OK, let me admit the few negatives first:
- yes, the prior reviewer is right, they do cater to returning guests a bit
- the childrens program is a bit unstructured if your child is not independent (say 8 years old or else a very independent 6-7)
- the rooms are only so-so
- the bees overwhelm the outdoor eating area, and you really have to eat inside
- it is expensive like you wouldn't believe
So why do I still say it was the best vacation ever?
1) First and foremost, the people. I don't know how they hired such consistently nice people, but they are amazing. They make sure you are doing what you want all the time & having a blast doing it. Normally, we like to hike on your own, but here we took the guided hike and we instantly became friends with the hike leader & her dog. I just can't stress it enough - they go out of their way to make you happy.
2) The riding is fantastic. Great for all levels. From lessons in the corral to trotting the trails at night. Wildlife (we saw elk, bears, wild turkeys, deer).
3) The lake is a great second attraction. It is rare for a dude ranch to also have a lake. There is sailing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming (and diving off a tower), waveboarding, waterskiing, etc.
4) The heated pool is great for relaxing while the kids play.
5) There are a lot of kids. Your kids will have playmates and a great time. The wranglers are great with kids. There is a junior-wranglers program (where they have a blast mucking stalls for free - ha!). There are also arts & crafts several times per day, a kids fishing pond, bikes, tennis, etc.
6) The dogs. OK, if you don't like em you can avoid em, but if you do like them, they are a blast too. There are like 5 dogs of varying breeds and they are all super-friendly with kids.
7) The food - excellent for this type of vacation. You can sit in the adult area and have a somewhat more formal meal or sit in the kids/family area and be totally informal. There are always choices so we never had a problem even though we are picky. You can eat with your kids or they can eat on their own with other kids.
8) Proximity to Glacier National Park. Basically, you are not in the middle of nowhere. You can drive like 10 minutes to Big Fork, a nice touristy town, for an afternoon or drive like 40 minutes to GNP which is absolutely beautiful.
I am sure I am forgetting something, but you get the idea. We left there with a new glow and an obsession (especially our 6-year-old daughter, who trotted for the first time - with helmet) to return. It seriously was our best family vacation ever - better than Disney at the high-end resort, better than Atlantis, etc.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Flathead Lake Lodge is a third generation Dude Ranch located in Montana on Flathead Lake. The Lodge offers unlimited horse & water activities and is only 35 miles from Glacier National Park. Your family will enjoy a rustic ranch atmosphere, endless activities, and unmatched hospitality by the Averill family and staff. Recreation includes a complete horse program, sailing, fly fishing, water sports, hiking, cookouts, camp fires, and a family barn dance to name a few. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Averill`s Flathead Lake Hotel Bigfork
- Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge Montana/Bigfork