The Best Hotels in Montana (2022)

The Ranch at Rock Creek

The Ranch at Rock Creek

79 Carriage House Ln, Philipsburg, MT 59858, USA

In 2007, hedge fund investor Jim Manley bought a working cattle ranch on the site of a historic silver-mining claim to stake as his bigger-than-life family retreat. In 2010, he opened up the Ranch at Rock Creek, a toy-filled haven in southwest Montana’s Big Sky Country, with 13 houses with one to five bedrooms, luxurious canvas cabins for “glamping,” or a nine-room granite lodge. All are decorated by designer Jet Zarkadas and feature Oriental carpets, deep leather chairs, cow skin and woven Navajo rugs, custom duvet covers, and period Western photos and memorabilia. Despite the remote location and 5,200-foot elevation, all accommodations have landline, working Wi-Fi, and cell phone coverage; some have moose antlers, a private sauna, outdoor hot tub, and indoor copper bathtub.

Open year-round, the 10-square-mile property encompasses meadows, high country lakes, grassy ridges, and stunning vistas of the Pintler and Sapphire mountains. This self-contained adventureland offers horseback riding; heli-hiking; fly-fishing; river floating; high-tech mountain biking; rope courses; trap shooting; and archery on a 3D course using powerful hunting bows to shoot life-sized models of animals. Weekly rodeo and stagecoach rides underscore the Western theme; in winter, guests cross-country ski, ice skate, and snowshoe on-site. A kids’ club frees parents for spa time and other pursuits.

April 20, 2021 04:09 PM

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Susan Hack

The Resort at Paws Up

The Resort at Paws Up

40060 Paws Up Rd, Greenough, MT 59823, USA

One of the most luxurious Western guest ranches, opened in 2005, the Resort at Paws Up, in Greenough, sprawls over 37,000 acres of classic Montana landscape: elk-filled meadows, rocky peaks, and ponderosa pines in the Blackfoot Valley, with the river of the same name running through it all. The most sought-after accommodations are the “glamping” tents on the banks of the Blackfoot or along Elk Creek that are available May through October and organized into five separate camps, taking just six guests each. The camps combine a Western lifestyle with an African safari formula: canvas suites with private baths, a communal dining pavilion with fireplace and fire pit, private camp chef, and butlers to help organize guest activities. Families and friends who prefer four walls between themselves and nature stay in enormous wood-and-stone villas with heated hardwood floors, fireplaces, leather furniture, huge flat-screen TVs, and panoramic windows; some of these homes come with outdoor hot tubs and tented bedrooms for kids.

All guests have the opportunity to hike, rappel, canoe, play paintball, take cooking classes, and more, but the main action is on-site fly-fishing and horseback riding for all levels on 100 miles of private trails or in a 23,000-square-foot equestrian arena; adults and kids 12 and up can help move small herds of Black Angus cattle on sample stock drives. If parents want private adventure time, kid wranglers entertain young’uns. In the evening, communal entertainment takes place in a renovated barn that serves as stock sales venue, dance floor, and movie theater. Despite the busy activity menu and flow of golf carts transporting guests to and fro, the ranch is large enough, and accommodation so widely spaced that guests can survey the landscape and not see anyone.

April 20, 2021 04:56 PM

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Jennifer Flowers

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J Bar L Ranch

Twin Bridges, MT 59754, USA

Peggy Dulany, a New York philanthropist and daughter of David Rockefeller, bought J Bar L to protect the 620-square-mile Centennial Valley, a former Native American hunting ground settled by a few cattle-ranching families in the late 19th century—and which still has no towns, let alone paved roads, gas stations, shops, or subdivisions. To conserve the rangeland way of life, she hired locals to run a holistic grass-fed cattle business on the principles of rotational grazing and natural stockmanship. To share the landscape with nature-loving travelers and to keep the valley looking as it was, Dulany restored several abandoned 19th- and early 20th-century homesteads. These self-contained vacation rental homes range from a Sears Roebuck family house, now solar-powered, to isolated cabins on a bend of the Red Rock River. All come with fully-equipped kitchens and are tastefully filled with Western-themed furnishings and antiques; some have outdoor hot tubs.

J Bar L no longer offers working weeks for would-be cowboys but will match guests with geologists as well as with hiking, bird-watching, and fly-fishing guides. Horse lovers can hire ranch mounts for guided daily rides on rangeland that is home to pronghorn, elk, and Black Angus cattle, or up the slopes of the 10,000-foot Gravelly Mountains where wolves, grizzly bears, and bald eagles roam.

