Montana Winter Adventure at the Bar W Guest Ranch

Published by Jody on November 17 2014 09:03 in Cowboy Culture | Montana | Press Release | Ranch Specials | Relaxation Ranches | Therapeutic | winter sports
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Escape to the winter wonderland at the Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana. As the temperatures lower, the nights get cooler and the snow begins to fall, a whole new playground awaits visitors. On your winter dude ranch vacation, you will find that the Bar W and the Whitefish community have it all.

winter sleigh ride on a ranch

Stay with the Bar W for an elegant and relaxing bed and breakfast surrounded by the pine-covered ridges of Spencer Mountain and the peaceful winter of Montana. Guests can wake up to the inviting smell of hot coffee and a fresh breakfast. Only four miles from town, the Bar W is the perfect location to feel miles away from civilization but have the charming town of Whitefish just around the corner.

New for 2014, guests can take their winter adventure getaway to a whole new level. Rent the entire lodge as a vacation home. Make our home, your home. Your cozy bed and breakfast is not just a vacation anymore it’s like going home to put on your favorite pair of slippers.

Looking for more than just luxury lodging; our staff is happy to help arrange outdoor adventure activities. Head into town to grab a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes and explore the endless trails. Rent snowmobiles and ride the mountainous terrain that surrounds Whitefish or enjoy an exciting dog sled ride to appreciate the untamed wilderness of Montana.

The winter landscape becomes a skier’s paradise. Whitefish Mountain Resort, recently named 7th Top Ski Town in the World by National Geographic and the 2nd in the United States, is only seven miles from the ranch. Only minutes from incredible slopes, The Bar W is perfect for guests wanting to hit the area’s signature slopes for an all day skiing or snowboarding adventure.

Adventure for the whole family is just outside your front door at The Bar W Guest Ranch.  Sleigh rides to take you back to a simpler time, a time for family and friends, a time to relax and let the beauty that surrounds you soothe your soul. You don’t have to be a guest to visit for a sleigh ride! The Bar W is offering three sleigh rides a day, seven days a week.

On top of an exciting sleigh ride, guests can experience a sleigh ride chili dinner or a sleigh ride followed by a delicious dinner in our lodge. Sleigh ride dinners are served family style and are the perfect family bonding experience for all ages!

Go dashing through the snow in an open sleigh behind one our elegant draft horse teams or cozy up in our lodge for a relaxing bed and breakfast stay.  Either way, the Bar W is sure to please. Don’t wait, come experience a true winter wonderland at the Bar W.

For more information, view Bar W on Top50Ranches

Best value vacations

Published by Jody on February 16 2013 10:57 in Children's Programs | Dude Ranches | Relaxation Ranches | Rodeos | Working Ranches
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Best value vacations needn't mean endless hours lying on a beach. Top50 Ranches’ Mel Rutherford blogs on why a dude ranch vacation wins hands down over the much-hyped sun, sea and sand.

To beach or not to beach? That is often the question – at least when it comes to finding a great value vacation. But when it comes to getting the most for your bucks, could a western horseback riding holiday be the better option? I went about examining the evidence – with some surprising results…

What is the cheapest vacation?

Dude ranch vacations might rack up a bigger figure when you sign on the dotted line, but as most are all-inclusive you won’t need to take any spending money for meals, drinks or activities. Consider that when you’re choking over the price of that margharita you’re sipping on the beach…

Which offers more luxury?

Of course, one person’s idea of luxury might not be the next person’s but you can’t deny that peace and quiet on a 50,000 acre ranch wins hands down over the crowded, noisy, tourist-filled beach.

Which is better for good weather – surely a beach vacation?

Generally, head to the beach during summer and you’ll be able to sunburn to your heart’s content. But come evening do you really want to be all hot and sticky? Dude ranches tend to be nice and warm during the day with plenty of gorgeous sunshine, but cooler at night – a refreshing break, especially when it means you can get a comfortable night’s sleep.

