Archive for the ‘ Montana ’ Category


Grey Cliffs Ranch: A Cornucopia of Activities and Luxury

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

The State of Montana is a capacious place where the wild still roam, the rivers flow unabated, and the hills roll into the horizon.  Montana is one of the last places where you can experience nature as it was intended.  I recently had the pleasure of staying at the Grey Cliffs Ranch, which epitomizes the Montana experience if you ask me.  The Ranch is flanked by the Madison River and encompasses more than 5000 acres…it’s located just thirty minutes west of Bozeman in the Madison Valley.

Prior to my arrival I had been visiting a very good friend of mine and his family in Bozeman, so the drive to Grey Cliffs Ranch was a quick one.  As I departed the paved highway and began traveling down a dirt road along the Madison River, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  After about five miles I came upon a secure gated entrance—after entering the code I was provided, I continued down the road for another mile or so where I came upon a second secure gate.  Just past the gate entrance as I came around a bend in the road, I was greeted with the sight of a splendid lodge built into an acclivitous hill.  There was a pond in front with a small creek feeding it…as I passed by, I saw a fish jump and my excitement to try a hand at some fly fishing intensified.  As I made my way up the driveway I was greeted by Chris (the ranch manager) who proceeded to show me around the palatial estate.

The lodge at Grey Cliffs Ranch is over 8000 square feet with an abundance of deck and patio space. The exposed post beam construction and open floor plan provides soaring ceilings and spectacular views from the main floor.  No expense was spared in the construction or furnishing of this lodge.  There are five distinctly furnished guest rooms with the entire upper floor dedicated to the “owner’s quarters.”

After I got settled, I went for a stroll around the grounds of the lodge, finding myself near the edge of the pond—which is stocked with trout.  Chris told me about a storage unit with food pellets for the fish and encouraged me to feed them.  At first I dropped just a few pellets in at a time and observed the fish out-swim each other in an attempt to gobble up the sustenance.  It was remarkable to see how fast the trout can maneuver.  Just to make things interesting, I waited for a bit…then threw a handful of pellets into the pond and watched as the trout swarmed to the surface like piranha devouring their prey.  It was quite a sight to witness.  It wouldn’t be long, I thought, until I’d get the chance to catch one of these trophy trout with a fake fly.

There are so many fun and exciting things to do at the Ranch…depending on the time of year you visit; you might opt for some upland bird hunting for pheasant or chukar partridge. Or perhaps try your hand at some trap shooting on their wonderful range (actually I think you can do both trap and skeet, but I’m not 100% sure of the difference between the two). There are a number of guided fishing options to choose from…you can hit one of two stocked ponds on the property, or head over to the Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone or Jefferson rivers.  There is also big game hunting, long-range shooting and an abundance of places to go for an afternoon hike.  If you just want to relax, there’s no better place…the downstairs common area is a wonderful place for watching a movie on the big screen, or playing a board game.  Upstairs you can nestle up to the massive fireplace and read a book, or grab a lounge chair on the expansive deck and take in the awe-inspiring views while listening to the wildlife.

The Grey Cliffs Ranch offers a number of accommodation choices:

  • Guided: Includes full/half day of upland bird hunting, fly-fishing and/or sporting clays.  Hearty breakfast, packed lunch and a gourmet dinner prepared by a fine local chef.  Transportation to/from the airport can also be arranged.
  • Non-Guided: Which excludes the activities listed above, but can include all three meals or just the full breakfast.

During my last full day at the ranch my buddy Sean came out from Bozeman to spend the day with me.  I started off giving him a tour of the place, of which he was thoroughly impressed.  He mentioned that the lodge would make an outstanding locale for a family reunion, and I had to agree.  Sean brought his own fishing equipment so we headed down to the nearby pond to see who could catch the bigger fish (we’re just a little competitive).   Sean has extensively more experience than I do…as a matter of fact, I’ll never forget the time we were fishing on a lake in Arizona when he saw me casting, he said, “you’re doing that all wrong…here, give me that thing.”  He proceeded to take my pole and on his very first cast caught a fish.  He then said, “see, that’s how you do it!”  Funny thing was, that was our only fish of the day.

