Whitefish, Montana, Trail Ride

The Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana, gives trail riders the chance to ride on over a million acres worth of trails to see beautiful scenery, wildlife and sparsely populated territory. The ranch offers a variety of horse breeds for riders to choose from.

Bar W guests think they’re miles away from civilization when they finally reach the lodge after a beautiful drive into the ranch. Beautiful vistas with mountains and rolling ridges decorate the countryside of this cozy ranch, which offers 3,000 acres for riding and wilderness activities.

But at Bar W, you can have a true Montana wilderness experience, yet be close enough to the resort town of Whitefish to take advantage of great shopping, fine dining, theater, and nightlife. Or, you can just sit back at the ranch and let the Montana experience surround you. As you explore the ranch, you may see deer, moose, geese, bears, eagles, coyotes, and other abundant wildlife.

Located on Spencer Lake, the Bar W opened last summer under the direction of its managing partner, entrepreneur Dave Leishman and ranch manager Bill Beck, who operated the Bear Creek Guest Ranch in East Glacier, Montana, for 21 years. Leishman’s partners include his wife, Janet; his brother Greg; Phil Dukes, owner of the Double D Guest Ranch in Blairstown, New Jersey, and Beck.

Ride Montana

Leishman and Beck have assembled a friendly, experienced staff that offers riding lessons for all levels of experience. Trail riders can enjoy the entire million or so acres where the Bar W holds permits.

The ranch has a stable of trained horses. The full-week vacation on horseback begins with the proper matching of each guest to one of the Bar W’s well-trained ranch horses, followed by a morning horsemanship clinic. Emphasis is always placed on the safety of the guests and the welfare of the horses. During the week, you may ride a variety of horses. Or, if you find a horse you like, you can request that mount for your entire stay.

Riding in the mountains involves paying attention to going up and down in elevation while keeping an eye open for wildlife and the next spectacular view of the Rockies just ahead. Riding the foothills is generally a more aggressive, faster ride moving through more open country, with a trot or a lope thrown in.

You’ll begin to recognize names, such as the Flathead, Swisher Lake, Trumble Canyon, Two Medicine, Tally Lake, and the Marias Rivers. Finally, if you go for the Bar W “adventure in an adventure,” you’ll ride the wide-open prairie of the Blackfeet Reservation, which offers views of “purple mountains majesty.” If there are cattle to be moved that week, you’ll feel as though you’ve jumped back in time to an era when life was difficult, but simple.

Even as winter approaches, riding activities continue, thanks to the Bar W’s state-of-the-art, heated indoor arena. The ranch’s barn and arena can stall up to 30 horses. The ranch has been a temporary home to Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, Tennessee Walking Horses, ponies, Warmbloods, and others. Area locals ride and train their respective mounts, and often use the in-house trainers at the ranch to improve their own riding skills.

Western Hospitality

Bar W ranch packages include accommodations, incredible meals, maid service, all ranch activities and facilities, horse and tack, guided trail riding, rodeo action, cookouts, use of boats, hiking in wilderness areas, fishing on the lake – essentially the run of the property. The ranch also offers overnight accommodations with a hearty breakfast for those just passing through.

“When guests see the ranch, they fall in love with it,” says Beck. “We treat each guest with true Western hospitality. Our goal is to make guests feel at home from the minute they arrive to long after they’ve left. It’s easy to get here – it’s leaving here that’s hard.”

This year, Bar W is building new cabins to complement the existing 6,200-square-foot lodge that sleeps 18 to 22 people. In addition, the ranch has expanded the amount of terrain for riding, developed theme weeks (such as cattle drives and overnight campouts), and partnered with local outfitters to provide guests with a vacation they will remember fondly for a long time to come.

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