Last month, Flathead Lake Lodge was nominated to be included in the “10 best dude ranches across the country for 2023” in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice awards. First things first, we were grateful to be among the ranks of other incredible guest ranches across the country. We know firsthand how many amazing dude ranches there are, especially in the West. From Arizona in the south to Montana in the north, our landscapes are dotted with ranches, all offering their own distinct experience.

Horses heading out to pasture at our Montana dude ranch.

After being nominated by a panel, the 10Best Awards take it to a vote. Over several days, folks cast their vote for their favorite guest ranch and at the end of the contest, Flathead Lake Lodge snagged the number six spot…here’s what USA Today had to say.

“The terms “luxury” and “rustic” may not often be paired, but they’re fitting descriptions of Flathead Lake Lodge. This lovely ranch situated in the foothills provides an all-inclusive vacation that’s family-friendly to its core. It spans 2,000 acres, giving guests the advantages of its lakefront location with activities like sailing, canoeing, wakesurfing, stand-up paddleboarding and lakeside campfires. On land, there’s horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking on offer.”

To the folks who nominated us and those of you who voted for us in this contest, thank you! We’re delighted that you love this place as much as we do and are so glad that you are part of the Flathead Lake Lodge family. It’s our privilege to share the legacy, lifestyle and magic of this place, year after year.

Until next time,


PS: if you’re interested in visiting the ranch in Bigfork, Montana, this summer, we have a handful of weeklong stays available, as well as our spring and fall adults-only adventure retreats. Give us a call at 406-837-4391.

There’s no shortage of things to do in Montana, whether it’s your first time visiting or your 50th time. While we get to experience Montana all summer long at Flathead Lake Lodge, we know squeezing everything into a one-week stay can be challenging. Between Montana’s  lakes and rivers, charming small towns and thousands of acres of wilderness, there’s plenty of options to choose from when visiting Montana. We’ve gathered up some of our favorite summer activities to help you make the most of your trip to Montana and Flathead Lake Lodge.

1.  Sail on Flathead Lake

Catch the wind on the Questa

Flathead Lake is 197 square miles of water, meaning there is plenty of room for everyone to play on, in or around it. The lake is a great place to take a leisurely boat cruise on Flathead Lake Lodge’s very own Mustang, bounce behind a ski boat on an innertube or set sail. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and canoes are a great way to experience the quiet bays along the shore, while seven Montana state parks (which are all open to visitors) are scattered in or around the lake.

Sailing with Flathead Lake Lodge is open to anyone wanting to spend a day on the lake. Whether you’re a guest at the lodge or just passing through, you’re more than welcome to set sail with us. Learn more about our restored Q-Class Sloops, the Questa and the Nor’ Easter V, and book your voyage here.

2.  Hike the Swan Mountains

Jewel Basin hiking area
Photo: Montana Office of Tourism

We’re lucky at Flathead Lake Lodge to be surrounded by nearby mountains that offer us beautiful views every day. When you’re a guest here at the lodge or just visiting the area, northwest Montana has some of the best hikes around. Our 2,000 acres have hiking trails for guests, while the nearby Swan Mountains have easy hikes for beginners and longer treks for more advanced hikers, with every trail offering something different. A local favorite: the Jewel Basin. While you’ll find plenty of people on our trails, it’s always a good idea to carry bear spray.

3.  Explore Glacier National Park  

Going to the Sun Road
Photo: Lauren Picard

A beautiful 45-minute drive is all that stands between our guest ranch in Bigfork and the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park. Established in 1910, Glacier is a great location for a day visit or even adding on a couple day’s stay after leaving Flathead Lake Lodge. Anchoring the park, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is its most popular attraction and takes visitors across the Continental Divide along one of the most beautiful drives in the country. You can drive yourself, take a red bus tour, set out with Sun Tours or use the park’s free shuttle service.

4. Visit Wild Horse Island

See the island’s wild horse herd

Wild Horse Island, which is the largest island on Flathead Lake and a day-use state park, is one of the coolest places in the area and is home to a herd of wild horses that roam the island freely. The Salish-Kootenai Tribe used to use the island to pasture their horses and protect them from being stolen by other tribes. The only way to reach the island is by boat; you can take your own or you can hop on a charter and see many parts of the lake that are often overlooked on the way.

