Bar W Ranch in Northwestern Montana offers some of the most amazing views in the country. With Glacier National Park in the area, there is no shortage of hiking trails, beautiful overlooks, stunning wildlife, and ample fishing opportunities. For those looking to get away in Montana, Bar W Ranch is a great place to do just that. Bar W Ranch is a premier dude ranch in northwestern Montana just a few miles outside of Whitefish, Montana. With a strong focus on families and horseback riding, it is an excellent vacation spot for families of all kinds.
As you head into Northwestern Montana on your way to Bar W Ranch there is a sense of calm that comes over your body as you breathe in the fresh mountain air and look into the distance. Mountains of blue in every direction with greenery that seems to stretch on for miles, visions of laying in meadows of grass under the stars, and waking each morning to a slight chill in the air are all experiences you will enjoy and never forget. Life on a dude ranch is something you will truly experience and enjoy during your stay at Bar W Ranch in Northwestern Montana. If you have ever wanted to spend time on a dude ranch or are simply seeking out ideas for your upcoming travel, here is why you should check out Bar W Ranch and all they have to offer.
Read More: Whitefish, Montana: A Quick Travel Guide
Bar W Guest Ranch – Getting There
The most direct route to Bar W is flying into Kalispell airport which is about a 25 minute ride from Whitefish where Bar W ranch is located. The benefit of the ranch is that it’s so close to town you can also enjoy the unique dining experiences and the cute little streets of Whitefish during your stay. You get the feel of rural living and ranching while still having easy access to every possible attraction. Less expensive flights can be found by flying to Missoula, which is about a 2.5 hour drive away, but it is a gorgeous scenic drive to the ranch if you chose to go this route.
This makes renting a car a no-brainer. When taking this trip, we rented a car from Hertz in Missoula and the whole process was so easy. Two minutes at the counter and we had our key to a massive car that held all our luggage and our family comfortably and allowed us to move around Whitefish and also take a few days to see the state after our visit to Bar W.
Accommodations at the Bar W Ranch
The Bar W Ranch offers a variety of unique accommodations. Guests can choose to stay in cabin suites, the main lodge, or enjoy glamping in a canvas tent. The main lodge is an impressive 6,200 square feet with six bedrooms where up to twenty-five guests can be accommodated. Each bedroom is beautifully decorated in rustic, western decor. There are a variety of bed options as well from a bedroom with a king bed and two bunk beds to another with three queen beds. Private bathrooms are available in the main lodge suites as well. In addition to the six bedrooms, the main lodge also serves as a communal gathering place, a dining hall, and a place of entertainment for guests who would like to enjoy the game parlor or big screen tv.
To wrap up those long days and cool nights, the amazing lodges and glamping tents offer plenty of comfort and beautifully decorated spaces. Among all these options you will find that the staff at Bar W will have everything you could ever need to best accommodate your sleeping arrangements and stay. One of the interesting things about the lodging here at the ranch is the history included within each room, such as the dining area that was covered in framed pictures and different animal skins of the wild animals that roam the area. There is nothing quite like this authentic dude ranch life and it’s an amazing experience.
Staying in the lodge gives you the opportunity to be in the midst of the action, but if you would like a little more privacy, a more secluded cabin is also on the property with two suites is also available for guests to enjoy. Nestled up to the forest, the cabin overlooks the south pasture on the ranch where the horses are often roaming, making for a beautiful view from the cabin. The Eagle’s Nest is the upper suite in the cabin and can accommodate up to ten guests. The Bear Den makes up the lower level of the cabin and can accommodate six guests. Both suites have a kitchenette, a private bathroom, and a porch overlooking the pasture.
Finally, if you want a true wild west experience in Montana, try the glamping option at Bar W Ranch. Four canvas tents are available for campers to stay in allowing you to experience a night under the stars with a bit of luxury. Each tent is outfitted with a queen bed, a handmade log futon, a refrigerator, a coffeemaker, and a private porch. While there is not a bathroom in the tents, each tent has a private bathroom located just steps away. The glamping tents gives you the best of both worlds, a night in the wild meadows of Montana mixed with the luxury of a cabin.
Dining at the Bar W Ranch
After your long and busy days at the ranch, filled with a variety of activities, you will find yourself eager for the breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule that does not fall short. A variety of country-inspired meals feature the authenticity of ranch life with everything from steak and egg breakfasts to burger and brisket dinners. The chef is accommodating to each guest and any dietary restrictions as well. Don’t hesitate to embrace each part of these meals as they are thoughtfully crafted and planned to bring you the nutrition you’ll need during this stay that is jam-packed with fun, full days.