Where will I get better cell phone signal?

OK, so you’re unlikely to be able to check your work emails while on board a western ranch horse halfway up a mountain in wildest Montana. But do you really want to? Dude ranch vacations offer a great way to escape computer games, cell phones, Facebook, emails… You’ll wonder why you ever relied on modern technology in the first place!

What’s the best family vacation?

Ask your children outright and they might be all for making sandcastles on the beach, paddling in the sea and enjoying a popsicle on the shoreline. But take them on a dude ranch vacation and they won’t look back. Not only do family dude ranches provide a safe environment for children play – for your own peace of mind – but the diversity of activities on offer and the freedom they’ll experience on a dude ranch way surpasses that at any beach resort. As a bonus you’ll be able to spend plenty of quality time with your children, whether it’s on horseback trail rides, lake water sports or around the campfire under an evening blanket of stars.

Where will I find the best food?

Forget having to search for and book a restaurant every night that might not be to the whole family’s tastes, or having to budget for meals each day. An all-inclusive ranch vacation provides healthy, home-cooked food – often gourmet – with so much variety that every preference, diet and tastebuds will be satisfied at every mealtime. Simply rock up to the dining room three times a day and get your fill – there’s no charge for second, third or even fourth helpings! Most dude ranches even include snacks, beverages and alcohol for your entire vacation.

Which offers the best social life?

While the closest you might come to making new friends on a beach holiday is asking a stranger if the sun lounger is taken, on a dude ranch vacation you’ll have a real chance to get to know and bond with fellow guests – and your hosts. I can say from personal experience that you’ll make life-long friends at any dude ranch. It’s a great place for kids to make new friends too, and develop valuable social skills that only come from a group environment such as that offered on ranch children’s programs.

Where will I get the best views?

No one can deny the beauty of a gorgeous sunset over the ocean horizon, or a deserted white sandy beach. But where else apart from a dude ranch vacation can you open your cabin door in the morning to find wildlife on your doorstep? Where else can you ride right alongside the likes of elk, deer and coyote, or see rare species of birds? Views certainly don’t come better than from the back of a ranch horse. And speaking of sunsets, Montana - being ‘Big Sky Country’ – is my personal choice when it comes to the perfect views.

Which is easier to get to?

OK, so not a lot of dude ranches are situated just a stone’s throw from an airport like many beach resorts are. But you’ll save a packet on car rental on a dude ranch vacation – most offer a free shuttle from the airport to your cabin doorstep, and with so much to do on-site you’ll never want to drive anywhere else. If there are some local attractions to see, most ranches offer trips included in the price of your vacation.

Not convinced?

OK, so I think we’ve gathered why dude ranch vacations beat beach vacations hands (or should that be hooves/!) down. But here are some more reasons in case you’re still sitting on the fence…

Dude ranch vacations – great for:

  • National Parks close by to many dude ranches
  • More activities than you or your kids will know what to do with! Think horseback riding, fly fishing, canoeing, hiking, cattle drives, white water rafting and SO much more… It’s a great way to have fun and be active!

Beach vacation – great for:

  • Splitting up the family – you’re gonna have to head in different directions to find your personal choices of entertainment
  • Spending all day reading – tour books and brochures, that is. Without a tour guide, you’re going to need all the information offices, maps and guidebooks you can get your hands on.
  • Giving into your kids – you probably should buy them that toy or bar of candy to avoid a public tantrum, when they’re overtired after having spent all day out in the sun.
  • Seeing wildlife – if you can call animals in a zoo or aquarium ‘wild’

For more best value ranch vacations visit

Canada dude ranches

Published by Jody on September 12 2012 02:59 in Canada | Children's Programs | Dude Ranches | Relaxation Ranches | Therapeutic
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Canada dude ranches more than stand up to their US counterparts, providing authentic western dude ranch vacations for adventure travelers and wannabe cowboys. Top50 has found the four very best Canada dude ranches to ensure that your dude ranch vacation is an experience you'll never forget. Choose from Echo Valley Ranch and Spa, Free Rein Ranch, Three Bars Ranch, Tod Mountain Ranch, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort and Siwash Lake Ranch - Canada dude ranches that guarantee the ultimate dude ranch vacations.