It only took Sean a couple of casts before he reeled in his first catch.  I was on the other side of the lake and wasn’t quite as successful.   Chris (the ranch manager) and Sean couldn’t help but notice my ineptitude so they both came over to try and give me some instruction.  Sure enough, soon thereafter I caught a doozy!  It was a wonderful catch.  As the Rainbow Trout bit my line, I pulled back to make sure I had him hooked good.  He then leaped out of the water, must have been three feet (okay, maybe it was just a few inches…but this is my fish story).   I reeled him in a little and then he’d fight back and take a few feet of line.  It was a battle back and forth, until I finally tuckered the little guy out and we were able to net him and unhook him.  Before I released the trout back into the pond I was holding the little guy while Sean took some video, during which time I asked Chris a few rhetorical questions, “whatta ya think…22”-24”?”  He replied with a smile “more like 18”.  Check out the video below and you can see for yourself that this wasn’t some sort of “fish tale.”

After fishing for a spell, Chris took us over to the shooting range where we tried our hand at some trap shooting.  I’ve had some experience sporting clays, so I was pretty confident I was going to be able to redeem myself and outshine Sean.  Chris brought a couple different shotguns for us to try, an 18 and a 12 gauge…both were very nice weapons and one was a style I’d never shot before.  I let Sean go first and it only took him a couple shots to zero-in on the clay pigeons.  When it was my turn to take aim, I was not quite as successful…I’m used to shooting clays high in the air, not low to the ground.  Chris started launching clays from different directions which really made hitting the targets even more difficult to hit.  The wind was really picking up so we decided to call it an afternoon.

Sean and I headed back to the lodge where I baited him into another activity that I felt confident I could beat him…chess.  The lower common area of the lodge has a wonderful game table that serves multiple purposes…when you flip the table it exposes a chess board.   The first game we played…I dominated and won.  The second game, well, he gave me a bit of a run, but in the end my patience paid off with another exemplary victory.  After chess we each both enjoyed a cold beer while discussing the virtues of life.

My visit to the Grey Cliffs Ranch concluded with yet another outstanding breakfast.  Before I packed up to leave I took the remainder of my coffee out on the deck and took one last lingering look at the beautiful landscape that surrounds the ranch.

If you’re looking for an amazing get-away vacation, consider the Grey Cliffs Ranch, Chris is the consummate host and will make sure you have an amazing time with lasting memories.

Click the following link to see more pictures of Grey Cliffs Ranch.  If you’ve ever been to the Ranch, please let my readers and me know what you thought.  If you enjoyed reading this post, please hit the “like” button below.

Contact Info:

Grey Cliffs Ranch
1915 Lakota Drive
Three Forks, MT 59752

A Review of The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

When I first arrived in Whitefish, Montana, I was pleasantly surprised.  Unlike many smaller towns its size, Whitefish actually has some great amenities and accommodations—including the place I stayed, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.  Located just east of downtown, The Lodge was much grander than I expected…it’s actually a full-blown resort with all the amenities you’d expect—from a fine dining restaurant, luxurious accommodations, comfy common areas to a relaxing spa.

You will find plenty to do at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, whether you want to kayak, jet ski, layout by the pool, rent a boat and go water skiing, hang out on the beach, or perhaps have a cocktail at the bar while watching the sunset over the majestic Whitefish Lake.

While I was in Whitefish during the summer, I know there is a lot to do in the area during the winter as well, from downhill skiing, ice skating, dog sledding, cross country skiing, ice fishing, to snowmobiling.  Or, you could just hang out by the fireplace with a warm beverage or visit the spa for a relaxing treatment.

While I would categorize it as more of a resort, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake really feels like a lodge, with lots of luxurious and comfortable furnishings, a roaring fire in the lobby, wood accents; to its taxidermy (the huge black bear in the lobby makes for a great photo opp).

I did not have an opportunity to see any rooms other than my own suite, so all I can say is that my accommodations were fabulous. My suite was very spacious and included a comfy king-size bed, desk, sitting area near a fireplace and T.V., a roomy mini-bar and a luxurious bathroom which included a large soaking tub, his/her sinks and a slate shower…all with granite and upgraded hardware.  My suite was located ground-level with its own patio, which made for easy access to the pool, the beach or the lake docks.  The views of the lake are just spectacular, each night I was treated to a bright and colorful sunset.

