“To be a ‘dude’ is to be out of place,” explains Bryce Street, executive director of the Dude Ranchers’ Association. Since the 1880s ranches across America have opened their doors to curious vacationers; Street estimates more than 500 dude ranches blanket the U.S. today, most in the West. Montana is home to some of the country’s fanciest—a few retreats as horsey as an episode of Hey Dude, others with nary a spittoon in sight, but all certifiably cush. “Out of place,” sure, but still at home on the range.
Jim Hubbard was a Midwest transplant when he settled on an empty plot of land near the border of Yellowstone National Park in the 1970s, but you wouldn’t know it from his rural drawl and still-boyish enthusiasm. Despite its status as a working ranch, his 18-room guest quarters boast 600-thread-count sheets and a kitchen full of Le Cordon Bleu graduates. Hubbard’s children look after 500 head of cattle with only one hired hand and the assistance of guests, who get to herd cows from day one. Starting at $1,350 per person for three nights
The sprawling array of cabins and glamping tents southeast of Missoula serves up a your-wish-is-my-command experience on a vintage leather platter. Head off to shoot pigeons, fly-fish, or bask at the spa, and plaid-shirted staffers will likely already have your favorite drink waiting. Even brand-new covered wagon sleeping quarters, appointed with beds twice the size of anything a pioneer ever awoke in, get twice-a-day housekeeping. Starting at $1,800 per night for two
In a landscape strewn with ranches named after cowboy cattle brands and high plains flora, there’s something refreshing about an opulent getaway with such a goofy moniker, inspired by one owner’s dogs. It’s the only silly aspect of these 37,000 acres littered with glamping tents, the largest of which have three bedrooms and two baths and stretch the very concept of “camping” a mile wide. (The butlers pretty much obliterate all semblance of privation.) A new adults-only collection of cabins called the Green O opens this year, part of a growing trend that recasts playing cowboy as an activity not meant for kids. Starting at $1,540 per night for two
When it opens in 2021, the Montana outpost of the luxury chain born in Laguna Beach and Beverly Hills will raise the bar in Big Sky Country; a $400 million, 150-room construction near the state’s biggest ski resort will include its own market, spa, and bowling alley. The biggest residences will top 8,000 square feet, in case you want to keep your own herd of cattle in the back bedrooms. Though the state has long harbored its barons and billionaires, the development represents luxury on a whole new scale.
This celebration of all things log cabin can’t seem to stay off best-of lists, maybe thanks to its rugged Bitterroot Mountains setting rather than the wide-open rangelands that backdrop most Montana destinations. There's still plenty of room to frolic; for all the kid-like ways to play—dog sledding, fat biking, archery—minors under 16 aren’t allowed in the 25 cabins, like the one centered around a full wall of windows and enough river rock decor for a week’s worth of Ted Turner cosplay. Starting at $1,050 per night
You can't blame the gold miners for flocking to this stretch of the Paradise Valley; they found both lucrative minerals and views almost as stunning as what's now Yellowstone National Park next door. Open only since 2018, the hotel here isn’t terribly remote but its floor-to-ceiling windows perfectly frame an empty stretch of grassy valley backed by triangular mountains. Easy park access means wolf-watching trips in pursuit of the population famously reintroduced to the area a quarter century ago. Starting at $189 per night