Friday, August 29, 2014

320 GuestRanch in Montana offers all the right reasons to visit

Big Sky's majestic ski slopes  (Photo: Taylor)
BIG SKY, MONT,  August 29, 2014 – When it comes to outdoor activities, 320 Guest Ranch in Big Sky, Montana is a land for all seasons.

Deriving its name from the merger of two 160-acre homesteads, 320 Ranch offers a smorgasbord of things for travelers to do any time of the year but, if you must pick one season, choose winter.

Homey 320 atmosphere  (Photo: Taylor)
Just north of the west entrance to Yellowstone Park and a bit south of Big Sky Ski Resort, 320 Ranch is easily accessible from Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN). Take your time driving through Ted Turner country and the scenic Gallatin Canyon along U.S. Highway 191 to Big Sky. The ranch is just beyond. There’s only one main road and there is no rush. Time will wait.

The road, Route 191, roughly parallels the pristine Gallatin River meandering beneath towering pines and the majestic Bridger Mountains. Once you arrive at 320 Ranch, as the classic cowboy song Home on the Range says, “The skies are not cloudy all day.” Locals call them “bluebird sky days” and the only thing better is when snow is falling to add a new layer of “cold smoke” to the ski slopes.

The 320 Guest Ranch is an Old West experience with all the comforts of home. Accommodations range from the historic McGill Cabin to 60 other rustic log cabin-style facilities that preserve some of the original structures while retaining their “Montana ambience.”

Interior McGill cabin  (Photo: Taylor)
Today, the 320 Ranch offers deluxe one bedroom cabins, as well as two bedroom riverfront log cabins, a three bedroom luxury log home, and the TeePee Cabin along with the McGill Cabin. Rates vary according to type and season. There are also special events packages and discounts.

Dr. Caroline McGill bought the property in 1936 with the idea of using the ranch as a place for recuperation. Not only was it a personal retreat for McGill, the tranquil streams and surrounding mountains were an ideal location for her patients to regain their strength.

McGill was a dynamo of energy and personality. At just under five feet in height and weighing less than 120 pounds, the doctor quickly adapted to life along the Gallatin River in the area of Big Horn Creek. She was an avid outdoor-person with a love of horseback riding, hunting and fishing. All of which made the 320 Ranch a perfect location for her nature living lifestyle.

To say that Caroline McGill was “spunky” is an understatement. After graduating at the top of her class at Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1914, she became the first female doctor and first female pathologist in Montana at a time when the region was rugged and wild and women were given little respect. McGill’s success as a doctor and entrepreneur are a tribute to her determination and grit.

More cabins were added in 1987 when David Brask expanded the ranch, turning it into a full-fledged resort while maintaining the original character. Brask even incorporated many items of Dr. McGill’s junk collection in the new facilities in honor of her vibrant spirit.

Snow Mobiling in Yellowstone  (Photo: Taylor)
Skiing, of course, is the dominant attraction at Big Sky Resort just 12 miles away. But the 320 also offers the full range of winter activities including snowmobiling, snowboarding, dog sledding, snow-coach tours of Yellowstone Park, shopping and spa trips in Big Sky and Bozeman, and even big game hunting.

Yellowstone's winter beauty  (Photo: Taylor)
Also popular on the ranch property itself are one-hour sleigh rides three times each night during the winter season. Rides are $35 for adults, $20 for kids 12 under and free for guests younger than  three years. There is a stop en route at a warming tent where appetizers or desserts are served depending upon the time in the evening.

Visitors enjoy a breakfast buffet 7-9 a.m. each day in the restaurant. Though the dishes change daily, breakfasts served there may be the best breakfasts in Montana.

Wildlife abounds  (Photo: Taylor)
Lunch and dinner menus feature a variety of wild game specialties, such as meatloaf made with elk, bison or beef. It is not uncommon for fishermen to bring in their catch for the chef to prepare it with a goat cheese appetizer, and bake it with garlic cloves and a side of oven-toasted Parmesan bread.

Summer months are equally festive with activities ranging from horseback riding to hiking, hayrides, outdoor BBQs and nightly bonfires as well as golf and whitewater rafting.

Summer or winter, don’t be surprised to find lively musical performances at the ranch along with plenty of rousing Western-style dancing.
Big Sky sunset  (Photo: Taylor)
Big Sky’s 320 Guest Ranch is a perfect place for travelers seeking Mother Nature’s personal nourishment for the soul. It’s a superb chef’s salad of meaty activities complete with ranch dressing.