The Lodge also has a fine dining restaurant on-site, which is quite good.  One evening I had a delicious Ahi entrée that was wonderfully presented. I was very impressed with the service at The Lodge, both inside and outside of the restaurant.  Stace, the restaurant manager, runs an efficient ship (the restaurant is called the “Boat Club”) and tries to instill the importance of quality service in her crew.  The bar is a popular place and is quite large with great views of the lake.  I understand Wednesday evening is the place to be as there is live music in the bar from 6-9pm—And, all-you-can-eat seafood for only $10!

The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is only five years old, and to my surprise, it’s family run—operated by the Averill family, 5th generation Montanans.   Husband and wife, Sean and Stacey Averill, mainly handle the day-to-day operations—while Brian Averill and his wife Fabienne handle resort expansion, sales and special events.  Needless to say, it’s tough to get through the front doors of the Lodge without running into at least one of the Averill family members…this probably has something to do with the great service The Lodge offers.

Here is a Resort supplied video to give you an additional perspective of the property.

Glacier Mountain Lodge B&B Review

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Glacier Mountain Lodge is probably one of the finest places I’ve ever had the privilege of staying.  No expense was spared when building this beautiful structure, which also includes two separate cabin retreats on the eight acres the property encompasses. The grounds are fabulously designed with several dramatic water features, including a pond in which you’re allowed to do some recreational catch-and-release fishing.

The mountains, vista and pasture views are just breathtaking. The common areas are lush with quality furnishings.  One room includes a large screen T.V. for your viewing pleasure, although each room does come equipped with its own. There is even a wine bar with complimentary wine so that you may toast the evening or enjoy on one of the many decks or patios that look-out at the many marvelous views.

There is a gazebo with acres of finely groomed grass surrounding it, which makes for a splendid outdoor wedding setting—or stroll the property with your morning coffee and hang out in the gazebo as you watch the horses graze.

Each of the rooms at Glacier Mountain Lodge is uniquely designed with the finest amenities and most luxurious linens.  Whether you’re in the “Owner’s Suite” or one of the fabulous cabins, you’re sure to enjoy your accommodations.  The entire lodge can be rented for corporate retreats, special events or weddings and can sleep up to 28 people, but can accommodate a couple hundred.

My only two critical comments are that the air comfort systems are a bit loud and that breakfast is a very modest self-serve continental variety. Given that this is more of a “Lodge” vs. a “B&B,” perhaps my expectations are unfair.  There is no denying the high-quality accommodations; however at the price-point and lack of nearby amenities, it is a bit surprising that a full breakfast is not provided.  In the Lodge’s defense, it has only been open for a bit more than a year, so perhaps that is one of those logistical items they’re still working on.

There is also no denying how conveniently located the Glacier Mountain Lodge is from all the things you’ll want to do in the area.  Located just outside of Columbia Falls, Montana, the Lodge is merely 20 minutes from either Whitefish, Flathead Lake or Glacier National Park (west entrance).

If you’re looking for the finest, most refined quality lodging Montana has to offer, look no further than Glacier Mountain Lodge.

The Swan Hill Bed and Breakfast Review

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

I stay in a lot of B&B’s and most are unique and special in their own way. The Swan Hill Bed and Breakfast however might just make my top-10 list of favorites…especially the specific accommodations that I was privileged with. Not only is the general area of Flathead Lake spectacular, so are the grounds at Swan Hill. Located on thirteen acres with access to the water, it’s a wonderful place to relax and unwind.

The Swan Hill B&B is a huge home situated on a hill just above Flathead Lake (on the western side) in northwestern Montana. There are five guest rooms along with a lakeside cabin retreat (which is where I stayed). Each room is distinctly appointed and beautifully decorated with their own high-tech comfort control system. One set of rooms shares a bathroom, while the rest are all private. One of the rooms has a state-of-the-art shower system that looked like it was from the future. There is also over 4000sf of deck space that surrounds the house, so you’re sure to find a nice private spot to relax and take in the views or the wildlife.

