ranch at rock creek

This working ranch and resort covers 6,000 acres in Montana’s Granite County. The ranch is located southeast of Missoula and is surrounded by rugged yet scenic terrain that allows guests to access Montana’s signature, wide-open spaces backed-up by rather upscale amenities.

Covering 10 square miles of rolling hay meadows and foothills complete with snow-capped peaks in the distance, this amazing location provides yet another authentic Montana ranch experience. Guests will find the Ranch at Rock Creek provides a touch of the West without comprising comfort.

Winter means snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, sleigh rides, and lots of other fun and challenging pursuits. Aside from the focus is most likely on horseback riding, hiking, cattle drives, fishing, and even a spot of yoga. There’s even indoor entertainment by way of a spa, a movie theater, and an onsite bowling alley.

Capacity – 125
Season – Open all year round
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15. The Resort at Paws Up, Greenough

the resort at paws up
Image: Ranch Seeker

The resort at Paws Up is a working cattle ranch in the western Blackfoot Valley of central western Montana covering close to 40,000 acres of amazing landscape. The ranch is just 30 minutes east of the Missoula Airport and is an ideal location from which to completely unwind.

Tranquility is the prominent feature here, aside from the views and the available activities. This ranch resort will appeal to anyone looking for an all-inclusive, ranch-style vacation. The entire resort is surrounded by unspoiled wilderness and close to the banks of the Blackfoot River. Of course you get to head on some horseback riding excursions, and guests can also try a spot of fishing in world-class fly fishing waters.

The ranch promises a commitment to providing an intimate and authentic connection with the surrounding nature of Montana, while taking great care not to skimp on luxurious comfort. Guests receive a first-class, personalized service at this ranch and the operation features 28 vacation homes and 36 luxury camping tents.

On top of that a plethora of wilderness adventures are on offer along with a range of amenities which all help to make any stay at the ranch a lasting memory. The ranch caters to every age group, and the staff reportedly caters to your every need.  Activities on offer at the resort include both easy-going and more challenging options according to how you feel.

Capacity – 275
Season – Open all year round
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16. Paradise Rest Ranch, West Yellowstone

paradise rest ranch

Parade Rest Guest Ranch is a great option for anyone wanting to stay in the Yellowstone Country area. Just 15 minutes from the West Entrance of the national park, this Montana dude ranch provides great food and horseback riding excursions.

Other activities like fly-fishing, mountain bike riding, and hiking are on offer amidst the beautiful surrounding scenery. Guests are also privy to blue-ribbon trout fishing and white-water rafting trips within the vicinity of the national park.

Paradise Rest Ranch is in fact the closest to the park out of all the guest ranches in the region and provides an all-inclusive package that includes log cabin accommodation, food and activities and excursions like horseback riding and cook-outs in the mountains.

The land around the ranch features 15 log cabins of various sizes in all, with some close to prime fly-fishing spots like Grayling Creek. Others overlook the Gallatin Mountain Range and other famous spots such as Hebgen Lake.

Capacity – 40
Season – Open May-September
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About The Author

Mark Barnett

Mark Philip is a writer and lifestyle enthusiast from the Midlands in the U.K. With a background in martial arts and fitness, Mark headed out to Bangkok, Thailand where he now lives and works. Mark has authored e-books, articles, and blogs across a wide range of topics for commercial, educational, factual, lifestyle and leisure-based purposes.

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