April 20, 2021 04:08 PM

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Susan Hack

3185 Jackson Creek Rd, Bozeman, MT 59715, USA

Seeing wild wolves in Yellowstone National Park is nearly impossible without a guide; amateur wolf watchers in any case need high-powered binoculars and tolerance for cold, as the best observation season is winter, when wolf fur stands out against the snow. But at Howlers Inn Bed & Breakfast & Wolf Sanctuary, just outside Bozeman, guests year-round can observe a captive-bred pack from their bedroom window, and even pet a wolf through the chain-link fence of the inn’s four-acre sanctuary. Owners Chris and Mary Martha Bahn originally opened the federally licensed shelter in 1993 for a single rescued wolf that was unable to return to the wild. Built to fund the shelter as it accommodated more animals to live as a pack, the cozy log B&B sits on 42 acres in Bridger Canyon amid boulder-strewn meadows backed by pine-covered hills. Two wolf enclosures, with a seasonal pond and creek, are currently home to five spayed or neutered timber and Alaskan tundra wolves, born in captivity, whose owners could no longer keep them. The Bahns do not breed or exhibit the animals for profit, but they’re happy to discuss wolf conservation as well as the controversial issues of game farm breeding and hunting. Guests are welcome to photograph the human-habituated animals during their stay.

April 20, 2021 04:08 PM

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Susan Hack

Montana, USA

You can’t beat the atmosphere and scenery at this Swiss-styled lodge, built 1913–14, on the scenic shore of the largest lake in Glacier National Park. The historic main-lodge rooms with lake views, as well as outlying cabins sitting on the pebbled beach, are often booked a year in advance. This leaves many travelers, who accept that nature is the main amenity, to make do with rooms in the characterless four-story modern motel wing. The soaring lobby lounge with a huge, pictograph-carved stone fireplace, vintage hand-painted lanterns, and deer, elk, and mountain goat trophies, as well as the sensational views from the pier and beach, make up for minuscule bathrooms, spartan room furnishings, slow Wi-Fi, and iffy cell phone signals. Self-drivers use the lodge as a base for the famed 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road across the Continental Divide. Hikers explore paths, including the wheelchair-accessible Trail of the Cedars, surrounding the 10-mile lake; the U-shaped valley branches into smaller glacier-carved “hanging” valleys dotted with waterfalls. In summer, guests also enjoy horseback riding and tours on the DeSmet, a vintage cruiser.

April 20, 2021 04:08 PM

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Susan Hack

Triple Creek Ranch

Triple Creek Ranch

5551 West Fork Rd., Darby, Montana

There are helipads but no cell phones or young children at Triple Creek Ranch, a 600-acre luxury Western playground on a slope of 10,157-foot Trapper Peak, Montana’s highest mountain, near the Idaho border. Owned by Craig and Barbara Barrett (he, the former CEO of Intel; she, a former astronaut and U.S. ambassador to Finland), this elegant, high-end dude ranch offers sapphire pan mining, scenic trail rides, fishing from stocked trout ponds, and guided hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing (including starlit expeditions), as well as themed weekend stays focusing on art, food, and wine. The owners’ no-hunting policy has resulted in large herds of elk and other game gravitating to the property, and guests frequently spot animals from huge log cabins decorated with leather furniture and original Western-themed art and equipped with wood-burning fireplaces, private decks, bar, Blu-ray players, and working Wi-Fi connections. (Though the ranch deliberately has no cell phone signal.) From May through October, for additional fees, the ranch pairs up guests with professional rodeo trainers and Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing operators. In winter, the lodge facilitates transportation, tickets, and equipment rental vouchers for the nearby Lost Trail Powder Mountain downhill ski center (300 inches of snow annually) and Chief Joseph Cross Country Ski Area.

April 20, 2021 04:09 PM

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Susan Hack

Rocking Z Guest Ranch

Rocking Z Guest Ranch

2020 Chevallier Dr., Wolf Creek, Montana

This family-owned and -managed 1,000-acre guest ranch in Lewis and Clark County is paradise for riders of all ages looking to improve technique while learning about equine psychology and Western working life. The owners, Zack and Patty Wirth, and two of their six children, all direct descendants of 1860s Montana homesteaders, breed and train quarter horses and hold wide-ranging riding rights on a neighboring ranch of 85,000 acres. Guests, a maximum 20 at a time, ride according to their interest and level; time in the saddle (or bareback) might be spent in the ring, on scenic trail rides, endurance training, or learning to rope and work with the Wirths’ 30 Corientti and Longhorn cattle.

Four cozy rooms of the same size but with different bed configurations have fireplaces and mountain views. The atmosphere is communal and convivial, the hosts dining with guests and taking note of the weather and individual interests to plan activities. Many teen visitors fulfill dreams of unlimited horse time; for non-riding family members or partners there is guided shooting, hiking, and mountain biking. There’s also technical fly-fishing on the Little Prickly Pear Creek, a spawning ground for rainbow and brown trout. For rock hounds, fossil-rich shale cliffs sit just a mile away from the barn and guest rooms.

April 20, 2021 04:09 PM

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Susan Hack

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