What To Expect On A Montana Dude Ranch Vacation

Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge is a Montana Dude Ranch that is unlike any other. With an upscale rustic atmosphere, this ranch has a lot to offer. You’ll experience endless recreational activities and amazing hospitality from the Averill Family and staff. You might think what is there to do in Montana? And the answer is too much!

Life On The Ranch
Along with so much to see around the ranch, you’ll find that there is also a lot to do on the ranch. We offer an endless amount of fun with horseback riding activities for all ages and experience levels. This is a great way to explore the Montana wilderness. We are located on a private bay on the largest natural freshwater lake in the west. So you can imagine how much fun water activities can be at our beautiful lakeside ranch. You can enjoy lake cruise to experience the spectacular views, as well as sailing, paddle boarding, kayaks, canoes, and of course fishing. If you aren’t sure if your kids will want to do everything listed above. We do have children and teen activities to keep the littlest cowboys and cowgirls busy. Our friendly and trusted staff will help to guide your children through arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, laser tag, wrangler program, and a kid’s rodeo.

What To Bring
So with all these amazing and different activities you must be thinking what should we bring? Expect a wide range of weather conditions. With sunny summer days and cooler nights, layers are key. Blue jeans or comfortable pants are good if you are planning on horseback riding and of course, don’t forget those cowboy hats and boots! Sweatshirts, light jackets, and rain gear are perfect for bundling up by the campfire or layering up for Glacier National Park. For days by the lake a bathing suit, sunglasses, sunscreen, and sandals. On athletic days, think of spending your day biking or hiking, which means you’ll want to bring athletic shoes or hiking shoes. Then of course whatever else you want to bring to enjoy your amazing vacation at Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge.

The Great Outdoors
When planning your vacation to the Ranch there is a lot to take note of. It is only 35 miles from Glacier National Park. Located in the Rocky Mountains, this national park has glaciers carved in peaks and valleys running to the Canadian border. The mountainous Going-to-the-Sun Road crosses Glacier National Park. If you love to hike plan to spend some time pre or post ranch life with the opportunity to hike over 700 miles of trails, backpacking, and cycling. Plus, there is a possibility to see diverse wildlife from mountain goats to grizzly bears. If hiking isn’t your thing, we are walking distance to Bigfork, Montana. A Charming western artesian village on the bay with a wide assortment of fine art galleries, restaurants, and unique shops.

We want to make sure you have an amazing time on your Montana Dude RanchEnjoy 2,000 Acres of Private Ranch Riding.

Bordered by National Forest overlooking Flathead, explore the beauty of the ranch and Montana on horseback. Our ranch has been around since 1945, and we pride ourselves on giving guests the experience of western Montana hospitality combined with unparalleled recreation opportunities. We’ll make sure you and your family have the best vacation with us. Continue a legacy for generations when you experience Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge. Grab your boots and head down to Montana for a rodeo of a good time.

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Closer by the dozen in Bigfork, Montana – By: Linda Dove and Family

Who: Robert and Linda Dove of Kiawah Island, S.C.; Stephen Dove and a son, Jackson, of Arlington, Va.; Nicholas and Carrie Storer and two sons, Tommy and Ned, all of Kensington, Md.; Dan Solomon and Laura Dove and their children, Abigail and Jacob, all of Alexandria, Va.

Where, when, why: The challenge was to plan a family trip for 12 that would be fun for everyone, from 77-year-old Bobby to 12-year-old Tommy, and all those in between. Our requirements: no cooking (an absolute must); interesting and varied activities with lots of opportunities for outdoor ad­ven­ture; a wide selection of other guests for the 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds; and something that would equal or surpass our trip to Alaska last year.

Kudos to daughter Laura who, after much research, found Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge, in Bigfork, Mont., just outside of Kalispell and 30 miles from Glacier National Park. The working dude ranch with more than 100 horses and an outstanding farm program is located on Flathead Lake and has many water activities, including water skiing, kayaking and sailing. It promised something for everyone, even those creaky grandparents who weren’t sure they would be doing the morning trail rides. We combined time at the lodge with a side trip to Glacier National Park.