5. Go Whitewater Rafting

Raft Trip with Glacier Raft Company
Photo: Cole Cronkright

If you’re looking for adventure, rafting Montana’s rivers is the way to go. The run-off season creates a range of rapids that offer different experiences for all ages and comfort levels. During your stay at the lodge, we can help you book a trip with our friends at Glacier Raft Company. They offer full-day and half-day trips on the river as well as a Ride and Raft option, which combines a scenic horseback ride near Glacier National Park in the morning and a raft down the rapids in the afternoon.

6. Cast a Line and Fly-fish 

Enjoy some of the best trout fishing in the country
Photo: Flathead Lake Lodge

Montana is home to some of the best fly-fishing trout streams in the West. Whether you’ve been throwing flies your whole life or are just learning, Montana’s rivers and streams are a great place to spend a morning, evening or whole day trying to land that perfect trout. We offer fly-fishing lessons at the lodge (included with your stay) and can connect you with our onsite fishing guide from Andy Guy Outfitting, who will take you on an off-site excursion to catch your very own Montana trout.  

7. Road Trips and Flathead Cherries

Flathead Cherries, a local delicacy
Photo: Dax VanFossen

No matter where your adventures take you, a road trip in Montana is always a good idea. Here in the Flathead Valley, we’re known for Flathead cherries, which are a sweet, dark cherry that grows in orchards along the shores of Flathead Lake. Before you head out, we recommend stopping by one of the many cherry orchards or roadside stands along Highway 35 to pick up your own bag of Flathead cherries. The sweet fruits are one of the most popular treats of summer and you’ll find them in pies, drinks and candy all around the lake. A favorite local drive is Highway 35 from Bigfork to Polson and then back north along U.S. Highway 93, which gives you an entire loop around Flathead Lake. Additional nearby favorites include the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, the St. Ignatius Mission and the National Bison Range.

8. Shop Made-in-Montana Items

One of the best things about traveling to any destination is picking up locally made gifts, treats and apparel and it’s just the same here in Montana. The list of made-in-Montana items is long, from soaps and skincare to T-shirts and jewelry and huckleberry candy. Bigfork, which is located just up the road from Flathead Lake Lodge, has one of the cutest downtowns around and its local shops have a wide variety of made-in-Montana items.

9. Taste Montana

Wherever you are in Montana, you’re never far away from good food. At Flathead Lake Lodge, we’re lucky to have some of the finest chefs in our kitchen creating amazing meals each week for our guests.

No shortage of amazing food in Bigfork, MT
Photo: Flathead Lake Lodge

If, however, you find yourself out and about around Bigfork, be sure to stop at Flathead Lake Brewery for a locally crafted beer and Brookside Yard, a lodge-owned cafe overlooking the Swan River’s “Wild Mile” in downtown Bigfork. The Yard serves up fresh cinnamon rolls and flatbreads and has live music every Friday and Saturday night, which pairs perfectly with Montana cocktails and local beer.

10. Catch a Show at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse

Catch a show on at the playhouse on Bigfork’s famous ‘Electric Avenue’
Photo: Glacier Country Tourism

Our small town of Bigfork is home to a playhouse that has showcased some big-name actors and productions and today, the Bigfork Summer Playhouse puts on some of Broadway’s most beloved plays and musicals featuring college-aged actors and performers from all over the country to provide daily performances. If you’re into musicals and plays, it’s a must stop when you’re visiting northwest Montana.

There’s plenty to keep you busy both at the lodge and around it. Between our horseback riding, mountain biking, sailing and other activities offered each day of your stay, we promise you’ll have a week unlike any other. Learn more about the all-inclusive activities for guests here. To book your stay and begin planning your Montana adventure, call us at 406-837-4391.

Happy summer,



Chris Hillman, founding member of the Byrds and Herb Pedersen from The Desert Rose Band will be joining us as Artists in Residence for the 2012 workshop and festival and round out this years great line up!

