Cattle Drives, Cowgirl Up and More at Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana
If your idea of a satisfying ranch vacation includes driving cattle across vast expanses in the American West, playing cowgirl with your girlfriends or learning new skills related to riding, painting, photography, yoga or something else, you are not alone. According to the annual travel industry forecast, Skift Megatrends 2018, increasing trends in travel lie in vacations that teach us something, help us feel fulfilled and so-called transformative travel.
Run by the Leishman family, Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana is one of a few ranches offering special weeks this summer and fall, ranging from women only vacations to photography workshops to an authentic cattle drive. We tracked down some of the best to inspire a variety of travelers seeking greater fulfillment and perhaps bragging rights.
1. Western Cattle Drive Adventure Sept 2018
From September 22-29, travelers can join an authentic cattle drive adventure with Bar W Guest Ranch, moving 200 head of cattle across 5,000 acres. You don’t have to be an experienced cowhand to join this cattle round-up and cattle drive vacation. The start of this riding vacation is at Bar W’s headquarters, where guests are given horsemanship lessons and the chance to work cattle in a more contained setting. It’s a good idea to test out your horse before you take off on any riding vacation and this time at the ranch gives you the chance to make sure you get along with your equine partner, before heading out for a four day adventure.
You’ll be riding on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, gathering and moving cattle at Horsethief Buttes and spending your next nights in an authentic wall tent. The Bar W has special arrangements with the Whitford family, descendants of the Blackfeet tribe, so travelers get unique access along with Native American culture on this adventure vacation. Your task will be to gather the herd, assist with branding, vaccinations, and tagging, before moving them back to their respective pastures. You’ll feel like a real cowhand riding out amid longhorns, cows and bulls.
After spending three nights on the cattle drive, you’ll return to Bar W, where a hearty dinner, toasty fire and hot tub await. Your final day’s ride takes you to the Canadian border and the open meadows of Swisher Lake.
2. Cowgirl Up- Women’s Riding Vacations at Bar W
Based on the previous year’s popularity, Bar W is offering three chances to Cowgirl Up this year at the ranch: September 30-October 6, 2018 and October 14-20, 2018. Cowgirl Up! is an all-inclusive women’s adventure holiday providing a true western experience in Montana. Special perks of this week include a private vintner’s presentation, two-hour Spa Package with a honey and hot cream hot rock foot massage and a one-hour massage. Ladies also have the option to saddle up for a western tradition, a full day cattle drive through postcard worthy open range. Round up and push cattle while soaking in panoramic views of a mountain backdrop.
This is a great week to bond with your sister, mother, daughter or girlfriends. You’ll be able to horseback ride thousands of acres of trails, learn horsemanship skills, work cattle, go fly fishing, enjoy line dancing, archery and more. Many women who visit the ranch during this special time are repeat visitors and say that it was an experience that helped them become better riders and left them invigorated and with a fresh perspective on life—a great reason to saddle up.
3. Dude Ranch Photography Retreat
From October 21st-27th, travelers can get a true western experience paired with incredible photo learning opportunities at this Western dude ranch and amid Montana’s dramatic scenery. The Photography Retreat is all-inclusive 6-night photography vacation led by a professional instructor and includes a variety of cool places to better your skills. Guests will have the chance to photograph horses, cowboys, ranch life and wildlife during this photography workshop retreat.
One of the most different and popular parts of this vacation is the full moon shoot at Glacier National Park, located just 23 miles from the ranch. An international peace park, biosphere reserve, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glacier National Park is a bucket list destination for many guests in general, so getting to visit and get tips on the best way to take photographs here is truly exceptional. Cookouts, campfires, cowboy singers, cocktails and more are mixed in with educational opportunities.