Highlights and high points: We all made it a point to visit the lakeshore at some point every morning and every afternoon. Although only some of us made it for sunrise each day, we all came together each afternoon for sunset. Yes, there is life outside of Washington traffic, work deadlines and busy sports schedules. The scenery was lovely, but it was the relaxed conversation that seemed the most spectacular.

Cultural connection or disconnect: We were in Montana at the height of the drought and forest fire season, a record-breaker in 2015. It was eye-opening. On several mornings we rose to discover the ranch shrouded in gray smog, caused by the fires in Glacier Park. It was a stark reminder of how different life is in the West and the power and fickleness of Mother Nature.

Biggest laugh or cry: One of our 12-year-olds seemed to discover girls for the first time during our stay at the ranch. Much teasing among the cousins, but also some special moments when we could begin to see who he would be as he grows into manhood. Grandparent tears.

How unexpected: None of us expected to spend so much time on the water in Western Montana. The lakes are amazing — warm, calm and incredibly beautiful. We also loved the small town of Bigfork, which looks like something out of a Western movie. We were warmly greeted by the residents of this town of 4,000.

Fondest memento or memory: It is not easy to plan a trip for 12 people who have little time for vacations and thus have very strong ideas about what they should be. We spent a lot of time before the trip talking about what we each wanted from our experience. Everyone’s ideas were given equal weight — from the kids to the grandparents. How successful was our adventure? Our time in Montana met everyone’s expectations, above and beyond. This was certainly due in part to the activities and experiences at our lodge, which were amazing. But we all agreed that we had each brought something to the trip that was what made it so meaningful. Now we have to begin working something even better for next year!

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DRINK BEER, RACE & CONQUER!

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Drink Beer | Race | Conquer in The Last Best Place.

This 5k-ish 4 person relay will challenge your will and palate on the shores of Flathead Lake.

It’s like nothing you have done before with 10 Challenges (Giant Beer Pong, Keg Climbing Wall, Hops Hop, Keg Pull, Grain Pit to name a few) | Race Beer Sampling Stations | Festival | Live Music all located at the top guest ranch in Montana Flathead Lake Lodge. Sign your team up today as space is limited or sign up as an individual and we’ll pick your team.

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Team Building at The Ranch

“A few years ago we founded Elicit with the mindset of creating a company that everyone would want to work for. That led to the institution of what we call Mind Meld—a bi-annual corporate retreat that highlights collaboration, expanding our capabilities, and probably most importantly, having an awesome time with each other. In May of 2015 we spent Mind Meld 7 at the beautiful Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge and the team has subsequently dubbed it the “best Mind Meld ever.”

What made our experience so special is hard to pinpoint, because everything was great. The Lodge simply ended up being the perfect setting for our team. The main conference room easily accommodated our nearly 30-person company and we had access to other breakout rooms so splitting up into smaller teams was a breeze. The activities in and around the camp were perfect. I saw groups taking advantage of everything the Lodge had to offer—from kayaking and horseback riding to pickup basketball and volleyball. We even had a huge group head out to play laser tag in the woods. It was a blast.

While the activities were great, the food and staff may have been even better. As a company, we have quite an epicurean culture, but breakfast, lunch, and dinner, coupled with service from ‘friends’, continued to impress. The highlight was definitely the steak fry in the woods. Delicious food and an awesome experience—we rode in a vintage fire truck to the dinner site!

And all the while you are sitting in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the country. The lake, trees, and mountain ranges were breathtaking all day, but especially at sunset. We gathered each evening at the campfire by the lake to make s’mores, play a little guitar, and just take in the beautiful scenery.

Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge is an incredible place and provided us with an incredible experience. I highly recommend creating your own great memories there.”

Mason Thelen
CEO and Co-Founder, Elicit

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Happy Birthday America!

As we celebrate American Independence Day on the Fourth of July every year, we think of July 4, 1776, as the day that represents the Declaration of Independence, and the birth of the United States as an independent nation.

We also remember, and want to thank America’s true heroes who have served, and are currently serving our country. Every year the Ranch brings up the end of the Bigfork Parade with our fleet of fire trucks and horses in honor of our country!

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Happy Birthday America!
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Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge in the Bigfork, Montana Fourth of July Parade!
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Marcy a 20+ year lodge guest celebrating the Fourth of July in style!

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Meet Our New Chef Ellen!

