And just like that, our fourth annual Week of Hope was recently held at Flathead Lake Lodge. An event that got its start to honor our 75th anniversary in 2020, Week of Hope is now a ranch tradition that we look forward to every year. As you can imagine, this is an event that takes many hands to bring to life, from monetary donors to sponsors and vendors to staff and volunteers. We could not bring a Week of Hope to life each year and give the gift of hope to critically ill children and their families without the incredible people who help make it possible.
Here’s a peek at some of the folks who helped with Week of Hope (and to those who also gave monetary donations, please know that your help, donations and support are much appreciated):
Glacier Raft Company: Hosted a scenic float trip for 50.
American Vision Photography: Paul Andes took portraits and did photo shoots for each family, as well as candid photos throughout the week.
Dan Linn, Rideback: Due to Dan’s generosity, each year we have a Week of Hope video that captures the memories, family bonding and adventures throughout the week. This video is a treasured keepsake for everyone involved!
Outback Trading and M&F Western Products: Donated cowboy hats for all the kids.
Logan Health Children’s: Provided nurses and wheelchair-accessible van.
Eva Gates: Donated huckleberry jam.
In addition, our own TJ (who is our dishwasher at the lodge) has been keeping and recycling cans all season. He donated the money he raised to Week of Hope.
And while we could tell you all of the reasons this week is so special to us and to the families who attend Week of Hope, we though we’d share a few quote from the families themselves.
“You don’t know how much this touched our family; my son forgot he had cancer for 5 days”
“Thank you for all the memories and for being an agent of grace to all of us.”
“From Sept 11-Sept 16, Dave and I and the kids got to experience the most incredible time together, thanks to HopeKids and Flathead Lake Lodge. We celebrated Andre, spent time just being us and away from everything we handle in our day-to-days (appointments, therapies, etc..) and we’re introduced to and formed bonds with 15 families just like ours from the across the country. Friendships were formed; new adventures and experiences were had, and memories to last a lifetime. This vacation out to Montana was the most incredible experience and we are so forever grateful to have been given this.”
“My son has not talked or played with anyone for over a year until Garrett sat down next to him at breakfast camp.”
“We had been trying to get our child on a horse for years, he was not a fan, but Cotton won his heart, and we will be forever grateful for this week. I will never forget the feeling of having support.”
For more from the week, see the photo album here. From us to you, thanks for being part of the Flathead Lake Lodge family.
With sincere gratitude and a humble heart,
This September, Flathead Lake Lodge will be the host location for the fourth annual Week of Hope, an event with HopeKids. Started in 2020 for our 75th anniversary, a Week of Hope is a tradition we’re honored to be a part of. For 2023, 16 critically ill children and their families will spend September 11-16 at the ranch where they can enjoy time together, experience new things and make sweet memories.
And while we could tell you how amazing this week is and how special it is to the families who attend, the ranch and our staff, instead we thought we’d introduce you to two of the families attending Week of Hope this fall.
Meet the Valle family
The Valle family will travel from north Texas to northwest Montana to attend a Week of Hope, with the HopeKid being Evan Valle, a 9 year old with MELAS. For the past six years, Evan has been hospitalized numerous times, does twice daily breathing treatments, takes multiple medications and more.
In the words of his family, “This week will mean the world to our family to be able to relax and enjoy each other’s company and meet other families. We don’t often have the opportunity to take a vacation and especially not of this magnitude. We have certainly never been to Montana! This will be a once in a lifetime option before Evan’s condition changes. A change of scenery will recharge and rejuvenate Evan’s soul. Thank you for the opportunity to experience this wonderful adventure. Hope is a powerful thing!”
Meet the Davenport family
The Davenport family will join Week of Hope from Colorado, with HopeKid Michael who is 9 years old. Since he was 1 year old, Michael has deal with complex epilepsy that includes thee types of seizures, as well as autism, asthma and more. He’ll be attending Week of Hope with his mother and older brother Eddie, who has also been dealing with health issues since 2020.