Dove Lodge Echo Valley Ranch and Spa, Canada

Echo Valley Ranch and Spa in British Columbia is a luxury Canada dude ranch that promises to dissolve your stresses, evaporate your worries and give the you the dude ranch vacation of a lifetime. Adventure travelers can hike in the mountains and through desert canyons, and those after a more relaxing dude ranch vacation can simply relax and indulge at the ranch spa. Located in secluded wilderness, this unique Canada dude ranch is great for older families (over 13s only), couples and those looking to relax in western ranch surroundings. Offering dude ranch vacations for beginner to advanced riders over beautiful countryside, Echo Valley's horseback riding opportunities only add to the relaxing experience.

Guest Ranch Free Rein Ranch, Canada

Free Rein Ranch is a Canada dude ranch located in the secluded wilderness of British Columbia, offering tens of thousands of acres over which to roam on horseback. At Free Rein, dude ranch vacations are all about heading out on horseback for days crammed with adventure. Guests can improve their riding skills in the arena or head out on the trail and explore this Canada dude ranch's remote and stunning landscapes. Guests are really given "free rein" to decide how they would like to spend their dude ranch vacation, whether it's horseback riding, other non-riding activities offered by the Canada dude ranch, or simply relaxing at the ranch. Welcoming children aged seven upwards, Free Rein is great for family dude ranch vacations.

Riding back in through the hay field Three Bars Ranch, Canada

Three Bars Ranch sits in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, and specialzes in family dude ranch vacations and beginner riding opportunities. The Canada dude ranch offers a fully supervised chidren's program for kids aged six upwards, and boasts a diverse non-riding activities and horseback riding program. Despite specialising in family dude ranch vacations, singles and couples can also enjoy a peaceful and relaxing Three Bars' dude ranch vacation tailored to their needs.

Lodge Interior - The guests favourite hang-out after a days riding Tod Mountain Ranch, Canada

Tod Mountain Ranch is a small, exclusive ranch hidden in the Louis Creek Valley and surrounded by forested mountains. This is the only of Top50's Canada dude ranches to offer adult-oriented dude ranch vacations, which guests can enjoy in a relaxing, tranquil environment. Whether you choose to go horseback riding along forest and mountain trails, relax on the deck with a good book, or indulge in a relaxing massage, this Canada dude ranch promises to personalize your dude ranch vacation so you get out of it exactly what you want. A great one for couples and singles looking for peace and tranquility in their dude ranch vacation.

Horseback Riding at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Canada

Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is Top50's only luxury tented safari camp and with a coastal location on the edge of Vancouver Island, there are plenty of opportunities for adventure. From whale watching, deep-sea fishing and sailing, to surfing, kayaking and looking for local sea life, this Canada dude ranch won't let you get bored! Take relaxing horseback trail rides through canyons and rainforests, then relax in the spa, hot springs or hot tub. With gourmet food to boot, this is one luxury dude ranch vacation that really does promise the adventure of a lifetime.

Siwash Lake Ranch with horses Siwash Lake Ranch, Canada

Siwash Lake Ranch is another Canada dude ranch with more than a hint of luxury. The authentic 4th-generation luxury dude ranch offers a highly personalised service at the exclusive, intimate hideaway, plus offers action-packed adventure and a unique horseback program tailored to guests' needs. Guests can ride unescorted throug 80,000 acres of British Columbia wilderness, then relax back at the ranch with a spa treatment in the luxury tented spa. With nearly as many staff as there are guests, guest ranch vacations at this Canada dude ranch are guaranteed to be highly personalized with outstanding service.