Following the hugely successful sold out 2011 guitar workshop and festival, we want to let you know that Lee Ritenour, Julian Lage, Sonny Landreth, Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen, Dennis Koster and Patty Larkin will be joining us as Artists in Residence for this year’s event.


This week long event includes 6 days of workshops, master classes, playing with professional rhythm sections, jamming, and nightly concerts. Being held at the Flathead Lake Lodge workshop participants and their family members have access to all the lodges’ amenities, plus more.  Also available for family members during the week is a watercolor workshop taught by renowned western artist Nancy Cawdrey.


There will be eleven workshops offered in seven guitar genres with leading faculty from the National Guitar Workshop:  Jazz featuring Lee Ritenour and Julian Lage, Classic Rock featuring Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, Blues featuring Sonny Landreth, Classical featuring Dennis Koster, Singer-Songwriter featuring Patty Larkin, Acoustic featuring Doug Smith, and Beginners with Susan Mazer.  A new course has been added this year for Bass players featuring Melvin Lee Davis and Jorge Roeder.


Jazz pianist and composer, Dave Grusin (recipient of one Academy Award and twelve Grammy Awards) and drummers Sonny Emory and Tupac Mantilla will be special featured artists.


In addition, Lee Ritenour’s 3rd Annual Yamaha Six String Theory International Guitar Competition will be held during the workshop week on August 29th. The six finalists will be awarded a full scholarship to attend the workshop.


This is a unique opportunity to study with the masters and share a passion for guitar with fellow participants in an intimate and personalized setting.  All surrounded by our famous western hospitality.


The 2011 workshop was a sell out and the 2012 workshop has limited availability, so early registration is advised! 
 REGISTRATION DISCOUNT! Register by April 30, 2012 and get a $250 discount on the Workshop fee.  For more information and to register go to or call (406) 837-2574.




It looks like Kid’s Rodeo is no longer going to be the biggest competitive event held at Flathead Lake Lodge! Next September the Kalispell Chamber will be hosting the 1st Annual Montana Dragon Boat Races at Flathead Lake Lodge. This is going to be an awesome event for the entire Flathead Valley, and is expected to draw around 3,000 people and 600 competitors! Teams of 20 paddlers will race traditional 46′ Hong Kong dragon boats along the shore of Flathead Lake, just in front of Flathead Lake Lodge. Want to race? Learn more? Or are thinking about attending? Find all the information at:

We hope to see you all here next September! It is going to be a blast!


For the first time in a long time, Flathead Lake Lodge was still shaking in its boots after a memorable Averill wedding celebration. Chase Averill and Kate Verhey tied the knot on the shores of Flathead Lake, surrounded by the old growth fir trees and family and friends from across the country. It was a 4 days extravaganza filled with the usual FLL favorites like steak fry, barn dance, mouse races and much more. Enjoy the photo’s below, and thanks to everyone who helped pull off this great weekend!


Family & friends filled the Lodge for the weekend. An action packed itinerary and a bottle of Saintsbury Pinot Noir (Thanks to Carly Verhey) greeted the guests at their cabins.”

A beautiful sunset on Flathead Lake started the weekend off right Wednesday Night.

Despite a rainy day, the skies cleared and everyone loaded up on the antique fire trucks for a classic steak fry cookout.

Cowboy Gene Gordner serenades Steak Fry with cowboy classics.

Family and friends chowing down at the chuck wagon cookout. As always: homemade cheesy bread, fruit salad, potato salad, Maureen’s famous cowboy beans, ‘undone’ brownies and mesquite fired steaks! Hasn’t changed in 40+ years.

Uncle Fred is the big winner at mouse races!

Family friend Jacques dances a hole in the barn floor with his Mom Cathy.

A group of friends and family take a morning fitness walk down the Swan River Nature Trail alongside the Wild Mile.

All aboard! Friday nights rehearsal dinner included loading everyone up on the Far West for a happy hour cruise to the Saddlehorn Marina for a delicious pig roast.

Rehearsal Dinner at the Saddlehorn Marina with the always entertaining Singing Son’s of Beaches. Thanks to the Lodge Chef Brian for another great dinner. He smoked a whole pig!