We are very excited for you all to experience the delectable food that Chef Ellen and her team will be cooking this summer! In the mean time we did a little Q&A so you all could get to know Chef Ellen before your summer vacation. See you all soon and make sure to bring your appetite!

 

How did you choose Montana?

By plane. When the executive chef of Glacier Park Inc. passed away suddenly I was asked to fly out to help get the culinary team through. Through was never defined and I never asked. I flew out from the east coast the next morning. My reason was simple, I knew from personal experience what it was like to loose a chef. Chef Gorski at Glacier Park Inc. was loved by his staff, they all were in shock when he passed away and I wanted to help his staff in any way possible.

What are some of your highlights while working at Glacier Park Inc.?

It was the hardest job I have ever held, and yet meeting and working with so many students from all over the world has been wonderful. There is nothing more fulfilling than being able to teach someone a concept without a common language and seeing their expression when they understand the message, or their face when they try avocado for the first time.

Where did you gain your culinary knowledge?

At the age of 14 I started cooking at the Putney Inn as an apprentice. That program brought me to the Von Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe and then the Fox Fire Inn. From there I was hired at South Seas Plantation training under Chef Banigan. I then applied to Stouffer Hotels and Resorts for their culinary management program. Upon completion, I opened one of their restaurants in Florida. It was a truly amazing experience.

How many years have you been cooking?

Over 35 years

Who is your culinary mentor?

Chef Joanna Jenkins, her creativity and use of fresh local products made the two years I was her Sou Chef the most inspirational of my entire culinary career. Chef Bob Walton was the executive chef of Grand Teton Lodge, St. Mary, Colter Bay and The Jacksonhole Golf club. He taught me the importance of team building and what it means to run a team.

What is your favorite dish to make?

That changes daily. I love to try new ideas and use locally grown products. Some of my main stay ingredients are dark beers, cheese, and fresh veggies.

How did you come up with this year’s menu?

This menu is a combination of traditional recipes that are a central part of Flathead Lake Lodge and my ideas that incorporate fresh local ingredients. Some courses are more traditional in concept; others are more of a modernist food fusion with a blend of flavor profiles.

Anything we should anticipate?

Memories of a wonderful vacation filled with great food!

What are you anticipating?

To build a culinary team that is going to elevate dinning at Flathead Lake Lodge, so perhaps next year you will be coming back for the food, the view, the horses, and the staff. . . notice the food was first!

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Averill’s Herd of Horses

For roughly fifteen years we have pastured our horses in the Creston area of the Flathead Valley. We have been lucky enough to have Bob Borgan, a retired county welder and diesel mechanic watch after our stock while in his fields. Bob, retired for 10 years this summer from his county post, has run his families farm operation dating back almost 40 years, much of which was done in the evenings or on weekends. Today, Bob and his wife Louanne, a retired school teacher, enjoy their time growing hay during the summer months, (this is the hay we feed at the ranch) and during the winter and spring months watching over the horses everyone enjoys throughout the summer. Bob and Louanne have a few of their favorites in the herd like many of our guests. “Bob,” our big buckskin is Bob’s favorite horse as he once was owned by Bob and called “Buck”. Louanne on the other hand favors the miniatures, Melvin, Ron, Calamity and Jethro. She spends many mornings feeding them treats and sitting in a small pen petting them. This spring Bob was ecstatic when Laine found a team of Mules to add to the lodge herd. A self-proclaimed mule guy, Bob has found two new favorites, Rose and Violet.

Perhaps you are wondering why we don’t keep the herd on lodge property year around? The main reason being that our number one priority is to sustain a healthy and well-maintained herd of horses for our guests. As our season slows down towards the end of October, we begin to pull shoes and take the horses up to “The Hill” where most of our trail rides go. Our entire property line is fenced for pasturing the horses, however when we put upward of 100 animals on our mountainous property the grass does not last very long. When it comes time to start feeding hay as the snow falls and the grasses wilt, it is much easier and safer terrain out at Bob’s farm. Wintering the horses in a 20-acre pasture with trees for shelter, a heated water tank and fresh chopped hay everyday, our horses live the life in the winter.

