Experience the West — on horseback

Nestled between Montana’s Bitterroot Valley and Trapper Peak to the west, the historic landmark Chief Joseph Ranch is the perfect Western Montana getaway. The site has been the set for Paramount Network’s original series “Yellowstone,” but it’s also a guest ranch and a family-owned, working ranch.

Lewis and Clark followed a trail used by native tribes during their expedition, traveling from the northern Bitterroot Valley to the south. Chief Joseph also used the trail, which traverses the ranch property just west of the lodge, down to where the ranch’s barns are now located. When founded in the late 1880s, the place was called Shelton Ranch. Once an apple orchard, the 2,500-acre ranch was purchased in 1914 by glass tycoon William S. Fort and federal judge Howard Clark Hollister. Ford built the iconic Ford-Hollister lodge on the property using log and stone resources from the area. The 6,000-square-foot lodge has been featured in “Architectural Digest” and “American Log Homes,” and is considered one of the great log structures of the American West.

In the 1920s, the ranch’s dairy operation shifted to raising Hereford cattle. After Ford passed away in 1935, his wife, May Ford, and her daughters Phyllis and Billie Ann opened and operated one of the first guest ranches in the West.

The Ford-Hollister Ranch was sold and renamed the Chief Joseph Ranch in the early 1950s, in honor of the great Nez Perce chief and his journey across the area.

In between filming dates for the blockbuster series, Chief Joseph Ranch is a family home and guest ranch offering fishing, trail riding and other amenities.

If you’d like to take a getaway trip to this historic site, start by visiting chiefjosephranch.net to check out cabin rental options and make a reservation. The Lodge is still a family home, but cabins on site are available to rent. Missoula International Airport is the closest airport to the ranch, but you’ll need to rent a car to get to the property.

Experience the West on horseback. This guide holds a variety of options for the inner adventurer in us all.

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