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Luxury Lodges Out West

The skies over Montana and Wyoming are indeed big, so big they can make you feel like a wee speck on the horizon. Happily, many of the lodges that dot the landscape in Big Sky Country make you feel like you’re at the center of the universe, with fabulous amenities, special offers, and no end of back-to-nature-type activities. Below are our favorite spots to escape the rat race in comfort.

The Big EZ
Where: Big Sky, Montana0606_EZlodgeFINAL.jpg
Atop a mountain at a 7,500-foot elevation, this modern lodge overlooks other mountains and the Gallatin River drainage (it’s much prettier than it sounds). The savory cuisine, 18-hole golf course, and large outdoor hot tub make it one of Montana’s best-kept secrets. (photo, top)
Rates: Start at $535 based on double occupancy; 3 daily meals included.
What’s nearby: Yellowstone National Park is a 45-minute drive in a southerly direction on Highway 191 (the concierge can customize your visit to the park). Also in the neighborhood are the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area and the Gallatin National Forest. Half-day and full-day horseback-rides can be arranged.
Getting There: The Big EZ Lodge provides transportation to and from both Belgrade/Bozeman (BZN) and West Yellowstone (WYS) airports for a fee. Both airports are located approximately 60 minutes from the lodge. The drive is along scenic highway 191, which follows the path of the Gallatin River.

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Seven Lazy P Guest Ranch
Where: Choteau, Montana
This 1,200-acre ranch is surrounded by pines and aspens deep in Teton Canyon, an eastern gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The duplex cabins feel like a second home, with comfortable furniture, wood-paneled ceilings, rough-hewn wainscoting, and picture windows. The room rate includes three meals daily, served family-style. Note that the ranch is closed from Thanksgiving till May or June.
Rates: $195 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. Four-night minimum stay required. Rate includes meals and horseback riding.
What’s Nearby: The Bob Marshall Wilderness, one and a half million acres in size, lies just behind the ranch and includes some of the most pristine land left in the lower 48 states.
Getting There: Northwest, Delta, and Horizon service Great Falls Airport (GTF), a 90-minute drive from the inn. You can rent a car or be met by the Ranch’s van.

0606_RainbowLodge2Fnal.jpgRainbow Ranch
Where: Big Sky, Montana
This lovely, fully updated 1919 log lodge perches alongside the Gallatin River. The cabins are strictly western with fishing paraphernalia, fireplaces, and lodgepole-pine beds. Wine lovers will be merry as can be come dinner time—the primo restaurant here boasts 6,500 bottles. (photo, right)
Rates: From $185, based on double occupancy.
What’s Nearby: The Gallatin River runs alongside the lodge. The concierge can arrange half-day and full-day river-rafting excursions through the class II, III and IV stretches. The lodge is 45 minutes by car from Yellowstone’s west entrance (head south on Highway 191).
Getting There: Gallatin Field Airport in Bozeman (BZN), about 50 miles from Big Sky, is the closest airport.

The Riverbend Bed & Breakfast
Where: Fort Benton, Montana
This log-and-wood-beam lodge nestles on a quiet stretch of the Missouri River two miles north of Fort Benton. There are only two guest rooms, and only guests with advance reservations are given the B&B’s precise location, so expect plenty of peace and solitude.
What’s Nearby: The lodge is two miles from Fort Benton, made famous by Lewis and Clark when they camped nearby. Two museums in Fort Benton, the Museum of the Northern Great Plains and Museum of the Upper Missouri, superbly document the history of the region.
Getting There: The B&B is 40 miles northeast of Great Falls Airport (GTF).

Spirit West River Lodge
Where: Encampment, Wyoming
This massive log structure next to the Encampment River has walls of lichen-covered rocks and large windows overlooking the water and surrounding scenery. The lodge has a mile of private-access fishing on the river, and each room has a private entrance off a deck overlooking the river. (photo, right)
Rates: Start at $85 per night, based on double occupancy.
Getting There: Cheyenne (CYS), Laramie (LAR), and Rock Springs- Sweetwater County (RKS) are the major airports in the area, with service to and from Denver only.
What’s Nearby: The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, Hayden District, covers 586,000 acres, including the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail and the Encampment River, Huston Park, Savage Run, and Platte River wilderness areas—ideal places to go hiking, fishing, mountain biking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

060606_brooksFINAL.jpgBrooks Lake Lodge
Where: Dubois, Wyoming
Built in 1922, the lodge has massive open-beam ceilings, spacious rooms, and log, leather, and wicker furnishings. All six of the property’s cabins boast panoramic views of either the Wind River Range or Brooks Lake.
Rates: Start at $200 a night per person, based on double occupancy.
What’s nearby: Brooks Lake Recreation Area, about 20 miles west of Dubois, offers easy to moderate hiking trails that lead around Brooks Lake, across alpine meadows and through pine forest to high mountain points with glorious views of the lake and the Pinnacles.
Getting There: The inn is about a 90-minute drive from the Jackson Hole Airport (JAC). The inn offers airport transfers for a fee.

060606_montana.jpgFodor’s Copy Chief Linda Schmidt headed west with her husband and their husky for several weeks last August to perform guest cook duties at the Seven Lazy P Guest Ranch.

  • Click here for her impressions of Big Sky Country.
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