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!!
- 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