Set on the shores of Flathead Lake and surrounded by gorgeous mountains, Flathead Lake Lodge is simply stunning. The lakeside location means guests have access both a lake and a dude ranch experience in one family vacation. This combination worked perfectly for us as my family wanted a dude ranch experience, but didn’t necessarily want to spend all day on horseback.
The setting of Flathead Lake Lodge immediately took the edge off my frazzled, end-of-school nerves. Huge mountains cascade into Flathead Lake, the largest and cleanest lake west of the Mississippi River and ideally located just 45 minutes south of Glacier National Park.
After arriving in Kalispell, we were met at the airport by Richard, who quickly gave us the lay of the land, took us to a western clothing shop so we could play up our role as urban cowboys, and provided helpful tips for the week. “People say you go to Yellowstone for the wildlife and Glacier for the landscape,” says Richard with his South Carolina drawl. This is absolutely true.
All guests arrive on Sunday and Monday and sign-up for the week’s activities. There’s no need to call and book ahead of time so planning stress disappears. Our week included a breakfast ride (a must!), steak dinner rides, yoga, mountain biking, fly-fishing, laser tag and hiking.
The owners are warm and welcoming hosts and set the tone of casual excellence that includes everything from customer service to the food. You are greeted by their dogs, entertained by the wranglers, and calmed by the serene setting. Flathead Lake Lodge is a special place where many well-known families and dignitaries have come for generations.
The time with other guests is not forced, but very natural. Gradually, through the week guests get to know one other, a real benefit of a ranch vacation. We met great families from all over the states.
Livin’ the Ranch Life
We settled right into our western-outfitted cabin. Accommodations are comfortable, spacious and not too rustic. Cozy duvets are provided for cool nights.
Most of the time at a ranch, however, is spent outdoors. Kids are kept very busy, fishing, playing in the game room, doing the arts and crafts and helping out at the barn. I felt very comfortable as my kids roamed the ranch on their own. The ranch dining and bar facilities are closed to people not staying at the ranch. This enables families to be more comfortable and let their children freely explore the property.
Each night there’s fun entertainment such as a bonfire with local singers, a barn dance, team cow penning (hysterical!), etc. It stays light out until almost 10 or 11pm, so there seems to be an unlimited amount of daylight to enjoy.
I’m a ‘horse person’ and love how the horse program is run at Flathead Lake Lodge. They own over 70 horses and take wonderful care of them. The owners ensure that the horses are well trained and suited for each rider. Daily rides loop through the forest, providing sweeping views over the lake, wildlife viewing (bears, deer and elk) and are never faster than anyone wants to go. At the beginning of the week the rides are mostly walking, bit by later in the week as people were more familiar with the horses and terrain, they add trotting and cantering.
More than anything else, the rides are peaceful, relaxing and provide nice time to chat with other riders. You can ride as little or as much as you want. as there are a multiple rides going out each day. Sometimes we rode with our kids and sometime went out just with adults for longer more advanced rides. Even though there were many guests at the ranch, at times we rode with just our family. I love the personal feel that the wranglers are able to provide.
In addition to the riding, they offer a “Junior Wrangler” program where the kids can help around the barn with various chores. This is a big hit! More than anything, my younger son was bound and determined to learn to lasso. He said, “I’m going home a cowboy.” I can’t tell you how much time the wranglers spent working with him on this. By the end of the week he had it down. It still makes me laugh when I think of it!
Overall, this was one of our best family vacations. I felt that we got a lot of value the expense. My favorite part of all was that we really got to unplug and connect with one another and the ranch itself. It was like going back in time to when things were simpler and we remembered how to have some good old-fashioned fun.
I could go back over and over again. Truly, I was sad to leave and found myself wondering how the family, and wranglers were doing through out the summer. Read my full family-friendly review of Flathead Lake Ranch and check out our Connect with a Family Travel Advisor page for more assistance.
Photos by Nancy Solomon
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