Windows on the Wild

Triple Creek Ranch

Two hands deep: off-ranch horseback riding through the Bitterroot Valley    

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406-821-4600 >> www.triplecreekranch.com

Cabins cost $510-$995 per night. All meals, drinks (including the wet bar in your cabin), room service, picnic lunches, and most activities are included.

FIRST, THERE'S THE WELCOME basket full of warm oatmeal-raisin cookies. Then, you look out the window of your log cabin at the surrounding millions of acres of national forest in the foothills of Montana's Bitterroot Range, and you realize that you've just passed on to sublime mountain paradise. General managers Wayne and Judy Kilpatrick and their staff of 50 (who serve 46 guests, max) will spare no effort to make your stay worthwhile: They'll arrange a day on the Big Hole River with legendary fly-fisherman John Foust, send a masseuse to your cabin, or take a run into Darby, the nearest town, to satisfy your craving for a pint of B&J's Wavy Gravy.
AT THE LODGE Nineteen pine-log cabins surround a main lodge with three-story-high windows. All boast special accoutrements, some coming with stocked wet bars, others with double-headed steam showers. Sit on your private deck for a morning with your favorite book or spend an afternoon by the lodge pool with a drop-dead-gorgeous view of the Bitterroots. Then slothfully move to the firelit dining room for filet mignon.

THE SPORTS Tease the browns into rising for the spring squala hatch on the Bitterroot River. Later in the summer, get in a little "rowing and throwing" during the salmon-fly hatch on the river's west fork. Both stretches are only a few miles from the lodge. Be sure to set aside at least one afternoon for a horseback ride over brooks and through alpine meadows with Lady, one of the ranch's 40 immaculately trained quarter horses. Or, from the Sam Billings Memorial Campground trailhead, five miles west of the lodge, hike a mellow four miles to a waterfall for a dip in a deep pool.
BACKCOUNTRY FORAY With more than 19 million acres of national forest in the area, almost any trail can become a backpacking adventure. A local favorite: Drive about 23 miles east on the Skalkaho Highway, and park at the Skalkaho Pass turnoff. Hike five miles north on the Easthouse National Recreation Trail and then set up a camp with your tent flap facing 8,656-foot Dome Shaped Mountain. The next day, head four miles up to the 8,463-foot summit of Palisade Mountain, take in the views, and then continue down Trail 86 about 1.5 miles toward Skalkaho Mountain. Camp at an unnamed lake just north of the trail. On your final day, hike the two miles to Skalkaho Peak or take the south loop of Trail 86 to return to your car via the Easthouse Trail. For more details, call the Stevensville Ranger District at 406-777-5461.

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