In the words of his mom Eileen, “I am a single mom with 2 amazing kids that struggle more than any kid should have to just to survive in this world. They teach me every single day how to be strong, have compassion, and to never give in to the chaos we deal with. Through all the hardships, HopeKids has been one of the biggest blessings by providing opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. Their dedication, patience, and hard work has truly given our family HOPE over and over again! Thank you to all the donors who help support HopeKids, your generosity helps families create unforgettable memories. This week will show my two boys here’s a world outside of complex medical care and judgment from others due to disabilities. It will provide memories other than needle pokes, invasive testing, and day to day struggles of ongoing medical hardships. Being chosen for Week of Hope creates an opportunity to enjoy the wilderness in all its glory, while giving a platform to encourage rest and peace in a way we have never had as a family unit. This trip is a silver lining to a grey cloud, reminding us that tough times consistently happen in life but there is also relief and sometimes it comes from complete strangers in unexpected ways. This adventure will allow us to connect with other families in different HopeKids’ chapters and allow all those selected to reset our souls to take on whatever life throws our way. The trip means an opportunity to spend quality time as a family unit, which is priceless and rare to come across. Last but not least, this trip means Michael can take pride in marking off Montana on his treasured scratch off map of the United States hanging in his room!”
Over the past few years, this week has touched the lives of many families. It’s a week that reminds us to slow down and soak up the moments, while always remembering that at the end of the day, family, love and hope are the most important things. If you’d like to help bring a Week of Hope to life this year, we invite you to donate here.
With hope and gratitude,
While we’ve always taken great care in our flower beds at Flathead Lake Lodge, this year we’re offering something brand new – a cutting class.
Each week, Cec (who has been at the helm of our flowers for the last several years) teaches a cutting class where she walks participants through the various elements of floral arrangements, including the types of flowers (like the thriller, spiller and filler), textures and more. Cec also walks guests through the different elements, from textures to colors and monochromatic design options to varying heights. From there, guests can cut flowers to their heart’s content and create their own individual flower arrangement.
The lodge’s 30 raised beds have 50+ types of flowers, including sunflowers, specialty snapdragons, zinnias, bells of Ireland, bunny tails, asters, lisianthus, dahlias and more. The flowers in the gardens were selected for a couple of reasons, such as vase life and the fact that they can be cut and easily grow again.
A new offering for this year, the class is offered every Thursday at 9 a.m., with guests being able to take their arrangement back to their cabin to enjoy for the remainder of the week.
So far this summer, we’ve seen some beautiful floral arrangements and we’re looking forward to seeing what our guests create this season and in years to come.
Until next time – happy trails,
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.
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.
A family-owned and -operated business since 1945, Flathead Lake Lodge has been part of the Bigfork, Montana, community for more than 75 years. As one of the town’s largest employers and oldest businesses, we take our responsibility to community service and stewardship seriously. We love this place and understand how important it is to keep Bigfork as charming, welcoming and wonderful as it’s been for decades.
That’s where the Flathead Lake Lodge Community Fund comes in. After every season, we contribute 1% of all accommodations revenue to the Flathead Lake Lodge Community Fund. This fund supports a slew of great causes, community projects and individual initiatives every year. It’s important to us that we support those organizations and people who work hard to make a positive impact in the Bigfork community.
During the past four years, we have awarded over $20,000 and are excited to be continuing this tradition. We value our little town and look forward to working with you to make Bigfork even better.
Applications are currently open – to apply, simply download the application below and return it to us by November 15, 2022.
Thanks for all you do to help make Bigfork a wonderful place to call home.
2022 marks the third year we’ve had the privilege of hosting a Week of Hope at Flathead Lake Lodge in partnership with HopeKids. Originally started for our 75th anniversary, Week of Hope has now become an annual event that we look forward to each year as we welcome critically ill children and their families to the ranch to life in Montana and make memories. (To learn more, you can read our posts from 2020 and 2021.) In the middle of the hustle and bustle of life, Week of Hope reminds us to stop, slow down and appreciate every moment.
