Guest Ranches: Big-City Comfort In A Natural Setting
For people who don’t want a full week’s vacation at a working cattle ranch, but want a retreat at a guest ranch that offers trail rides, the Inland Northwest has a large selection of service-oriented ranches.
These ranches and lodges have the amenities of a full-service hotel, but offer peaceful, restful settings near forests or water.
Most guest ranches include lodging, meals and on-site recreation in one daily price. Daily trail rides on gentle horses are available. Overnight horse pack trips are not generally offered because guests are staying only a few days.
Guest ranches offer a good selection of recreational opportunities. Wildlife watching, nature photography, biking, hiking and fishing are popular pastimes when guests are not riding and relaxing. Many ranches also have swimming pools, hot tubs and fitness centers.
Here is a sampling of guest ranches in the Inland Northwest:
Wild Rose Ranch
Kimberley, British Columbia
The Wild Rose Ranch offers a unique vacation setting. It has a 40-acre waterfowl sanctuary and trout fishery at the lodge’s front door. The trail rides pass through the Premier Ridge protected wildlife area, where deer and elk are commonly seen.
The lodge has only four guest rooms in order to maintain a small group atmosphere. The home-cooked meals are outstanding.
The price is about $96 (approximate U.S. dollar equivalent) per day per person. It includes all ranch-hosted activities such as visiting natural hot springs and swimming at a nearby lake.
A special package is offered in June. The ranch teams up with a local outfitter for an overnight horsepack trip into the mountains for grizzly bear viewing from a safe distance.
For reservations and information: (604) 422-3403.
For regional tourism information: Rocky Mountain Visitors Association, (604) 427-4838.
Bear Creek Lodge
Bear Creek Lodge is located in the Bitterroot Valley, and its ranch property lies adjacent to a wilderness area. The “this-is-your-home” atmosphere is readily apparent upon arrival because there is no check-in desk. Guests feel comfortable walking around in their stocking feet.
The lodge is built with huge logs made from standing dead timber after the Yellowstone fire. Guests eat ranch-style off a single table made from a six-inch-thick spruce plank that is large enough to seat sixteen people.
The all-inclusive price is $295 per couple per day. No minimum stay is required.
For reservations and information: (800) 270-5550 or (406) 642-3750.
For regional tourism information: Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce, (406) 363-2400.
Shepp Ranch Idaho
Salmon River, Idaho
Shepp Ranch is a wilderness guest ranch that is located on the Salmon River. Guests are shuttled by jet boat from Riggins. What I enjoyed most about my visit was the self-sufficiency of the remote ranch. They fix and repair whatever needs fixin’ and repairin’. The food on the table comes from their animals, garden, orchard and surrounding forest. The freshly churned butter and homemade jams are sensational on the fresh-baked breads and rolls. The meals are heavenly!
Staying on the banks of the famous River of No Return means guests have lots of opportunities for water fun. Jet boat scenic trips and whitewater rafting are among the many recreations available at no additional charge. A five-day/five-night package in the spring costs $570 per person, based on double occupancy. The summer package (June 19 through Labor Day) is $800.
For reservations and information: (208) 343-7729.
For regional tourism information: North Central Idaho Travel Association, (800) 473-3543.
Buffalo Creek Ranch
The Buffalo Creek Ranch is an 8,000-acre working ranch, which takes on guests through the summer months. Guests may join in on the ranching activities as much, or as little, as they like. There is no scheduling or signing up for activities, like at a dude ranch.
Many guests spend their morning hours wildlife watching, photographing and fishing and the hot afternoon hours lounging by the pool. Horseback riding and chuckwagon dinners complement the relaxing ambience at the ranch.
There is a minimum two-day stay requirement. The price is $155 per day per person.
For reservations and information: (406) 947-2424.
For regional tourism information: Custer County, (406) 665-1671.