Included with every package the ranch offers is three meals a day. The meals are homemade and consist of homestyle cooking. Many of the meals are served in the main lodge but the staff of the dude ranch prefer to utilize the whole ranch so meals are often served in the gazebo or on the ridge.
The ranch also hosts outdoor barbecues for dinner on different nights of the week. Campers are often invited to enjoy a meal outdoors that was cooked over the campfire. These meals are usually accompanied by musical entertainment and finished off with s’mores around the fire. If you have certain dietary restrictions, the cooks are happy to accommodate you with prior notification. The Bar W Ranch does not serve alcohol but guests are welcome to bring their own on the premises.
Activities at the Bar W Ranch
To give you an idea of the kind of days you’d have at Bar W, a sample schedule shows you the depth of what’s included. The morning starts off early around 7:15am with horse grooming that leads directly into breakfast at 8am. Right after, the day begins with trail rides varying from an hour to two around the ranch, up and down the mountain. This leads directly into a much needed lunch that restores you enough for a second trail ride with options varying from a simple walking trail to a more advanced lope ride. After spending the morning and afternoon with the horses you will find the evening social prior to dinner is a great way to get to know the other guests at the ranch. Closeout the long day with a delicious dinner starting around 7pm, and call it a night in order to prepare for the next day. You can always skip a trail ride and instead partake in the lessons, other ranch activities, or frequent ranch-wide events.
Horseback riding is the primary focus and main activity of the Bar W Ranch. Even if you have no experience with horses, the staff at Bar W Ranch will make you feel right at home and teach you how to groom, care for, and ride horses.
When you arrive on the ranch, one of the experienced and trusted horse wranglers will get to know you and hand select a horse that will match your personality and experience level. Each guest is assigned a horse for the duration of their stay. The ranch will then provide horseback riding lessons to help you bond with your horse. Even experienced riders are welcome to participate in the horseback riding lessons as there is always more to learn.
Bar W Ranch is home to one of the best kids programs among dude ranches in Montana. The program has opportunities for kids as young as three who can enjoy hand-led horse rides. Older kids will be able to enjoy daily rides, learn to care for horses and feed the horses. Older kids are welcome to join their parents on trail rides while younger kids have the option to stay behind on the ranch playing games and creating western-themed arts and crafts.
After a couple of riding lessons, you will be ready to hit the trails. Trail rides are offered daily and maintain a walking pace. Children are welcome to ride on their own horse provided they are at least seven years old. Out on the trails, you will be able to see beautiful views of the surrounding Montana forests. The trails also provide stunning views of the mountains as well.
For guests that are enjoying prolonged stays at the Bar W Ranch, they will be able to enjoy full-day trail riding adventures. These longer trail rides take guests out to areas of Montana a bit further from the ranch. Travel with the horses and unload them at the trailhead Kootenai National Forest. This ride will take you along the border of Canada where you will be able to peek into another country. Other options are available for more experienced riders including a ride to Sunday Creek where guests can enjoy long hours in the saddle.
Some of the other activities during the week will include special picnic dinners, archery, trap shooting, and parent’s nights out. Spending at least a week at the ranch will ensure you will not miss any of the experiences.
If horseback riding isn’t your thing, you can spend days at the lake, biking around, paddle boarding, boating, fishing, painting horses and participating in rodeo days as a viewer. Petting farm animals is a fun activity for younger kids to partake in and can be arranged by request.
Wagon Rides at Bar W Ranch
If you feel like horseback riding might not be to your taste, guests can also experience time with the horses by taking a wagon ride. Pulled by a team of draft horses, guests will climb aboard the wagon and tour the ranch on Thursday and Saturday evenings. Each ride lasts about 45 minutes and gives guests and families the time to slow down, enjoy the views of the ranch, and spend some time together.
You can also upgrade your wagon ride by adding dinner to the excursion. At the end of the ride, the group will be dropped off either at the Gazebo on Spencer Lake or Play Meadow where they will be served a homestyle meal complete with vegetables, salad, a meat entree, and dessert.
Attractions Near the Bar W Ranch
While Bar W Ranch is the perfect place for all your horseback riding needs, there are plenty of offsite activities that the area has to offer. The Bar W Ranch is just twenty-three miles from Glacier National Park which is not to be missed. With Glacier National Park in such close proximity to the ranch, there are tons of hiking trails for guests to explore Montana.