For Week of Hope 2022, we welcomed 19 families from across the United States. And we had many of the same feelings we’ve had in the past – during Week of Hope, it’s almost as if nothing else matters or exists except making sure that the kids and their families are welcomed and loved, while being able to relax, bond, have memorable moments and leave the ranch with incredible family memories.
It’s hard to put into eloquent words what a Week of Hope means to us, and what we hope it means to the families. So instead of stumbling along and trying to share our perspective of the kind of feelings and bonds that come from a week like this, we wanted you to hear it from some of our families.
“Evan LOST everything along with Carter and the rest of us. Football was gone. High school was gone. He missed out on every dance, activity and social aspect of his young life while protecting his little brother. He’d do it again a thousand times over, for Carter. This past week, I saw the light come back into his eyes for the first time in a long time. I saw his passion and his spark to start living again, without constant fear. I saw Evan just able to be Evan again. A gift that we received that could never be replaced. My mama heart is melting. Can’t wait to watch this guy’s future soar.” -Kiana
“Being around other families who have similar challenges and being able to share our stories, fears, and hopes with each other has been such an empowering experience during Week of Hope. It was truly beautiful watching the children come together. I will forever cherish the memories made here and the people we met.” -Daisy
To our Week of Hope families, thank you for trusting us and allowing us to be part of this experience. To our staff and volunteers, thank you for everything you gave to this week (and everything you give to the world every day). And to our donors, thank you for giving the gift of hope and the role you play in bringing this week to life.
It was an honor, a privilege and a blessing to spend a Week of Hope with you.
-Chase and the Flathead Lake Lodge family
Here at Flathead Lake Lodge, we want our guests to feel like family. After all, among our 2,000 acres of Montana you’ll find plenty of room to adventure, breathe, relax, unwind and make memories. While we do our best to share what to expect, what to pack and everything you can do as a guest of Flathead Lake Lodge, sometimes we need to turn over the reins and have other folks do it for us.
Most of the content of this blog post was written for first-time guests by other first-times guests (or as the ladies who wrote this say – written by newbies for newbies), after their inaugural first week at Flathead Lake Lodge, July 10 – 17, 2022.
Without further ado, here are the “Top 12 Things Flathead Lake Lodge Newbies Need to Know.”
1. If you planned out your entire week ahead of time, know that it won’t turn out exactly as you planned. This is okay. You’ll still have fun and get to do everything you want. We promise!
2. On sign-up day (which is Monday), arrive early and have your top priority activities picked out. Give each person in your group an assigned activity to get in line for and sign up, that way you can cover more ground quicker.
3. If you don’t get to sign up for something you wanted, put your name on the waitlist and still show up for that activity. Chances are, at least one of the folks who did sign up won’t show up and you’ll get to do it.
4. At times, sailing lessons can be hit-or-miss activities because there may or may not be wind. Be sure to plan an activity to substitute in case it doesn’t work out. (But if you can take a lesson, do!)
5. Be sure to sign up for horse-related activities, including horseback trail rides. And if you need a lesson, be sure to mark that on the sign-up sheet. (You can also talk to the gals in the office and they can be sure you get squared away for a lesson.) Same goes for the watersports lessons in the morning – be sure you sign up! In the afternoon, all you need to do is write your name down on the whiteboard and you will get to go.
6. The families who have been coming for years are very nice, we promise! Don’t be intimidated. You’ll quickly meet them during the on-ranch activities and before you know it, you’ll have some lovely new friends.
7. For meals, find other newbies to sit with or other families that don’t have a large extended family group staying at the lodge. If you met someone at an activity, ask if you can join them for dinner!
8. When it comes to mouse races, be sure to bring some cold hard cash. Plus, you can combine your funds with other families.