Drew and Debbie (the proprietors) are two of the most hospitable hosts you’ll ever come across. They are incredibly knowledgeable about the area, both in history as well as accommodations such as restaurant recommendations.

If breakfast is your thing…you won’t be disappointed. Debbie whips up some delicious dishes. One of the mornings I was there she made Belgium waffles with some sort of fruit infused frozen dollop of sweet cream…oh my! Then there was a side of fresh fruit with grilled ham—and of course freshly brewed coffee and orange juice.

Some of the amenities at Swan Hill include:

  • Heated indoor swimming pool
  • Sauna
  • Trails through the property
  • Fire-pit with forested views of the lake
  • Kayaks and paddle boat
  • Books and movies

Swan Hill Bed and Breakfast is one of those places you go out of your way for. If you’re looking for a really romantic get-away, reserve the lakeside cabin…you won’t be disappointed. Their private cabin retreat is amazing! Located right on the water’s edge it has a Jacuzzi tub, fireplace, deck overlooking the water with table and chairs and a kitchenette in case you don’t want to leave. It’s very private and quite…you’ll sleep like a baby.

The Hickory House Inn B&B Review

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

The  Hickory House Inn bed and breakfast is a place rich in history…it’s located in the historical district of Anaconda, MT and was formally the parish house of St. Paul’s Church. The former Rectory has 4200 square feet that includes five guest quarters and some wonderfully spacious and comfortable common areas. The Hickory House was built in 1902 and had been a Rectory for most its life, until a female naval officer purchased the property and lived there by herself for some thirty years.

Most recently the home was purchased by Mary Jane and her husband George who restored the home to its natural state and converted the property into the B&B as we know it today. The restoration was a painstaking process as the entire house was donned in brown colors (probably making the former owner, the military officer, feel right at home) and had many modern changes that required undoing in order to get the home back to its rightful state.

Mary Jane had searched high and low, often using Ebay to acquire the vintage hardware and décor needed for the restoration. Today the home looks like it would have some 100 years ago and is a wonderful reminder of the period. The Hickory House Inn is located right in the heart of downtown Anaconda and is walking distance to museums, galleries and restaurants. The accommodations are modest but comfortable. The wonderful proximity is also its nemesis in that traffic noise can be a bit loud, but usually dies down by late evening.

Breakfast at the Hickory House is home-cooked and served on fine china. One morning during my visit we had some of the best blueberry pancakes I’ve ever had, they were thin just like I like them! We also had some sort of sausage patty with an array of spices that provided a ying/yang affect with the pancakes. There was of course freshly ground coffee and orange juice.

Mary Jane is a wonderful host providing great insight, history and recommendations on the area. Mary Jane’s husband, George is a bank builder and has recently accepted a position that will require him to travel a good deal, so sadly they have put the Hickory House Inn up for sale. So, if you know anyone interested in becoming a B&B innkeeper, give them a call directly.

RiverRock Lodge Review (Big Sky, MT)

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

The RiverRock Lodge is located right in the heart of Big Sky, MT and is not quite as much a lodge as it is a small hotel.  With that said, the RiverRock tries to give its place a “Lodge” feel with a number of locally taxidermist animals, lots of rugged lumber, walls adorned with wonderful old photographs and a nice common area that includes leather couches, chairs and a fireplace. The Lodge also has a meeting room that can accommodate company functions and/or events.

The RiverRock Lodge is in walking distance from shopping, nice restaurants and other amenities—the ski lodge is just a few short miles away, so convenience is certainly in RiverRock’s favor.  New construction has occurred in the area over the past few years, the community is putting the finishing touches on an outdoor music venue with a fabulous backdrop—again, a stone’s throw from the RiverRock Lodge.

The RiverRock also provides a continental breakfast for its guests that often includes, fresh fruit, yogurt, cold & warm cereal, pastries and coffee/tea & juice.

With many affluent lodging choices in the area, the RiverRock is a nicely appointed lodge/hotel for the money, with basic room rates of $165 per night.  RiverRock Lodge is run by Resort Property Management Company, which manages a number of properties in the Big Sky area, from fully furnished homes, condos to cabins. So, no matter your lodging needs, Resort Property Management can probably accommodate.

