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“Everything I had hoped for, and more!!”
Review of Bitterroot Ranch

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Bitterroot Ranch
Ranked #3 of 12 Specialty Lodging in Dubois
Level Contributor
48 reviews
34 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 45 helpful votes
“Everything I had hoped for, and more!!”
Reviewed September 5, 2011

My husband and I just got back from our very first trip to the Bitterroot Ranch, and it was nothing short of AMAZING! At the beginning of the year, I had looked for a dude ranch that had a strong focus on riding and a unique appreciation of its horses; Bitterroot fit all the criteria that I was looking for! On the way to the ranch, you take a 17 mile dirt road (a bit more paved than a standard dirt road, which is good) to the Ranch and along the way you see absolutely beautiful scenery that changes every few miles. Sometimes it looks like a painted desert, sometimes like a thick lush forest with a backdrop of beautiful snow-capped mountains. As you approach the ranch, you go over a hill and down the road that takes you to the cabins that are all nestled along a small river. As you pull up, you cross a bridge and will likely encounter one of the ranch's labs, wolfhounds, or the adorable poodle - Whistle. Immediately, you feel at ease.

The staff is incredible. As a few other reviewers mentioned, the ranch is run by the Fox family - Bayard, Mel, Richard and Hadley (Richard's wife) - and has the wonderful appeal of a professionally run facility with a wonderful family touch. The first night (and every night afterwards) starts with a lovely cocktail hour and delicious appetizers and then progresses to an amazing home cooked dinner by the ranch's chef - Stu. Every meal was wonderfully tasty, and very diverse! We ate everything from Mexican Enchiladas, Turkey and Mashed Potatoes, Indian Curry, and Cheese Souffle (to mention just a few). Lunch and dinner are both served buffet style, but waitresses help with clean-up, coffee/tea, and dessert (always amazing). I had heard about how good the food was, but was still pleasantly surprised at every single meal! Additionally, I only eat poultry and fish, and every night a beef option was served, Stu whipped me up a wonderful vegetarian option. Even when we had a picnic lunch, they remembered to include a vegetarian sandwich when the other options were meatloaf and roast beef - such a nice touch!

Now to the most important - the horses! They have beautiful Arabians (and a few other breeds, including some huge and gentle Percherons) who are very well trained and horses/riders are matched based on the rider's ability and personality. Initially, Mel makes an assessment based on a questionnaire, but it's my understanding that she will change the horse/rider matchup after a riding evaluation and throughout the week if need be. She basically makes sure that both horse and rider are having a great experience by appropriately matching up skills. Additionally, because they have such a high horse to guest ratio, you're able to different horses throughout the week and the horses are always fresh - never run down like other ranches. Since most riders are horse lovers, I know many people appreciate how much the family loves and takes care of their horses. I got matched with four horses that I rode throughout the week and all were wonderful!

The rides are beautiful and go through ever-changing landscapes and scenery. Even though all rides originate out of the ranch, you never get bored because they have so many different trails to go on. The wranglers are fantastic as well and very experienced - several have worked at the Bitterroot for years! I always felt comfortable with the terrain and safe riding with the wranglers who have a true love and appreciation for the horses and the land.

Another great aspect is that the ranch offers riding lessons on Tuesday and Thursday, if a guest wishes to partake in them. They are instructed by Hadley - a wonderful woman who was basically raised alongside ponies/horses from the time she was born. She's a gifted teacher and her lessons are always filled with encouragement, optimism, and gentle honesty. She can teach anyone - an 80 year old man, a 10 year old child, or me - a 30 year old woman. After the first lesson, I learned how to two-point canter when I had only ever sat the canter, and felt comfortable doing it all week! The lessons are also videotaped and fun to watch after dinner.

The cabins are adorable and bigger on the inside than they look on the outside. They are scattered along a small road that is adjacent to the river, and offer just the right amount of comfort, convenience and privacy. Additionally, the main house has a pool table, dining room, large living room with a fireplace, and a nice sun room - lots of space to gather and converse with your fellow riders if you would like or go into a different room for more quiet / privacy. There's also a large porch that offers plenty of seating for everyone to enjoy a sunset and a nice glass of wine.