9. Jump on YouTube and look up “How to pen” before team penning. Trust us.
10. Check in with the office for the daily schedule and any changes.
11. Come a day or two early and visit Glacier National Park! It’s 40 minutes from the ranch and is well worth a visit.
12. Take advantage of the laundry service – you can pack less!
*Ladies, it was a joy to have you and your families here at the ranch! Thanks for sharing what you learned and passing along your experiences for future fist-time guests.
For the second year in a row, we’re welcoming the Ladies AllRide Mountain Bike Retreat to Flathead Lake Lodge. Slated for October 3 – 7, 2022, this women’s-only retreat combines the best of both riding worlds – horseback trail rides and mountain biking – on our 2,000 acres. A five-day, four-night retreat, it’s designed to give attendees professional mountain bike skills instruction and plenty of time to hit the ranch’s miles of expertly-designed trails.
Wondering what to expect? Here’s a peek at the retreat.
Off the bikes, guests can participate in other activities offered at the ranch, including morning yoga, guided hikes, beach campfires, kayaking on Flathead Lake and tours of our on-ranch elk preserve. Chef Rob also makes sure to serve up plenty of made-from-scratch meals to keep attendees fueled and satisfied, while also give them opportunities to taste the many flavors of local Montana purveyors.
All guests stay on the ranch in Flathead Lake Lodge’s accommodations, including lodge rooms and cabins.
If you’re ready to treat yourself to fall in Montana, all while strengthening your mountain bike skills, learn more here. You can also call us at 406-837-4391.
See you on the trails,
If you’ve been a guest of the lodge, chances are you’re familiar with our mouse races (and have maybe even made a friendly bet or two). A much-loved tradition during our family season, mouse races have our local ranch mice going head to head in lanes as they race to the finish line to see who will win that week’s race.
To complement our mouse races and help raise money to bring a Week of Hope to life, in 2021 we launched a new contest called “Mouse of the Year,” where our competitors – including Fievel, Mouserella, Boba Feta, Julius Cheeser and Bugsy – competed to raise money through an online voting system, with all funds going to help cover the costs of Week of Hope, where we host critically ill children and their families at the ranch. After weeks of competition, Fievel raised $2,285 and was named Flathead Lake Lodge’s 2021 Mouse of the Year.
And while we love Fievel for lots of reasons, here’s more about him…
Much like his great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather in 1885, Fievel came West in search of a place with more room to roam and space to explore. He hitched a ride as a stowaway on the Nor’Easter, one of Flathead Lake Lodge’s 51-foot Q-class racing sloops, and has been here ever since. He lives a quiet life and spends much of his time tidying up the boat barn, helping Chef Rob weed the herb gardens and has even been known to help Captain Scott with boat maintenance. With steady legs on land and sea, Fievel just may be the mouse to beat.
From all of us at Flathead Lake Lodge, congratulations on becoming Mouse of the Year 2021 and thank you all for helping Fievel raise $2,285 for Week of Hope!
Looking ahead to 2022, we’re going to continue our Mouse of the Year contest, with all proceeds going directly to a Week of Hope.
Our 2022 competitors include:
1. Fievel, our returning champion.
2. Julius Cheeser. Don’t confuse him with the mouse who has a salad named after him…that’s his biggest pet peeve and that guy didn’t single-pawedly build the Bigfork Empire. Grab your bowl of white cheddar popcorn because his story is one of tragedy, but he doesn’t know that yet. There are whispers of conspiracy amongst the Bigfork Mouse-ators to end Cheeser’s life. He’s participating in the Mouse Race to bring honor to Bigfork and prove his power over the Empire. Given the magnitude of the race, some believe he is focusing on the wrong things and it will ultimately be his downfall, akin to fiddling while Bigfork burns.
3. Speedy Gonzales. This young mouse hails from south of the border, and has enough speed to run from Guadalajara to Bigfork, Montana in less than 24 hours. This strapping Vaquero loves competition and really loves leaving his fellow contestants in the dust.
4. Anonymouse. We’d tell you his real name, but…we don’t know it. Anonymouse was placed at the lodge as part of the U.S. Federal Witness Protection program. And while we’ll never know his true identity, we do know that his favorite pastime is winning races and taking (other mice’s) names.
