Rainbow Ranch

Outside Magazine, May 1999

Rainbow Ranch

A deft-enough cast from the deck adjacent to your room in Rainbow Ranch's south wing might well plop a Madame X into a riffle of the plentiful Gallatin River. Rainbow Ranch nabbed this choice spot long ago, operating first as a cattle ranch in the early 1900s and then as the Halfway Inn by dint of Big Sky's equidistance from Bozeman and Yellowstone. Its present incarnation--21 guest rooms fanned out over two single-story wings along the river, plus a high-ceilinged main lodge--is just three years old. And the location couldn't be better: Ten miles upstream is the northern stoop of Yellowstone National Park. Ten miles downstream, you're fishing a stretch that doubled as the Blackfoot in the movie version of A River Runs Through It.

Rooms are bunkhouse-chic: rainbow trout portraits above river-rock fireplaces and lassos coiled around the lodgepole bedposts. Pull a stool up to the bar for a pint of Moose Drool--a local microbrew--before sampling the restaurant's eclectic menu, devised by a chef who came here via New Orleans and Florence.

Rainbow Ranch was my learn-to-fly-fish war room with the help of nearby Gallatin Riverguides ($275 for a full day; 888-707-1505), but I also stole away for a mountain-bike ride. (Grizzly Outfitters has $25 rentals; 406-995-2939.) On my last day I saddled up some hosses--Chuck Kendall's Diamond K Outfitters is on-site--for an excursion up to Deer Lake. There the seldom-visited, unwary Arctic grayling struck on every other cast, a triumph worthy of a Moose Drool toast back at the lodge. Summer double rates range from $160 to $230 per night. Call 800-937-4132. --ROBERT EARLE HOWELLS

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