890 Buttermilk Creek Rd., Yellowstone
Yellowstone obviously has some beautiful campgrounds, but they book up months in advance, and you’ll need to arrive around 7 a.m. (and probably wait out the previous occupants’ breakfast) for a first-come-first-serve option. For an outdoor stay that requires a lot less planning, we recommend Montana Under Canvas, a glamping operation in the tiny town of West Yellowstone, just outside the West entrance to the park. Tents have running water and private bathrooms, but the best parts of camping—the stars, the sounds of birds and other wildlife in the tall grasses—remain utterly intact. The staff here packs beautiful picnic lunches for daytime outings, and the nearby restaurant, Bar N, makes for a great dinner option. While each tent fits four comfortably, you can opt for one with an adjacent teepee if you’re traveling with a larger group.
Big Sky Roadway, Gallatin Gateway
Beyond the high-tech camping fabrics and unglamorous tents, this is our pick for the most design-worthy camping site out there. Located about an hour west of the park’s boundaries, beneath Lone Peak, this collective of beautifully built canvas tents is roughing it at its best (and to say roughing it is a stretch). Each teepee-like tent is outfitted with chic, rustic furniture, a plush king-sized bed, and tribal decor. To make the entire camping experience pretty much labor-free, the full-service company schedules farm-to-table breakfasts and dinners cooked on site by a nearby chef.
40060 Paws Up Rd., Greenough
Just 40-minutes east of Missoula, we came to affectionately call this 37,000-acre spread Montanaland: Paws Up is a bit like a theme park set against some truly majestic country. There's ATV-ing, go-carts, a gun range, archery, paintball, a kids camp (where they took the kiddos on a legitimate hike), horses galore, plus ample opportunity to river raft, fly fish, and work a cattle drive. The on-site spa is excellent, the food is good, and the accommodations—which range from log cabin homes to tented yurts perched on a cliff above the Blackfoot river—will leave little doubt in your mind that this is the West. The only real drawback is that it's not all-inclusive, which can make it harder to completely disconnect. Ultimately, though, it's kid heaven, where blessedly, iPads probably won't come out of the suitcase. Every morning brought new adventures, and by the end of the day they were ready to pass out in front of the fire.
1 Many Glacier Rd., Babb
Located on the other end of the Going to the Sun Road on the eastern edge of the park, this is inarguably one of our favorite hotels in the world.
Ranch at Rock Creek
79 Carriage House Ln., Phillipsburg
If you were to drum up an image in your mind of what an Old West homestead should look like, you’d probably conjure up The Ranch at Rock Creek. And for good reason, as it was one, dating back to its original function as a mining claim in the 1800s (nearby Philipsburg was home to a major silver boom). It was homesteaded in the early 1900s and has been a working cattle ranch since, though it now doubles as a luxury guest ranch—and it is really, really well done. Though it’s been tastefully rehabilitated, much of the main lodge is original, and the log homes and tent-style accommodations that dot the valley seem like they could have been from that era as well, thanks to period-appropriate (though cushy) fixtures, and an incredible body of photography, all sourced from the state archives in Helena (19th century boy with pet bear? Check.). It’s all-inclusive here, and you can pick from a range of activities every morning, so if your kid falls in love with a particular horse, he can ride that horse everyday. (As a nice extra, they accommodate more advanced…
Triple Creek Ranch
5551 W. Fork Rd., Darby
There are a few distinguishing factors about Western Montana's Triple Creek Ranch, which has been hosting guests since the ‘80s. Most notably, it’s adults only. Second, there isn't a stitch of cell service, which makes it the perfect choice for those who generally struggle to disconnect. And finally, it’s nestled up against Trapper Peak, meaning that the cabins look out on forests, creeks, and elk herds, which gravitate to the lands since they don’t allow hunting. Beyond trail riding and fly-fishing (it’s an Orvis-endorsed lodge, which apparently means quite a lot to fly fishermen), you can learn how to pen cattle, and you can hike for days—after all, the lodgings abut the rest of the property, which is a 26,000 acre working ranch where guests can participate in all-day cattle drives. And come winter, there’s an on-site Iditarod dog-sledding team that guests can drive and help train. While many of the activities are included, for a bit extra, they’ll hook you up with a plane to Glacier or Yellowstone. Besides getting outside, they offer artist workshops and wine tastings, and when the owners, Craig and Barbara Barrett are on-site,…
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