Billings, Little Big Horn, and the Montana Plains Feature
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Guest Ranches on the Plains
Most eastern Montana ranchers are busy enough with making a living that their concession to visitors is a two-fingered wave through the windshield. But a few ranches, most in the mountains south of Billings, cater to guests, who take part in calving and branding, trailing cows to summer pasture, fixing fence, and other staples of ranch life.
Dryhead Ranch (307/548-6688) is headquartered in Lovell but sprawls up the arid east slopes of the Pryor Mountains in Montana. A dozen horse-loving guests a week visit from April through November, helping Iris Basset and her family run their thousand head of cattle and 300 horses. "They come for as much horseback riding as we can give them, and we can wear them out in four or five days," says Basset.
Nestled in the Clarks Fork Valley to the west, Lonesome Spur Ranch (406/662-3460) also caters to horsey guests, more than half of whom hail from overseas. This is where Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer, lived as he researched the best-selling novel, and a week at the ranch revolves around saddle horns and bridle bits and includes a trip to see the Pryor Mountains' wild-horse herd.
Just to the west, in the shadow of the Beartooth Mountains, the Lazy E-L Ranch (406/328-6858) is similarly devoted to horses and includes ranch work.
Don't expect wine tastings or hot-towel spas at these working ranches, but if you want to spend a week in the saddle experiencing authentic Western landscapes from the back of a horse, these ranches are worth a look. Rates range from $1,500 to $1,800 per week per adult, and some ranches allow groups to book the entire facility.
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