It’s no secret that Montana is having a moment. Big Sky Country was already on the rise thanks to celebrities like Ben Affleck, Tom Brady, and—yes—the entire Kardashian/Jenner clan, but post-pandemic with many an American sticking a little closer to home it makes sense Montana is topping everyone’s travel bucket list. The draw, in a word? Space. Plus epic National Parks, the Rocky Mountains, wellness spas, and some of the most sought-after luxury ranches in the country. Here are a few of our favorite luxury ranches in Montana for that quintessential dude ranch experience.
The Resort at Paws Up, Greenough
Calling a 37,000-acre working cattle ranch just outside Missoula home, The Resort at Paws Up is like staying in your own private national wilderness park. Featuring over 100 miles of breathtaking trails and 10 miles of gushing Blackfoot River, this is scenic natural beauty straight out of a movie. Unwind amid unspoiled nature in rustic-luxe accommodations – there are meadow homes, big timber homes, wilderness estates, designer treehouses on stilts, and safari-style tents if glamping is your thing. The stunning ranch resort also has a rich culinary offering from fine dining that draws on agriculture from the west to casual camp dining and even a Chuck Wagon Dude Ranch Experience where you will take a horse-drawn wagon to the edge of the river to feast on campfire chicken and prime rib.
Must-do experiences: The ranch has endless activities for outdoor lovers from fly fishing to horseback riding, hiking, and lake and trail adventures, but for those that want to truly unplug, a ridiculously unique experience awaits at Spa Town. Nestled at the edge of a meadow, among soaring pines and a babbling brook is a colony of white tents along a wooden boardwalk where you can indulge in rejuvenating treatments.
The Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg
Named the first 5-Star dude ranch, The Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg is nestled in one of Montana’s most pristine valleys. Opened in 2010, by hedge fund investor Jim Manley on the site of a working cattle ranch situated on a historic silver-mining claim, guests stay on an authentic 19th-century homestead. As for your digs, they are all one of a kind from one-bedroom suites to five-bedroom homes, there’s granite lodge suites, a converted historic harn and canvas cabins for glamping. There is also an on-site luxury spa and experiential dining from ranch favorites in the buckle bar to breakfast with cowboys on the valley floor to a rodeo barbeque on the lawn.
Must-do experience: The undoubted highlight is the rodeo. You can also learn to fly fish on a blue ribbon trout stream, travel by horseback alongside ranches to see awe-inspiring views from the top of the world and even pan for sapphires like miners at the base of Sapphire Mountain.
Triple Creek Ranch, Missoula
A secluded forested mountain retreat set amid the towering pines on the southern side of Trapper Peak in the breathtaking Bitterroot Mountain Range of the Montana Rockies, Triple Creek Ranch, Missoula is an intimate luxury adults-only escape. As you’d expect, it’s renowned for the three creeks that flow throughout the property which serve as a huge draw for fly fishing (the owner leads competitions) and provide a soothing soundtrack. Stay in luxury log ranch cabins and splendid ranch homes with easy access to the main lodge, where you can enjoy a world-class restaurant and award-winning wine cellar. There’s also a gorgeous outdoor pool and spa focusing on mountain wellness.
Must-do experiences: Attend a fly casting clinic, learn frontier skills, experience a cattle drive, go hiking, mountain bike riding, or enjoy a scenic float
Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky
Spanning a massive 160 acres, just 18 miles from the northwest border of Yellowstone National Park, the spectacular Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky has been a symbol of the American West for over 100 years. The perfect destination to tour Yellowstone and the Northern Rockies, the homestead has a variety of authentic log cabins, which feature front porches with rocking chairs, claw tubs and wood stoves. Do yourself a favor and book Doug Fir cabin, as it’s situated high above the main homestead so has the most epic views. A great year-round vacation, in winter ski 80 miles of Nordic trails and in summer hike 53 of them. It’s also all about the gastronomy here, the signature restaurant focus on locally sourced, farm-to-table menus that reflect their true Montana heritage.
Must-do experience: There are all of the authentic Montana outdoor adventures; fly fishing, horseback riding, archery, axe throwing, but for our money, you can’t beat a sleigh ride by draft horse to an oil-lit cabin for an unforgettable dinner straight out of a Western movie.
Montage Big Sky
Montage Big Sky was the first ultra-luxury five-star resort in the state of Montana. Set on more than 3,530 acres, if you’re looking for more of a stylish hotel-style mountain escape, this is the spot for you. Home to over 40-miles worth of breathtaking natural scenery, including the Spanish Peaks and Yellowstone National Park, the resort has luxurious guest rooms, suites, as well as 2 – 6 bedroom residences and a gorgeous main lodge-style lounge where you can cozy up by the fire and enjoy epic mountain views. During the warmer months, guests have full access to the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club with ski-in, ski-out access.
Must-do experiences: Outdoor adventurers will love to hike and bike the mountains, while golf enthusiasts can try a round at the 8-hold golf course where the views of the surrounding mountainscape are beyond.
Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, Emigrant
Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, Emigrant is an 8,000-acre dude ranch with 130 horses, hiking and horseback trails, and easy access to Yellowstone National Park. The luxury guest cabins dating back to the ranch’s inception in the 1920s have all been restored and feature restored wood, stone fireplaces, and waterfall showerheads. You can choose from one-, two-, or three-bedroom units, depending on your party size. With modern amenities, this is the ranch to stay at if you want to feel as though you’re getting the full rustic experience, with wooden furniture, quilted bedspreads, and leather seating.
Must-do experiences: A true horse-loving cowboy experience awaits with guided trail rides, lessons, and “meal rides” where you can enjoy a dining experience that includes a trip to a historic location on the outskirts of the ranch property via horseback, on foot, or by shuttle. What awaits is an unforgettable experience that includes food cooked over a wood-burning fireplace, live music, hayrides, and games.
Flathead Lake Lodge, Bigfork
An all-inclusive ranch, Flathead Lake Lodge, considered one of Montana’s top dude ranches, has been run by the same family for three generations and counting. Guests have the option to either stay in the main lodge, sharing a central lobby with other guests or in the more private standalone cabin, though they all share the same rustic appeal. When you’re not getting cozy on your leather sofa in front of the fire, covered by a traditional-style quilt, there are plenty of ranching experiences for both private scheduling and group participation like weekly steak fries, which is a traditional Montana bonfire and cookout; sailing on Flathead Lake in Bigfork, and hikes to the elk preserve to view the wildlife up close and personally.
Must-do experiences: Explore the countryside on horseback or hop on a sea-plane and view it all from above. With either a pre-planned or bespoke itinerary, you can hop on a plane from the Flathead Lake Lodge dock and sail high above Flathead Valley to see it all from a new perspective.
320 Guest Ranch, Big Sky
The perfect ranch for the foodies, 320 Guest Ranch, Big Sky has 87 luxury log cabins that range from cozy one beds to expansive three beds. Inside you’ll find exposed beams and a fully-restored wood construction; full kitchens (though dining on the property is a must at some point during your stay); and a rustic decor that includes traditional wood furniture, and large glass windows that offer an unbeatable view. On the culinary front, there is a game-centric menu at McGill’s Saloon and Restaurant where you can enjoy the authentic western delights of signature dishes like wild game chili, oxtail poutine, braised rabbit gnocchi, and bison tenderloin. The restaurant also hosts a Pig Roast on their creekside deck every Tuesday and during the summer months, guests are transported by horse-drawn wagon or horseback to a riverside BBQ at their gorgeous outdoor dining area.
Must-do experiences: Beyond gastronomy, guests can get their outdoor adventures on with fly fishing, horseback riding, and outdoor movie nights among the mountains. The film series is a must, regardless of the movie itself. After all, how often do you get the opportunity to sit cuddled under a warm blanket, lying out under the stars, and surrounded by mountains and trees while eating, drinking, and—yes—watching a movie.
Collective Retreats Yellowstone, Moonlight Basin
The ultimate outdoor ranch meets glamping experience Collective Retreats have locations from New York City to Vail to Texas, but there’s something truly special and unique about Montana. The luxury campsite is set up in Moonlight Basin, just an hour from Yellowstone National Park and a few miles from the Gallatin River, where the surrounding scenery features wide open views of rolling rivers, mountains in the distance, and evergreens for miles. As for your safari-style tent, it comes with proper beds, ensuite bathrooms, rain-style shower, hot running water, and electricity. Each tent is uniquely furnished with pieces from unique local marketplaces and antique stores, ensuring that no two people have exactly the same experience.
Must-do experiences: It’s all about becoming one with nature. Try fly fishing, horseback riding, white water rafting down the Gallatin River, and zip-lining on over 1,000 feet of courses through West Yellowstone. Or, maybe you want to truly live it up by organizing an in-tent massage performed by local masseuses for either a single or a couples appointment.
Rainbow Ranch Lodge, Big Sky
For those looking to truly get off-grid, Rainbow Ranch Lodge, Big Sky on the banks of the Gallatin River is the place to go. Awaiting you is a historic barn; sweeping tree-trimmed views; as it’s nestled in the Gallatin Range; as well as an infinity pool hot tub that looks out onto the Gallatin River at the edge of the property. There are two separate lodges to stay in (plus a bridal spa cabin for weddings), each featuring traditional rustic decor, individual decks with Adirondack chairs to take in the view, soaking tubs and showers, and more. The poolside rooms even feature heated antique wood floors. Time truly stands still here, as you spend your days fishing, horseback riding, kayaking, and in winter cross-country skiing and snow-showing. The ranch is also an idyllic wedding venue with a bridal spa cabin, barn, wedding tent, gazebo, wedding archway by the riverside.
Must-do experiences: There are a plethora of activities for even the most active of guests. Just 45 minutes from Yellowstone National Park, you can spend a day or a full week exploring the hiking trails the park has to offer, be it guided or unguided. If water sports are more your thing, consider a whitewater rafting trip down the Gallatin River. Would prefer to take in the view from above? The ranch is central to Big Sky, Gallatin Gateway, and West Yellowstone that offer countless zip-lining opportunities and high ropes courses.