My fellow guests were very personable and from all different parts of the country. They varied from beginning riders to extremely advanced riders who all shared a love for horses and the beautiful landscape. In fact, it was one couple's tenth visit and another couple's seventh! That, to me, speaks volumes about the ranch, its hosts, and its horses.

Overall it was an amazing vacation and I was so sad to leave. The Bitterroot is a special place with a wonderful ambiance. I am definitely going back next year and have already started counting down the days!!

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
5 Thank Jenterz0828
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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  • English first
  • French first
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English first
Boston, MA
Level Contributor
48 reviews
32 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 68 helpful votes
Reviewed September 1, 2011

My husband, 12 year old son and I are intermediate western style riders and love to canter and lope. We came to the Bitterroot for a week at the end of August upon the recommendation of Gene Kilgore, a ranch guidebook author, whom I contacted with the intention of finding a ranch where we could focus our riding time on cantering and loping (and galloping, if possible).

When we arrived at the ranch on Sunday, we were warmly greeted by Hadley, one of the four owners who consist of Bayard and Mel and their son Richard and Hadley (his wife). Bayard, Richard, and Hadley were extremely gracious, social, and charming. It was a joy to be around them. Mel, Bayard's wife, who is much less social, is in charge of the riding program. The style of riding at the ranch is called Centered which is a combination of Western and English riding where the horses neck rein, but you must post the trot or canter in a two point or galloping position. On Monday morning, you are assessed by Mel via a 30 second riding test. With this quick evaluation, she will put you in one of three general riding groups (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) and you will stay in that group for the rest of the week, even if you do take the two lessons that Hadley teaches and which I enormously benefited from. If you fall into our category (the intermediate one), you will get primarily the older horses and take the nose-to-tail walking rides. If you have lots of English or Centered riding experience, you will get into the advanced category and be able to canter and gallop with the best horses on rides that Mel leads. Any improvement cannot and will not be recognized for the week, regardless of the fact that Hadley is a great teacher and can advance your skills quickly.

The great reviews have come from either beginners who don't mind the nose-to-tail walking rides or the advanced great riders that have gotten the limited great horses and been able to gallop with Mel leading the rides. If you want to improve and move up in riding capability, you should go someplace else, as it won't happen at the Bitterroot.

With that being said, my son did enjoy playing with all of the six dogs and made some nice friends from Scotland. We enjoyed the fine dinner conversation with interesting guests from all over the country and Europe. The food was good and plentiful and I looked forward every afternoon to the nice wine and appetizers being offered prior to dinner. Our cabin was located next to the lodge and was spacious, clean, but very dark.

The wranglers consisted of all college aged females, who although they were extremely friendly and knowledgeable, don't hold a candle to the real cowboys whom I enjoyed at the previous ranches I visited like the Rimrock in Cody, WY and the Elkhorn in Tucson, AZ. The scenery at the ranch was nice, although it was a bit dry with sagebrush and pine beetle fallen trees everywhere. The staff were also very accommodating, but there was no chance to socialize with them, as they were kept separate from the guests at all events.

If you are a beginning or advanced rider, you will most likely not be disappointed. However, as intermediate riders who were hoping to improve our riding ability, Bitterroot was an extreme disappointment.

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
13 Thank susaneobrien
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
ChevalierDubois, Owner at Bitterroot Ranch, responded to this review, December 6, 2011
We are very sorry that the vacation at our ranch was a disappointment for this particular family. We do our utmost to make a visit to our ranch the experience of a lifetime but also emphasize the welfare and safety of our guests and horses. This focus at times disappoints guests with a different focus. As many of our reviews mention; if you are a horse lover, if you are interested in improving your riding ability, if you love riding through dramatic western scenery at an exhilarating (but safe) pace then you will love the Bitterroot Ranch.