5. Chuck E. Cheese. You know this mouse from his world-famous chain of restaurants where families can eat, have a good time and play. When he’s not making pizza, he’s here at the lodge strutting his stuff on the ropes. His business savvy shines through both at work and in the mouse race arena.
You can learn all about them – and get an early start on voting – at HopeKids.org.
Until next time,
We’ve always been big believers that people need to get away, have time to decompress and soak up moments with the ones they love most. And while family vacations with kids are fantastic, we also know that sometimes grown-ups need getaways that don’t involve the kids.
Meet our 2022 adults-only Montana Adventure package.
This package is available twice this fall: from September 2 – 7, 2022, and September 12 – 15, 2022.
The first package – which takes place over Labor Day – is longer than our previous adults-only getaways, which gives guests even more time to experience all we have to offer at Flathead Lake Lodge. A five-night package, it’s all-inclusive and includes on-property activities like horseback riding, touring the elk preserve, mountain biking on our trails, taking a morning dip in our lakeside pool and heading out to play on the waters of Flathead Lake.
The second package is a tad shorter at three nights and four days, while still giving guests the chance to soak up fall in Montana.
If you’ve stayed with us before, you’ve also tasted the culinary offerings of Chef Rob. And while he whips up great meals all summer long, for our adults-only packages he creates mouth-watering multi-course tasting menus with wine pairings.
If you’re interested in reserving space in our 2022 adults-only getaways, get in touch with us here or call us at 406-837-4391.
Until next time,
If you’ve been to Flathead Lake Lodge, you know that we sit on the shore of Flathead Lake — the largest natural freshwater lake in the West. And while we often make mention of how lucky we are to have our guest ranch on Flathead Lake, we may not tell you enough about this place.
At 28 miles long and about 15 miles wide, Flathead Lake covers nearly 200 square miles and has 185 miles of shoreline.
Here are 12 things you probably didn’t know about Flathead Lake...
1. Flathead Lake is the 79th largest natural lake on the planet.
2. The water quality of Flathead Lake is one of the cleanest in the world. This can be credited to the lake being fed by waterways that are full of snowmelt from Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
3. Much like its friend to the north Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake was carved out by massive glaciers that moved through the area during the Ice Age.
4. Due to its sheer size, Flathead Lake often creates its own weather patterns and during storms, you’ll see whitecaps form on the lake as winds rage across it.
5. Flathead Lake is home to HUGE fish. For example, the lake trout caught on Flathead Lake average about 8 pounds, but many of them tip the scales at larger weights.
6. You can drive all the way around the lake. It will take a few hours, but is hands-down one of the most beautiful drives around. You’ll largely take U.S. Highway 93 and Montana Highway 35.
7. There are public access sites all around the lake, including state parks, fishing access sites and parks.
8. Abundant recreation takes place on the lake. A few of note: sailing, kayaking, jet skis, boat cruises and fishing.
9. Here at the ranch, we take about 550 sails a year on the waters of Flathead Lake, most often on our two historic 51-foot Q-class racing sloops — the Questa and the Nor’Easter. They were both built in the late 1920s and are an important part of the Flathead Lake Lodge family and history.
10. Due largely to its sheer volume, Flathead Lake rarely freezes over during the winter, although you will find ice along the shorelines and in various bays around the lake. The last time the entire lake froze all the way was more than 30 years ago.
11. Flathead Lake creates an ideal environment (that is a bit milder that other places in Montana) for growing fruit. As you drive around the lake, you’ll see all kinds of orchards along the shoreline that grow cherries and in the summer, you can pick local cherries up at a roadside stand.
12. Flathead Lake is home to numerous islands, including Wild Horse Island. The largest island on the lake around 2,160 acres, Wild Horse is a day-use state park that’s home to all sorts of wildlife, including wild horses.
Learn more about our guest ranch on the shores of Flathead Lake at FlatheadLakeLodge.com.
Until next time, happy trails and adventuring.