Bob Borgan taking care of the horses this Spring in the Flathead Valley, Montana
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Bob’s property in Creston has beautiful views of the Whitefish Ski Resort also known as Big Mountain
Mini Mules and Donkey
Louanne has been taking very good care of these little guys all winter

That is until spring hoof trimming comes along. During operating season we shoe our horses on a 6-8 week schedule to keep them balanced and prevent soreness. During the winter we go a little longer between calling the farrier as the shoes are pulled and the horses naturally wear down their hooves. Sometime during mid February to early March, we will catch all the horses at Bob’s and trim their hooves.

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Trimming over 100 horses hooves is quite the spring project, taking 4 full days to complete

Spring has now sprung on us here at the ranch and Elizabeth and Garrett have returned for yet another season. This season these two southern characters are going to divide up the barn duties and look to expand on our offerings. This summer we look to take advantage of our expanding lesson program as well as some new trail ride options. The details will have to be kept under wraps and be a surprise when you arrive!

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Howdy Ya’ll! Liz and Garrett are very excited to welcome back all our guests and meet new ones

Spring projects are in full force right now as the fencing maze around the barn and pastures have changed their look a bit. The pastures behind the barn have finally received their rightful split rail wood fencing to match, while the fence running along the pond road has been replaced after 20 years in use. It didn’t stop there as the alley leading to the feed lot is all new wood fence as well and while we were at it, we just tackled restructuring the pastures with some new metal and wire fencing that should last for many generations of lodge horses to come!

Wrangler Garrett making sure the new fence is level

A month or so ago, we found some new friends for the herd, Violet and Rose. They are our new sorrel Molly Mules. Drive, ride, or pack them and they are happy to serve. With the most genuine personalities in a four-legged friend, these two mules love their ears and chins scratched. In fact, do it long enough and they might just cave to using your shoulder as a headrest, don’t mind their heads they are rather large.

Violet learning the trails while taking in the beautiful views above Flathead Lake
Rose loves apples and her ears scratched! Make sure to stop by and meet her
Rose and Violet enjoying their new home in Bigfork, Montana at the Lodge. They have become great friends with Oz, Kahleesi, Forrest and Cannon!

Last but surely not least. This season we are proud to finally serve the public a little more. We will be offering three different length daily trail rides, 1 hour, 2 hour and a 3 hour ride that will make it into our elk preserve. The shorter rides will experience our Overlook of Flathead Lake as well as some other familiar terrain to our guests. This program will run June through September and is structured to co-exist with the lodge barn riding program. With the rides limited to a max of 10-14 and leaving from our Cliff House Stable, we look forward to this new endeavor.

Public Daily Trail Rides Starting this June. Enjoy the most spectacular views of Flathead Lake via horseback

 

 

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Sailing Into Our 70th Summer

It has been over 10 years since the Questa has sailed Flathead Lake. This summer we will be launching the Questa back into the water to rejoin its sister ship, the Nor’Easter V.

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The Questa and Nor’Easter sailing on Flathead Lake in Bigfork, Montana.

Both the Questa and Nor’Easter V are Q-class boats, which are built to the standard set for racing in the America’s Cup. These Q class boats were built following a formula developed by Nathanael Herreshoff in 1903, first called Herreshoff Rule, only later to set the standard for the Universal Rule, the qualifying rule for the America’s Cup. Both Questa and Nor’easter V were drawn by L. Francis Herreshoff, the son of Nathanael and would end up being the only two Qs he designed. L. Francis Herreshoff would complete the builds of his design for the Nor’Easter V in 1928 and Questa in 1929. Today there are only 16 Q-class boats in restored condition worldwide with the Nor’ Easter being the winningest boat in the Great Mackinac Island Race.
It’s a long way from Long Island Sound and Marblehead, Massachusetts, where the class started, to Flathead Lake, and it all began 28 years ago while Doug was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, building flight time for his pilot’s license. He happened to strike up a conversation with a Gentleman named Bob in a yacht club that he says went like this:
Bob: “Gee, I wish I could afford going to Montana to hunt deer, but not until I am able to get rid of this old boat.”
Doug: “Old boat? What old boat?”
Bob: “I have this dilapidated old racing sloop.”
Doug: “How bad is it?” I’ve been thinking about buying a sailboat for the lake at my guest ranch near Glacier National Park.”
Before the night was over, Doug agreed to buy the boat if the Bob would haul it to Flathead Lake. In return, Bob would receive the Montana hunting trip he had always dreamt about.
The Questa was not quite as bad as Doug had feared. With a bit of cosmetic attention made it possible to launch her that summer with a crane from a cow pasture next to the Flathead River. By 1989, the Questa was put in the shop for a structural restoration, not an easy undertaking considering the proximity of Montana to the closest ocean and capable shipwrights.
The Questa and Nor’easter raced for many summers and in 2005 the Questa went back to the shop for a new deck, house, sheer plank and structural reinforcement of the mast step. This summer, the Lodge’s 70th year, the Questa will again join the Nor’Easter sailing Flathead Lake.