Ranch family member Hadley Fox’s lessons have enabled many riders to move up several ability levels during a week’s stay. As guests improve, we are happy to move them into more advanced groups and with 140 horses under saddle for an average 25 guests there is no dearth of mounts for more advanced riders. It is a great pleasure for us to see people improve their skills and their appreciation and enjoyment in horsemanship during a week’s stay. For us there is nothing better than watching novice riders or those with fear issues progress over the course of a week to the point that they have a solid riding foundation and even a new passion in life.

Our ranch is a riding and working cattle ranch rather than a typical resort type dude ranch. The centered riding style we use fits well with the demands of our other company, Equitours worldwide riding tours. We feel that it is the safest and most comfortable style for both horse and rider. Our horses are trained to expect people to ride posting the trot and getting up in the stirrups at the canter. Learning this style of riding has helped many of our guests go on to take exciting and challenging rides in places like Africa. We try to make this as clear as possible on our website.

For many we are a perfect match but our focus on safety and riding improvement is not for everyone. Over the years we have occasionally had guests with very little interest in expanding their equestrian horizons and at times this had led to a disappointing visit to our ranch. Riders that have a need for speed but are unwilling to avoid bouncing along out of balance and out of sync with the horse sometimes have trouble adjusting. Our horses react badly to this and it can be a safety issue. We would prefer to err on the side of caution and limit the risk these people pose to themselves, our horses, and other guests. We regret that this makes some guests unhappy at times.

A note on wrangling! Few genuine cowboys would even consider leading guest rides. Rather than employing wannabe cowboys we choose to emphasize traits like respect (for both horses and riders), sociability, intelligence, and equestrian ability. As a result most of our wranglers are college graduate women and experienced riders who are well informed about the area, the flora and the fauna. They are friendly and patient with guests and horses alike. In addition to our top notch wrangling crew the Fox family, Mel, Hadley, Richard and Bayard are proud to guide rides personally almost every day.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Charlottesville, Virginia
Level Contributor
3 reviews
Reviewed August 14, 2011

First two trips, 2002 and 2003, were with a friend and, although we both own horses and trail ride at home, we wanted to enjoy the scenery, so we listed ourselves as novice riders. They have a wonderful system of assigning 3 horses to each rider for the week. Rotating between them means you never ride a tired, sour horse. I loved it so much that this time I decided to treat my daughter and granddaughter and have won a special place in their hearts for giving them, "the best vacation ever!" Special kudos to the staff, who were endlessly patient and informative. My daughter was particularly impressed with lessons offered, gratis, by Hadley, Richard's wife, which gave her the confidence to try a canter ride. The cabins were, as always, comfortable, well-appointed and clean. The food is wonderful and plentiful - even though we rode almost 5 hours a day, I managed to gain 4-5 lbs. each trip. At age 75, I may not be able to do it again, but I live in hopes... :)

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank Linda M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Johnstown, Ohio, USA
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed August 10, 2011

A wonderful experience of Wyoming and a working cattle ranch. The hosts, Bayard and Mel Fox, provide an exhilarating and customized experience to trail ride in unbelievably beautiful country. Horses are selected to make each ride perfect and fun; the rides are tailored to satisfy your interests and provide appropriate challenges for your riding skills. Wranglers were delightful, informative and attentive: always ready to help, instruct and entertain. Food was amazing and the collection of guests instantly struck up friendships. This is a horse-lover's paradise and a vacation experience of a lifetime.

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Judith T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oxford, United Kingdom
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed February 7, 2011

I went to bitterroot on my own wanting to improve my riding. I have been an unconfident rider for ten years and too scared to canter.

I had a nice cabin all to myself. The people staying at the ranch were so friendly, I was never on my own. The rides and the horses were great. I still miss Zepplin. He was goregous and he became the firdt horse I ever cantered on maybe even galloped on. Mel and bryon were enteraining and fun. Handley gave fantastic lessons. Me having horse riding lessons in wyoming. Even herded some cows.

Food was great. Great time. Cant wait to go again.