Never a dull moment…Ever since the Lodge was started in 1945 mischief, pranks and laughs have been as much a part of the Lodge as the rock fireplaces. Staying true to form, the infamous Boiteau brothers, with help from a few other guests (I’m looking at you Justin Kohl), replaced all the couches in the Main Lodge with canoes and pool umbrellas. It looks like the Saddle Sore Saloon might also have had a hand in the trouble. Nevertheless, it made for some great laughs on Saturday morning at breakfast. Unless of course you were tying to set the Lodge up for the reception!

No Montana wedding is complete without some flashy new cowboy boots.

A small group of old growth fir trees provided a beautiful lakeside setting for the ceremony.

The first kiss

Father of the bride Tom Verhey successfully sabres a bottle of champagne for a toast.

The whole gang.

Chase and Kate drive off in the ranch’s historic Checker limo.

Kate Averill with Driver.

A happy hour was held on the lakeside deck of the Main Lodge before guests entered the Lodge for dinner and dancing.

Longtime family friends Dan and Bucky spent most of the day posing for the cameras.

The delicious cupcake tower. Thanks to Aunt Susie who did all the beautiful flowers!

The happy couple.

What a great weekend with family and friends! Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen. We’ll never forget it!


The End!


It’s a wrap, summer number 66 is gone and bye, ushered out by golden tamaracks, cooler weather, and hopefully more record northern pike caught off the dock. Just like the other 65 years before it, this summer was full of memories, laughs and friendships that are sure to grow in legend as each year passes by the main lodge fire place.

It is hard to imagine that in 66 years there are still new experiences that mark each summer, and 2011 was full of them!


We had our first five generation family! That means great….great grandparents!


In July a little filly was born at the ranch, the first in quite some time. Any name ideas?


MT (a fitting nickname in Montana) was the first 100 year old guest to ride a horse. Shhhh, don’t tell the insurance company.


There was an Averill wedding, which after much celebration and barn dancing left the Lodge teetering but still standing!


Mary Kay Cosmetics, who had come to the Lodge for over 30 years made one last reunion trip to start the season off. Nothing says dude ranch like a pink Cadillac.


Flathead Lake Lodge hall of fame baker, Ellette Day came out of retirement to finish off the season and make sure everyone was extra fattened up for the winter ahead.


The lodge received a private fly over (as private as two F-16’s can be) as a thank you for over 13 years of hosting the International Fellows Program.


Barn Manager Jason was actually never bucked off…


We had our first week with over 4,000 people visiting the Lodge for concerts during the Crown of the Continent Guitar Workshop & Festival


Most importantly & what we are most thankful for, is another year of seeing old friends and having fun with new ones.


Cheers, and here’s to next year!

One of the most rewarding aspects of working in the hospitality business is helping provide families with an amazing vacation. We take it personally, and truly feel that each guest of the Ranch should feel like they are at home… if their home was a 2,000 acre playground! It is always bittersweet at the end of each week to say goodbye to the families we have become friends with (sometimes with the kids crying and clinging to the closest tree, not wanting to leave) and the same day welcoming the new families as the children jump from their airport shuttle practically before it has parked.

It is these memories and friendships over the years that has made the Lodge such a special place. The list of characters is endless, and each year there is no better reminder of that than over the holiday season. Aside from skiing, hunting and playing hockey, browsing through the annual Christmas Card basket is a winter past time here at the Lodge. Each year the Lodge receives hundreds of holiday cards from past guests. Some families just visited us last year, some haven’t visited since the 50’s, and all are equally appreciated. It can literally take hours to go through the ‘card basket’, and when you are done, it is more clear than ever that for the  65+ years it is not the location, facilities, amenities, cuisine, or recreation that makes Flathead Lake Lodge special, it is the people.

So thank you for all the support…and some really hilarious Christmas cards, it is always appreciated.

This is rewarding - hearing from guests who haven't been to the Lodge in 43yrs!
This is rewarding - hearing from guests who haven't been to the Lodge in 43yrs!

This fall, Flathead Lake Lodge received the honor of being one of the main live auction items at the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation’s (CCRF) 30th Anniversary Gala in Minneapolis. With over 1,000 attendees, the evening was truly an event to remember. The two week vacation at Flathead Lake Lodge raised $34,000 for CCRF’s many great causes. It is not every day you get us dude rancher’s cleaned up into a three-piece tux! The Gala night included many highlights, including trips to Dubai and sideline passes to a Monday Night Football game to name a few.

