At a Glance
The gold standard for summertime family ranch vacations, Montana's 10,000-acre Mountain Sky Guest Ranch boasts impeccable service, charming log cabins and fabulous activities in an idyllic mountain setting.
- The staff, who bond with guests over a shared love for Montana on the trail and in the saloon
- World-class golf is an option on a nine-hole course designed by Johnny Miller
- Ranch owner and philanthropist Arthur Blank has made giving back a cornerstone of the ranch philosophy
- The riding, a main focus here, is a phenomenal way to see this gorgeous part of the country
First order of business: if you want to experience the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, it's best to book as soon as possible, because this Montana icon sells out up to a year and even two in advance. Return guests get first dibs on openings, but first-timers can usually get in by booking space in May, June or September. There is a waiting list, which can be 30 families deep in July and August, but openings do sometimes become available.
Perched high above Montana's Paradise Valley, the 31-cabin Mountain Sky Guest Ranch is everything a dude ranch should be: beautiful, historic, comfortable and wild. There are no TVs in the rooms and no cell phone service, but who needs those when you have these alpine vistas and seemingly endless hiking trails, as well as five-course meals and cozy cabins with working fireplaces. The experience of staying here is both thrilling and relaxing.
Atlanta-based philanthropist Arthur Blank bought the historic ranch in 2001 — many of the cabins date back to the late 1920s. He managed to upgrade everything in ways that didn’t change the authentic face of this remarkable place whose décor feels authentic and never hokey. While the updated tack barn, lodge and cabins maintain their original rustic feel, Blank added a heated pool, fitness center and a nine-hole golf course that is virtually indistinguishable from the expansive agricultural land. Everything here is meticulously maintained by a highly-trained and dedicated staff and manages to feel upscale without being stuffy.
Mornings start with the sound of the age-old meal bell, welcoming guests to a generous spread of freshly baked pastries and fruit in addition to made-to-order omelets, huckleberry pancakes and eggs Benedict. With full bellies, kids typically dash off with friends to the kids program before the horses are saddled. Lunch is casual but delicious featuring regional dishes. Afternoons provide opportunities for everything from lounging poolside or enjoying a massage to riding, hiking, golfing or fly fishing. Cocktails are served in the saloon or on the patio before an elegant three- or five-course dinner, but kids most often eat early so they can race back to the kids program for a game of capture-the-flag on the sweeping lawn. The balance of family time and adult relaxation is superlative, and surely contributes to the ranch’s remarkable return rate for guests (it's over 85 percent).
The Guest Ranch is open only from June through September. During July and August, Sunday arrivals and seven-night stays are required (special shorter packages are available in June and September). Don't let the waiting list nearly two years out deter you — this is a place, and an experience, that is well worth the wait.
Who Should Stay
Active travelers and families who seek adventure and Western tradition in breathtaking surroundings with lovely comforts.
Mountain Sky Guest Ranch is an hour and fifteen-minutes drive from the Bozeman airport, and transfers are included.
Written by Carter G. Walker