While in Big Sky, you’ll find an abundance of things to do, from skiing, biking, rafting, horseback riding, climbing, hiking, cross country, fishing to wildlife watching.  Whether summer, winter or in-between there is something for everyone in Big Sky.  For more information on Big Sky, MT, check out the chamber website.

Gallagher’s Irish Rose B&B review

Monday, June 28th, 2010

The Gallagher’s Irish Rose Bed and Breakfast is run by husband and wife, Gordon and Leah Gallagher. The Irish Rose is located in darling Red Lodge, Montana—in the heart of town and at the entrance to one of the most scenic byways in the country…the Beartooth Highway.  It’s also conveniently located just an hour from Billings, where you can fly into if you’re not driving.

The Irish Rose (build circa 1910) is a traditional style home with a Victorian flair. The B&B is located within walking distance from wonderful restaurants, shops, hiking, fishing and so much more.

The Irish Rose’s great location is also its downfall in a slight way…the traffic noise can be a bit loud at times; however things do seem to die down by 10:30 or so.  If you are sensitive to noise, do what I do and travel with ear plugs.

Road noise aside, the Irish Rose is a quaint place with three eclectically designed rooms.  Much of the artwork in the home was painted by Leah.   Just after you check-in you’re treated to a welcome snack with a couple of wine choices in which you can enjoy on the porch as you observe passersby.

Breakfast at the Irish Rose is also a treat…I won’t soon forget the sour cream blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup…oh they were so delicious.  Guests are also welcome to a supply of sodas, bottled water, hot cocoa and tea throughout their stay.

There is so much to do in and around Red Lodge that you’ll want to stay at least a few days.  Each season brings a different round of things to see, and activities to enjoy. For more information on Red Lodge and the Beartooth Highway, click here for my overview of the area.

Silver Forest Inn Bed & Breakfast Review

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

As I write this, I feel like I’m in the world’s coolest tree house! I’m enjoying a stay at the Silver Forest Inn Bed and Breakfast just outside Bozeman, MT. The Silver Forest B&B is run by a lovely family, Mark, Susannah and their three kids.

My room is the “Turret,” which is aptly named. I’m enjoying fantastic panoramic views of snow-capped mountains—sitting high atop the valley below. Just outside the windows I’m witness to graceful deer grazing. A light rain starts to come down as the sun drops just behind the mountain range. I have a pleasant feeling of protection from the elements as the “pitter-patter” on the metal roof sings a harmonic tune of serenity.

The Silver Forest Inn is located about 12 miles north of Bozeman in the heart of the Bridger Mountains, and only 1.5 miles from the Bridger Bowl ski resort. The Silver Forest Bed and Breakfast is an historic 1932 log home that doesn’t seem to age. The home was built by enterprising dreamer, Arthur L. McKinney, who envisioned a summer artist’s colony. McKinney believed that the Silver Forest’s rustic wilderness beauty would be the perfect inspirational setting for artists, writers and teachers to study and perform the arts (I have to agree).

The Inn opened as a B & B in 1990, treating guests to its gracious, yet rustic hospitality. Nearby recreational opportunities include: national forest trails for hiking, mountain biking or 4-wheel drive exploration of the back country. Winter and summer vacation activities include skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, golf, fly fishing, horseback riding, white river rafting, hunting or even a day trip to Yellowstone National Park.

There are four rooms at the Silver Forest Inn…two of the rooms have private bathrooms, while two rooms (including mine) share a bath…however, for an extra $75 per night you can secure the other room that shares the bath with the amazing “Turret” room. There are nice common areas, one with a huge fireplace and leather couches, another as a “T.V.” room. They also have a deck overlooking the mountains with a hot tub in which guests can enjoy after a long day of hiking or skiing.

Then of course there is the dining area for breakfast. Speaking of breakfast…I have to say that Susannah is a wonderful cook. During my stay I enjoyed an egg puff, applesauce muffin with fruit and real fresh cream, bacon, thick almond-slivered French toast and of course coffee and O.J.

If you’re looking for a wonderful mountain get-away in a refined rustic log home with amazing views and proximity to skiing and other activities, you have to check out the Silver Forest Inn…tell’em Mike sent ya.