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The Questa dry docked while she was being restored.
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The hull of the Questa
Scott applying one of the fifteen coats of varnish.
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Scott reinforcing the hull of the Questa.

Shipwright, John Derry has been maintaining the Nor’Easter and the Questa for over 20 years now. John started his career in carpentry and mason work, but soon found himself fascinated with the dynamic make up of boats. John gained most of his knowledge working on the coast of Maine in his two year apprenticeship. Following his time in school he worked at numerous ship yards along the Coast. In the late 80’s he came back to Montana and found the Questa through a friend that had gone on a sail earlier that summer. John visited the Lodge in the fall of 88’, but it wasn’t until the following summer and a post card to Doug asking if he could trade out sailing time for labor, did he start working.
Still to this day John is astonished and extremely proud of what the Nor’Easter and Questa have become. Over the years John along with his crew have not only completely refurbished the sailboats, but they have made the Questa stronger than it was when it was originally built in 1929.

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John fitting one of the hatches on the Questa.

Every winter both boats get a fresh coat of paint, 15 coats of varnish, rigging fixes and updates to any other parts that may have worn over the course of the summer.
Depending on lake levels, but typically the second week in June we bring in a crane to lower the sail boats into the water and raise the masts. There is only one crane in this part of the state capable of launching the boats, and to this day only two operators, a son a father who have taken on the challenge. Although it only takes a few hours to get the boats in the water, it can take up to a week before the boats wooden structures swell up closing the many leaking cracks. This time is also used making sure all the rigging is in its proper places.

The only crane in this part of North West Montana capable of launching the boats, and to this day the only two operators, a son a father who have taken on the challenge.
It can take up to a week before the boats wooden structures swell up closing the many leaking cracks.
Securing all the rigging on the Nor’Easter.
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Scott hoisting Arianna to the top of the main mast to secure the rigging.
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With the Lake level being lowered in the winter it creates a huge sand beach on the north end of the lake in Bigfork.
Flathead Lake, Bigfork Montana.

According to the Flathead Lake Biological Center, “The Lake level and its outflow are regulated by Kerr Dam, which is located on the Lower Flathead River near Polson. Kerr Dam was completed in 1938 by the Montana Power Company, raised the Lake level 10 feet above its natural level, and generates 194 megawatts of electricity. It is cooperatively operated by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Regulation by the dam results in the Lake level fluctuating seasonally 10 feet between 2,883 and 2,893 feet above sea level. If snowpack conditions in the mountains do not threaten flooding, lake level is brought to 2,890 feet by the end of May and to full pool by June 15 for summer recreation.
Due to its large volume and fetch (distance of water across which wind blows), Flathead Lake requires very cold and calm conditions to freeze entirely. Therefore, most winters it does not freeze over, although some bays and margins have ice cover. The biological station’s historic observations show that the Lake froze over about once each decade, however the Lake has not entirely frozen since 1988-89 (March only) and 1989-90 (January only).” Flathead Lake is 27.3 miles long, 15.5 miles wide and 370.7 feet deep.

After many years of hard work and dedication we are extremely excited to get the Questa back in the lake. We would love to have you and your friends and family come sail the Nor’Easter or Questa. Check out flatheadlakesailing.com for more information and to book your Flathead Lake Excursion.

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Spring has sprung!

Spring is here, which means we are that much closer to the summer season! We are in full force now getting the Ranch ready.

Looking forward to meeting our new guests and reconnecting with the returning ones. Happy Spring and see you all very soon!

 

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Doug checking on the mini mules.

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Bigger bakery means more COOKIES!

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Ben has been cleaning up the grounds nonstop.

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Restocking the Main Lodge with firewood.

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Cec is very excited to see the flowers are in bloom.

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