  • Stayed August 2010, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
4 Thank pebbles055
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Glasgow, United Kingdom
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed October 7, 2010

I'm glad I didn't read any of the negative reviews here as they'd have possibly deprived me of one of the best weeks of my life. I'm just back from the September cattle drive week and had a simply brilliant time.

Hospitality: We arrived from the UK several hours earlier than anticipated but were nonetheless able to get into our cabins straight away and were provided an unplanned lunch. The food was out of this world there was plenty of it. Never once felt hungry the entire week, despite 6-7 hours riding every day. The folk were extremely welcoming and accommodating. The family and wranglers looked after us exceptionally well, both at the coral and out on the rides.

Riding: We had an initial asssessment by Mel, our hostess, who, despite the brevity of the session, did seem to evaluate our skills and experience pretty spot on as we all felt we had horses throughout the week that were within our capabilities but offered us some challenges too which, personally, I found ideal. Mel is clearly very focused on ensuring her horses are ridden in the style to which they have been trained and are accustomed. She was also, given the fact that this was a round-up week, concerned that we rode appropriately to achieve the round-up within the necessary timescale and this sometimes gave her a rather stern approach (No self-respecting Grizzly would have argued with her!) but we were pleased to see that, as the week progressed and we demonstrated that we were reasonably competent she was able to relax more and we didn't feel quite so terrified of her! It's important to remember that this is a working ranch, these cattle have to be in by the end of the week, the horses are part of the livelihood so guests need to accept their role and responsiblity in the round-up - yes, even if they're paying good money for it! You will be riding through rough terrain, with boggy patches, some tricky woodland to negotiate and the possiblity of being surprised by local wildlife - expect some bumps, bruises and scrapes. If there's a serious injury it will be dealt with but keeping cattle together will take priority over surface damage! If you've not ridden these sorts of hours or in western saddles before, expect to be sore (especially day 3)and take appropriate pain relief with you. I loved every one of the 5 horses I rode (although Poca Hontas definitely my favourite!) even though a couple were quite challenging at times - that was good for developing my skills and experience and I feel I have returned to the UK a better rider for it. We rode every day, including the morning of the day we went home which was unexpected and much appreciated.

Accommodation: beautiful cabins, very clean, nice and warm and dry, comfy beds, great shower/ bath facilities with constant hot water, nice verandah to sit on. This is the wilderness so if the temperatures start to drop in the evenings towards the end of the season, of if you're daft enough to have loose food about (you won't need it!) then you will more than likely be paid a visit by some rather cute looking but nonetheless a bit distracting mice. You can learn to ignore them or traps are available if required.

Overall, I loved this holiday to bits and would recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone considering it.

  • Stayed September 2010, traveled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank bilbo186534
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
East Haddam, Connecticut
2 reviews
Reviewed August 4, 2010

My wife and I just completed our 3rd stay at Bitterroot, and the reasons for returning are still the same; good people, good food, good riding, good times. The seclusion, scenery, and focus of the ranch is just what we want for a stress-relieving vacation.
All the crew, the wranglers, cook and wait staff, and especially The Fox's ( Bayard, Mel, Richard and Hadley) are friendly and cheerful. Their variety of origins makes for some interesting conversations, and this year guests from not only around the United States but also from France and Bermuda added to our experience.
The cabins are rustic and secluded, clean and airy; just bring a good book ( in my case also a guitar ) for those times you want to sit on the porch. No tv, no radio, no pool or tennis court.....just fresh air and lots of riding, which is exactly what we wanted.
Looking forward to next year already.


B

  • Stayed July 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank JGyrine
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Bitterroot Ranch

Property: Bitterroot Ranch
Address: 1480 E. Fork Rd., Dubois, WY 82513
Location: United States > Wyoming > Dubois
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 12 Specialty Lodging in Dubois
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Number of rooms: 12
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The ranch is a 640-acre spread where the guests help with the fall cattle round-up. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Bitterroot Dude Ranch Hotel Dubois

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