Rainbow Ranch

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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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