It’s not just the rodeos, the horses or the farm life that makes up Montana. It is also the lakes and rapids that carry all this freshwater through these beautiful lands. Glacier Raft Company provides a great staff and guides that kept you smiling ear to ear while also being informative about the safety and reality of rafting down these rapids.
If you want to try some adrenaline fueled activities or experience a calm scenic float down the river, reach out to Glacier Raft Company or book directly through Bar W ranch. Glacier Raft Company offers all types of tours with amazing tour guides, passionate about nature and sharing the beauty of the area with visitors. Glacier Raft Company offers awesome family-friendly adventures so that even children will walk away not only with memories of amazing experiences but also with professional in-action photos.
You will find that whitewater rafting brings you to another level of humility when faced head-on with the vicious, churning waters before you. Even though this activity is kid-friendly, there is a level of adrenaline that pumps through you from the youngest to the oldest in the raft. Once you’ve had the experience of maneuvering through rapids you will hunger for the next and crave that type of living, the kind of living that isn’t fearful.
Fly fishing is also very popular in this area of Montana. Bar W Ranch is happy to set you up with a guide to assist you in fly fishing and finding the best fishing places in the area. Remember to obtain a Montana fishing license and then see how many trout you can catch.
Whitefish, Montana is three and a half miles down the road from the Bar W Ranch. The city has lots of offerings to entertain guests. Drive into the city for dinner. Enjoy a day at the spa. The city has excellent shopping areas as well as a theater. Rodeos are held often at Majestic Valley Arena in Whitefish.
Events at Bar W Ranch
Another thing that sets Bar W Ranch apart from other Montana dude ranches is the wide range of facilities available for hosting events. From weddings to corporate retreats, there is a place for your event at the ranch. The Indoor Arena, the Outdoor Arena, the Gazebo, and Play Meadow are all excellent locations to host a wide range of events.
During our stay we had a picnic dinner with live cowboy music by the fire on a cliff, had lunch in the gazebo by the lake, had a special adult-only night while the kids were entertained out in the meadow, and participated in a guest rodeo which was an incredible experience.
Towards the end of your stay guests will get a chance to try their newly learned skills at the guest rodeo, a timed event where you hope to place in the top 5 best riders and show off your skills. It is one of the most exciting events for the week, with the whole ranch participating, including staff.
During the week, guests will try their hand at team penning and steer roping. All guests will get to learn the basics of barrel racing and pole bending as well in a safe environment.
By the time your stay at Bar W is at an end, you will feel like family. Each individual staffer is their own character and has a story more exciting than the next. Meghan tends to draw the kids near with her kindness and fun nature and there is true comfort in knowing the people working for you are simply looking to give you a great time and the most authentic view of cowboy living. If you ever want to know the ins and outs of your animal, Alex knows what they like and what they don’t, ensuring the happiness of both the rider and these wonderful creatures.
You’ll always experience a new adventure on the trails when put in the hands of wrangler Graham, someone who is knowledgeable, worldly and great to get to know. When you’re off the dirt road and in the arena, Logan is present and an excellent teacher who always reminds you of the control and ability you have on your horse.
If you’re looking for a great storyteller or looking to be moved, the poetic cowboy Cody leaves a mark on your heart like no other with his poems and stories of real cowboy living. To bring it all together Lindsey, the lead wrangler is the one to make things happen and always does her absolute best to ensure a wonderful experience, making this the absolute greatest wrangler group you could encounter.
Speciality Weeks at Bar W Ranch
One of the most exciting parts of the Bar W Ranch is the yearly specialty weeks hosted by the dude ranch. Six weeks a year are designated as adult-only weeks. Horseback riding, skeet shooting, wagon rides, campfire dinners, and ice cream socials are some of the highlights of adult-only weeks.
Cowgirl Up! weeks are held three times a year. This week is dedicated to the ladies. Women over the age of 18 are invited for a week of wild west fun. Spend the days horseback riding and working on your horsemanship. Wine tasting and spa treatments will help you relax during your week-long getaway.
The Ultimate Dude Ranch Photography Retreat is held once a year in the fall. It is the perfect time to catch those immaculate fall colors in photos. During this week, guests will visit a local game farm where they will have the opportunity to take pictures of amazing wildlife.
Whether you are spending a week of summer, fall, or even spring break at Bar W Ranch with your family this will be one of the most memorable vacations you will ever experience. With horse wranglers ready to pick out the perfect horse for each member of the family and horseback riding lessons, the whole family will be riding in no time and creating memories as you hit the trail. Bar W Ranch focuses on families to produce the best experience for every family member. By the end of the week, you’ll be sad to hang your cowboy hat up and head back to reality.