For more information on Top50's Canada dude ranches, visit their ranch profiles at

Dude ranch vacation of the month: Siwash Lake Ranch

Published by Jody on July 13 2012 03:02 in Canada | Cowboy Culture | Dude Ranches | Historical Ranches | Pack trips | Ranch Owners | Relaxation Ranches
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Dude ranch vacation of the month for July 2012 is the wonderful Siwash Lake Ranch in British Columbia, Canada. Why? Because this stunning Canada guest ranch is all about freedom.

The word 'Siwash' actually comes from Chinook Jargon, a bridge language used on the frontier between native, French and English pioneers during the gold rush era. To 'siwash' means to travel quickly, deftly and lightly, using natural shelters or sleeping in the open - just as the First Nations people would have done.

This theme of freedom and a closeness with nature translates throughout the whole of Siwash Lake's dude ranch vacation experiences. Ranch owners Allyson and Roy welcome guests to their ranch, which they strive to maintain "in complete harmony with the surrounding wilderness and to promote stewardship of the land, freedom of spirit, and an appreciation for family and the finer things in life".

On your first day at Siwash Lake, Allyson will spend a whole day with you, introducing you to the guest ranch's beautiful land. A professional horse woman and an avid naturalist, Allyson has a university degree in outdoor education and is the daughter of a mountaineer - so she knows her stuff! And there are so many ways that she and Roy will help you appreciate the freedom of the dude ranch. Whether you want to embark on a wilderness survival adventure, go mountain biking to discover hidden corners of the ranch, go bird watching or fishing (Roy's speciality!), or simply set out on foot with a map and a good sense of direction, you'll feel a true release from the stresses and strains of everyday life. 

Why not take a 4x4 trip to see waterfalls? Or go back to nature and take to the lake, with river floating and a whole host of water sports on the calm waters of Siwash Lake.

But, of course, true freedom is best experienced on horseback. And this is where Siwash Lake steps it up a notch. After being matched with the perfect horse to suit your ability, you're free to groom, saddle and ride your own personal horse daily as often as you wish. Nose-to-tail riding this is NOT! Whether you're after a guided trail ride with an experienced wrangler to learn more about the land, or you prefer to head out on your own to explore the 80,000 acre Canada guest ranch as you please (offered to riders with proven ability), you have the freedom to choose. Ride Siwash Lake's pristine rangeland as you learn about local history, culture, terrain, flora and fauna. From beginner through advanced levels, Siwash lake will give you freedom on horseback as you've never experienced it before.

Says Top50 Editor Mel Rutherford: "We have chosen Siwash Lake this month, as a celebration of freedom. It's pretty timely, what with both the Fourth of July and Canada Day celebrations, each of which represent freedom and celebrate their respective countries' heritage. We also chose it as a celebration of the land - with the recent wildfires that have hit many parts of the USA, we are so much more thankful for the freedom we are given to ride over such beautiful, natural country, which will hopefully remain just as unspoilt in years to come. Dude ranch vacations at Siwash Lake are a true representation of freedom."

For more information on Siwash Lake Ranch, visit




Top50 Road Trip - Brush Creek Ranch

Published by Jody on June 29 2012 09:38 in Dude Ranches | Food & Wine | Horse & Rider Magazine | New Ranches | Relaxation Ranches
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Touring the States is all part of the job for the Top50 Ranches team, as Jody Dahl reveals in her series of blogs for the UK's Horse&Rider Magazine. First stop, Brush Creek Ranch, a luxury Wyoming dude ranch...

Horse riding holidays can be expensive, so when you’re spending you’re hard-earned money on a horseback riding holiday you want to know that your chosen destination gives you exactly what it promises on the tin – or on at least!

Part of showcasing the best horseback riding holidays in the world means ensuring travellers get the ranch experience we promise them on While it’s very easy for a ranch to tell us they’re giving all their guests great horseback riding holidays, the only way to ensure that is to experience it for ourselves. And so this summer we’re embarking on our annual tour of the ranches, and checking out new ones to see if they make the Top50 grade!

First on our road trip was Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming. As we’re based in Montana this meant just a short hop across the border – well, at 500 miles it was more than a hop, but compared to the rest of our route the first leg was easy! After a long day on the road with my husband (and Top50 photographer extraordinaire) Toby, we pull into the ranch – and immediately feel right at home. Brush Creek Ranch is one of our luxury dude ranches, so we had high expectations of this one. We weren’t disappointed. Ultimate luxury from start to finish this might be, but it’s a world away from a ‘clinical’ five-star resort. Every guest is made to feel like the ranch is their house and home, thanks to personal touches like complimentary slippers for each guest to slip on when entering the main lodge. Toby and I took no time in sounding out the large indoor fireplace with its huge comfy couches – the perfect way to relax after our long drive.

When it comes to dining at Brush Creek, boy are you in for a treat. Now, I’m not really a fan of lamb but when it was served up to me at dinner that night I became a convert. It was dang good! And instead of being handed a wine list, we were escorted down to the wine cellar where we could pluck out any bottle of our choice. With some $200 on offer and all included in the base price, this takes guest satisfaction to a new level. Sipping on fine wine and tucking into wonderful food, we truly believed we’d died and gone to heaven as we watched the horses munching away in the pasture outside through the dining area’s huge windows, which offer panoramic views of the vast Wyoming dude ranch.

Great horseback riding
Next day it was all about the action. Being an Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge, Brush Creek offers great fishing for avid anglers - but we were all about the horseback riding. Arriving at the barn we found all the horses to be in great condition and of the highest quality. And it was like sitting back in one of those comfy armchairs in the lodge when we climbed into our saddles. All of Brush Creek’s tack is chosen for comfort and quality, and is clearly well cared-for by the attentive and highly-trained wranglers.

While chatting with our guide out on one of the beautiful trails covering thousands of acres of ranch land, we learned how each wrangler is trained to provide horseback riding for all levels, from beginner to advanced. Really avid riders can take part in private ‘clinics’ with the dude ranch’s lead horse trainer. Back at the ranch I was asked if I wanted to try one of Brush Creek’s trained cutting horses – and with cutting being one of my favourite western horseback activities, I jumped at the chance. As I’d previously only cut cattle on one our home-bred and trained saddle horses, riding a finely-tuned cutting horse in the huge outdoor arena felt incredible, and something I’d definitely recommend for serious riders. Toby certainly had his eye on at least one of their cutting horses! I knew we should’ve brought the trailer…

After a wonderful horseback riding experience we checked out the full-service spa complete with fitness room, sauna and steam room. The rest of our tour took us to see the climbing wall, a very comprehensive shooting range and a huge paintball course. And that was just outdoors! Heading inside to the indoor gym we found great basketball facilities and even indoor simulated golf. I had a hard time trying to convince Toby that a career change from cowboy to pro golfer was not a good idea. I think Tiger Woods can rest easy... .

Jody's Top 5 favourite things about horseback riding holidays at Brush Creek Ranch:

  • Although everything is high-end and no expense has been spared, the ranch maintains a homely feel with great hospitality and warm service
  • Incredible facilities for ranch weddings and corporate retreats – including a separate ‘ranch within a ranch’ so guests can stay separate from the main dude ranch guests. They’ll even bring the horses to you!
  • Everything is included in one price – even those $200 bottles of wine! So no need to bring or buy snacks, alcohol, drinks or anything else during your stay.
  • The ranch owner has great connections and brings in bands such as Marshal Tucker, for private concerts held solely for the guests staying at the time.
  • Incredible horses and riding program for ALL levels – from absolute beginners to challenging riding for experienced and advanced riders.

For more information on Brush Creek Ranch, visit

About the author

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