CCRF Banner
The Live Auction Line Up

All in all, the vacation at the Lodge went toe to toe with a week in Dubai, and it looks like the great people of Minneapolis are pretty excited about dusting off their old cowboy boots and hat. By the end  of the night the CCRF raised close to a million dollars to fight childhood cancer. A pretty amazing accomplishment for a great foundation.

Doug Averill and the Hoeft Family
Doug Averill and the Hoeft Family

We are proud to have been a part of it. For more information visit CCRF’s website at:

bob bellmore
Bob the Hermit drawn by Elmer Sprunger

We are sad to say long time neighbor and local legend Bob Bellmore has passed away at the age of 91. Bob was a true old timer who lived in his remote cabin without water or a car. Many of you might remember Bob who was known to show up at the Wednesday night Steak Fry for a left over steak and the chance to share his amazing knowledge of the history of the area.

Bob spent his time raising a few cattle and searching for a buried treasure on the Ranch Property (you might even know a few trails named after Bob). As the story goes according to Bob, way back when a bank was robbed in Ronan. When they caught up to the robbers they were in Woods Bay, at the south end of the Ranch, where they shot one of the robbers. The Robbers fled on horseback and when they found the rest, 4 miles away just east of Bigfork, at the north end of of the Ranch, the Robbers did not have their loot…

So the next time you are up riding up on the mountain, keep an eye out and you might just notice a few hand dug holes here and there. Whether or not Bob found the loot is a mystery, but his character and stories will be remembered by all.

Here is poem written about Bob.

‘The “Old Timer”

In some mysterious place up yonder,
perhaps an old rotting cabin,
perhaps a tent,
lives an old timer…
What type of life has brough this man

frostbitten earlobes,

smoked skin and sour smells

of horseweed…

What have those fiery eyes seen and known,

and who has kissed that grizzled face?

He’s a facination for his simple ways…

He tells of people and of the earth…

He knows of the deer,

the chokecherries,

and the harvest moon,

for he has memories of “Serinatin” his girl

…with old forgotten songs.

But in those eyes beyond the fire

I see the sunset;

the dimness is growing

as his memories are unwoven;

To me, he is real history so true

and when he is done sharing

he will pass on…

By Jenny Peck

The Grande Finale
The Grande Finale

September was a pretty memorable month here at Flathead Lake Lodge. We hosted the first annual Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation Workshop and Festival, to great success.

The festivities took place August 29 – September 5, 2010. There were 48 workshop participants (with 10 receiving scholarships), over 1,000 people attended the public performances and approximately 100 people attended the free community workshops throughout the Flathead Valley. The event was rated a big success on all fronts from workshop participants to guest artists to faculty to concert attendees.

Nightly both workshop participants and the public were treated to amazing concerts featuring the workshops instructors, including Pat Metheny, Alex De Grassi, Scott Tennant, Matt Smith, Doug Smith, Adrew Leonard, Mark Dziuba, Jody Fisher and many more.

The amazing week was culminated by a spectacular public concert over looking Flathead Lake. Mother Nature behaved and graced us with a beautiful evening and sunset as the instructors and artists put on a show for all to remember. Check out these links for more information on this great event and why everyone is already talking about next year! and

The classical class being instructed by Scott Tennant and Anrew Leonard
The classical class being instructed by Scott Tennant and Anrew Leonard

The acoustic class with Alex De Grassi
The acoustic class with Alex De Grassi

The Class of 2010
The Class of 2010

Matt Smith and Mark Dziuba close out the week with a truly rocking performance
Matt Smith and Mark Dziuba close out the week with a truly rocking performance

Fall is a pretty special time to be on horseback in the elk preserve

Riding through the ranch Elk Preserve is always special this time of year. With a few cooler days, and fall on the horizon, the bull elk have started to bugle occasionally. If you have never experienced this sound echoing through the woods while on a ride, it is truly something to remember. Here is one of the preserves big ol’ bulls starting to feel pretty confident in himself.