Lone Mountain Ranch (406/995-4644, www.lmranch.com), halfway between the highway and the ski lifts, is a little different from the other Big Sky lodgings. Originally a working cattle ranch, it has become a great cross-country ski resort (some say the nation’s best), and during the summer it’s a dude ranch with special programs for anglers and for children learning to ride. Different packages are offered, but a standard summertime seven-day stay in a small cabin, including all meals, costs $2,860 for the first person, plus $2,200 for each additional adult, $1,445 for a child ages 4–5, or $535 for a child ages 2–3. Winter rates for a weeklong stay are $2,355 for the first person, plus $1,475 for each additional adult, $1,020 for each child 4–12, $525 for ages 2–3.
Another noteworthy guest ranch, the Nine Quarter-Circle Ranch (5000 Taylor Fork Rd., 406/995-4276 or 995-4876, www.ninequartercircle.com) specializes in families and has plenty of children’s activities. The Nine Quarter-Circle, which is near the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, has been in operation since 1912 and accommodates its guests in log cabins, all with private baths and woodstoves. Meals are served in the handsome central lodge. Activities include horseback riding, fishing, overnight pack trips, and square-dancing. Weekly rates start at $1,743 per person double occupancy, with discounts for children.
The 320 Ranch (205 Buffalo Horn Creek, 406/995-4283 or 800/243-0320, www.320ranch.com, $133–353), another guest ranch that has been around since the beginning of the 20th century, is 12 miles south of Big Sky and six miles north of Yellowstone National Park. Lodging is in cabins (some with kitchenettes) or larger log houses; the most interesting is the McGill cabin, the home of Dr. Caroline McGill, Montana’s first woman physician and former owner of the 320. Even if you’re not sleeping at the 320, it’s a good place to stop for a meal.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition