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“Perfect in every way.”
Review of Bitterroot Ranch

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Bitterroot Ranch
Irvington, New York
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Perfect in every way.”
Reviewed 11 September 2012

My husband and I just returned from a spectacular week at Bitterroot Ranch, which we finally visited after years of traveling worldwide on trips run by owners Mel and Bayard Fox run through their Equitours branch. The horses were extraordinarily well trained and cared for and we each had the pleasure of riding quite a number of them. In addition to quarter horses, the ranch also raises Arabians, which were new to me and which I now hope to ride again. The staff was wonderful, as was the food and facilities. Most of the other guests were repeat visitors, which is the best testament anyone can offer. Don't miss this one.

  • Stayed September 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Maralyn M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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  • English first
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English first
Grand Rapids
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 September 2012

I spent 10 days at Bitterroot Ranch in late August 2012. Bitterroot Ranch was a wonderful experience and far exceeded my expectations. I was looking for a place where I could improve my riding skills as well as experience a new environment. This was only my second ranch experience, and this time I truly hit the jackpot.
The ranch has a herd of about 200 horses, so well cared for it was a pleasure to witness. When I was there I was lucky enough to watch a chiropractor in action, treating about a dozen of the horses. Most of the horses are bred and trained on the ranch. There is a morning and afternoon ride each day, with a fresh horse provided for each ride. One of the nice things is that you get to use the same saddle for each ride, so that once your saddle is adjusted for stirrup length etc. it's done for the duration of your stay. Classes are offered on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, given by Hadley who is a great teacher. She seems to know exactly what to zero in on for each rider to improve with ease and build confidence.
The scenery is quite simply stunning. Every ride is different - you may be in a dry desert in the morning, cantering through sagebrush, eating the dust of the horse cantering ahead of you, and in the afternoon you may be in the woods or trotting across lush, open meadow. The complete and utter silence experienced in the wilderness is something to be absorbed and treasured in this day and age.
The riding groups are small and grouped according to skill level. Family members can stay together or split up according to ability. There is no pressure either way, but for families staying together the default level of the ride will always cater to the least experienced. Mel evaluates each new group of riders on the first morning to witness the skill levels first-hand, and also demonstrates how the horses should be ridden. Horses have to be ridden in two point position at the canter, and you must post the trot. I had never cantered in two point position, but after a short lesson from Hadley I got the hang of it. One thing that impressed me a lot was the support and interest taken in riders like myself who were trying to build skills and confidence, even outside of the lesson environment.
The accommodations are log cabins set a nice distance apart for privacy. They are rustic, but cozy and comfortable. My cabin had a small wood stove, which made me wish it was a bit cooler so that I would have an excuse to light it. The cabins are phone-and-TV-free, cell phone signals are erratic to say the least, and wireless internet is available in the lodge, but not completely reliable. I say all of the above as a compliment to the place - with no pressure to remain plugged in all the time, you can truly get away from it all and unwind.
The food is wonderful, fresh and natural. The beef served is ranch raised, there is a vegetable garden behind the lodge that provides some of the salad and veg served at mealtimes (there was a drought this year so the crop apparently was not as bountiful as it can be), and wine is served with dinner. Food is served buffet style with more than enough to go round.
The Fox family (Mel, Bayard, Richard and Hadley) are wonderful hosts, hands-on owners and are involved in the daily running of the ranch. It was a real pleasure to have them sit at mealtimes with the guests and share stories of their travels and adventures. The wranglers are all very skilled and knowledgeable with a surprising number being former guests who returned to work there.
Bitterroot Ranch offers a unique experience. I hesitate to call it a dude ranch. It's not a nose-to-tail, hot-tub-and-room-service-at -the-end-of-the-day-type of place. It's about the horses, the riding, the environment, the opportunity to meet and mingle with interesting people. It's about getting unplugged from your daily life and adopting a new rhythm for a while.
I traveled solo and wouldn't hesitate to go again. In fact I am already trying to figure out my calendar for next year so I can book my return visit.
A couple of hints I picked up along the way - Jackson is the best option to fly into, vs Riverton.
For solo travelers it is quite expensive to get transport to the ranch, as the charge is for the vehicle, not per person. If you are the only person in the vehicle, you absorb the full cost yourself. I was told by another guest that some good car rental deals can be found on priceline.com.

  • Stayed August 2012, travelled solo
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Helpful?
7 Thank fellowtravlr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
CT
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 26 August 2012

Our stay at Bitterroot ranch exceeded our expectations on so many fronts. My daughter and I enjoy riding together and we were looking for a different riding experience. We also wanted a chance to ride Arabians. After a quick internet search, Bitterroot Ranch surfaced and the site proved to be an invaluable resource in helping us appreciate the ranch culture and the potential for a unique riding vacation. With ease, we were able to reserve a half week stay on relatively short notice.

The trip to the ranch offers a spectacular view of Wyoming expanse. As you travel the highway and ultimately the 14 mile dirt road to the ranch, the scenery and culture hit you immediately. Nestled in a valley (at 7500 ft) is the bustling community of ranch life and all it has to offer. A herd of cows in a lower pasture, the horses (close to 100) congregated on an upper plateau, sheep, chickens, dogs running about, and the rhythm of family, wranglers and other employees handling their daily chores. We felt part of it all and we quickly settled in.

Our cabin was spacious, comfortable and clean. Our hosts and staff were friendly, inviting and interested in taking the time to get to know us as well as wanting us to have a good time. To the extent we wanted to get to know them, they encouraged our curiosity and were invigorated by our desire to learn more. The meals were well prepared, the portions plentiful and contained enough variety to satisfy our palate. Mingling with the other guests, as little or as much as you wanted to, added another charming dimension to the trip. We didn't go there to socialize but the common interest in riding often led us to kick back, relax and enjoy the time with others over meals and daily riding activities. We found it quite enjoyable.

In the end, though, the ranch is all about riding and horses. We could not have been more pleased. After an initial assessment of skills, they did a good job figuring out how to match horse to rider. We had 3-4 different mounts each over the 3 days we rode. We don't normally ride western but it was not difficult to catch on. We were challenged to use our other riding skills (whether english, hunter jumper or dressage) and balance to make it easy for the horse to do his job. Our reward was an effortless canter/gallop across a field, a sure-footed partner traversing a difficult, hilly terrain, and everything in between. We were in awe of our Arabian partners; they knew what to do but were also attentive and responsive if you convinced them your leadership skills were up to the task. After 5-6 hours in the saddle each day, separated by a lunch break and a replacement of mount, we could almost say we had our fill of riding for the day. But that's only because we knew we were riding the next day.

A bonus for us was being able to witness the owner's passion for breeding horses. In between or after rides, we could wander down to the paddocks to see the stallions or the mares with their foals. In a separate part of the ranch we could find the herd of yearlings beginning to exercise their independence. Our hosts invited us into this world and we enjoyed every minute of it.

In considering Bitterroot Ranch, keep a couple things in mind. It is not a dude ranch. They certainly cater to riders of all skill levels (and to non-riders as well) but this is not a nose-to-tail trail riding experience. If your responsible, you'll get the rewards that come with it. Second, there may be some minor pest activity around the cabin from time to time. It comes with the territory and, in our view, no big deal. On logistics, we flew into Riverton Airport and would probably avoid it on the next trip (Jackson Hole is the other option). After our bags were delayed, we learned from those at the airport (who were doing the best they could) that it happens often. On the way home, flight delays into Riverton made us miss our connection.

All in all, the experience was outstanding and we look forward to getting back there soon.

  • Stayed August 2012, travelled with family
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Helpful?
6 Thank CtAnonymous
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Houston, Texas, United States
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 24 August 2012

This was my second trip to Bitterroot Ranch, and while i had fond memories of my first visit, time had blurred them all. Mel greeted us and laughingly told one of the first-timers in our group that we would have to leave the following Sunday as she was ful the next week. I smiled, knowing how true her statement was...no one ever wants to leave!

As others have said, the raw beauty ans variety of the landscape is extraordinary, the staff is out of this world, and the horses are the most amazing, brave, surefooted creatures i have ever had the privilege of riding. The cabins are rustic and comfortable. The lodge has wifi, but cell service is spotty. Many of the guests are return visitors, which is about the highest praise a vacation destination can get. I hope not to wait 10 years before returning again this time!

Stayed August 2012, travelled with friends
Helpful?
1 Thank Rochelle J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Houston
Level Contributor
13 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed 19 August 2012

Wow. Just wow! I just got back after making my 4th visit to Bitterroot Ranch and taking a group of 7 of my riding students/boarders with me. As always, we had a fabulous time riding wonderful horses over lovely terrain. Great food. Lovely cabins with great views. Peaceful and satisfying times.

One of my group emailed me today to say that they had found this site and was astonished to see some bad reviews. So, I came here to see what she had found and was just astounded to see the negatives. All I can think is that no one can please everyone and that some people just are not happy unless they are unhappy.

In the trips I have made to Bitterroot, I have seen a couple of guests who thought they were riders and were inflexible in adjusting themselves to the requirements of riding at Bitterroot. Those people ended up unhappy because of their own issues. Not the fault of the Ranch or its personnel.

At this ranch, the owners care very much for the welfare of their horses and insist that riders have basic balance skills before allowing them to canter. This protects the HORSES as well as the riders. You will NOT be permitted to pound around on the backs of the horses like a sack of potatoes. And if you cannot deal with this,then this is NOT the vacation for you.

Bottom line is that there are three types of riders: 1) those with some riding experience and skill who can adapt to the requirements of the ranch - these do very well. 2) those with just about no experience - these will do very well because they will listen and learn and have a blast. And 3) those who THINK they know it all and will not listen to anything anyone tells them - this type may well find themselves rebuked by Mel or taught a lesson by a horse that is NOT going to tolerate bad riding.

So, I must assume that the negative reviews about the horses/riding were of the third type.

My group consisted of some from each of the first two groups. We all had a fabulous time.

But fair warning: This should NOT be considered a "Dude Ranch." Don't know how that designation came to be attached to the ranch. If you are expecting a "Dude Ranch" a la hay rides and songs around the campfire and constant entertainment....... go elsewhere. If you enjoy horses and gorgeous scenery and long hard rides that leave you breathless and so tired that you crash by 8:30 pm after a fabulous dinner, Bitterroot Ranch is your kind of vacation.

  • Stayed August 2012, travelled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
5 Thank Rebecca P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed 19 August 2012

I found a vacation destination where I can truly relax. All the modern ammenities were available, had I really wanted them. For me, it's absolute GOLD to be able to be away from modern electronics, television, endless advertisings, NOISE, and so on. I love the balance at Bitterroot between resort and ranch. I don't need personal pampering - the (AMAZINGLY!!!!) friendly, courteous, POLITE staff were just fantastic.
Bitterroot is incredibly unique in the realm of vacation sites. It seems that everywhere is trying to become a theme park. That gets very old. The area around Bitterroot is SO very unique - geologically, geographically, and terrain. Some people may gripe about "walking nose to tail" - well, the "nose to tail" walking also allows one the time to truly grasp the variety of the land, the interesting mineral deposits, the scars of the past due to the wagon trains, the amazing "natural" engineering of the irrigation system.
What new people who vacation at Bitterroot need to realize is that the HORSES are a significant part of the infrastructure of the ranch. These are not machines that can just be tweaked and adjusted and "made to fit" to each rider's whim. They are living, breathing animals, who are carting their (sometimes poorly balanced) human load safely over a wide variety of terrain. The Foxes have been doing this work for a long time, and seem to have a good handle on matching the horses to the riders - which may be detrimental to some individuals' egos.
Were there glitches and bumps in certain aspects of the visit? Of course. Did they mar my vacation time? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!!!!! This IS a working, FAMILY RUN ranch, with seasonal help. Access to the ranch is STILL very difficult. One must take those items into consideration, and be somewhat flexible.
This is not, nor will it likely ever be, all things to all people. If you want to have a full service resort, this is not for you. I enjoyed every second, up until the inevitable time that I had to leave. That was the only sad thing - leaving something behind that was so special. However, I enjoyed my time so much that I've already signed up for another visit next year!

  • Stayed August 2012, travelled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
4 Thank Diane S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cornwall on Hudson, New York
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed 24 July 2012

As a child growing up in New York, I watched hours of television westerns and dreamed of riding the range, herding cattle and living the life of a cowgirl. Sixty years later, my husband and I chose the Bitterroot Ranch to fulfill this fantasy. Exceeding my expectations by far, this enchanted week was full of excitement, beautiful horses, knowledgeable, caring staff, breathtaking scenery, healthy, delicious food and a guest list as varied and wonderful as the terrain itself.
Our cabin was rustic but comfortable. If you are looking for luxury go somewhere else. We were blessedly technology- free and enjoyed sitting on the porch listening to the river that was a stone’s throw away. Yes, there were moths and other flying insects but as the brochure from the ranch explains, this comes with the territory. We prefer them to chemical sprays any day!
The owners, Mel and Bayard, along with their son Richard and his wife Hadley, combine their special talents to provide for the varied interests and abilities of their guests.
Mel is the expert at matching horses to rider and does so on the first day during a riding evaluation. She takes into account the type of horse you request before arriving. You will ride several horses so they are always fresh. Mel quietly works behind the scenes to individualize the experience for each guest. When she found out one young girl was going to celebrate her 11th birthday while at the ranch, Mel made a special trip into town- which is pretty far- to find a cowgirl boot birthday candle for the cake.
My husband, a novice, was given extra attention and after an amazing lesson with Hadley mastered the posting trot and two point position required by the ranch. After the second lesson, he was cantering and confident enough to do so on the trails. They actually saved a canter ride for him and several other novices! Hadley is very encouraging and professional.
Bayard was our guide for the “Butch Cassidy Hideout” ride and taught us to fly fish -well, attempted to anyway. He is a fascinating man, passionate about the land, history and his horses. Fluent in many languages, a world traveler and author, Bayard is, as my husband dubbed him, “The Man!”
Richard seamlessly handles the immense number of details that are part and parcel of running several businesses at once. Despite his work load, he found time to take us to a square dance in town and patiently taught me to Dosey Doe, despite my two left feet!
The wranglers, young, experienced horsewomen, added their own expertise to the rides. Well versed in geology, history and the flora and fauna of the area, they answered countless questions while keeping a close eye on the riders and horses. The wranglers held a meeting after each ride to assess the choice of horses for the riders and to address any concerns.
Each day, my husband and I would say, “It can’t get better than this!” but it did. The rides were challenging, the scenery dramatic and the activities a continuum of skill building that led to our most memorable event; moving over 100 head of cattle from one section of the ranch to another. We had the time of our lives and gained a whole new respect for cowhands and their horses!
A dream fulfilled at a ranch extraordinaire! Do we recommend the Bitterroot? You bet your boots we do!

Stayed July 2012, travelled as a couple
Helpful?
4 Thank Marie F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Bitterroot Ranch

Property: Bitterroot Ranch
Address: 1480 E. Fork Rd., Dubois, WY 82513
Region: United States > Wyoming > Dubois
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 12 Speciality Lodging in Dubois
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Number of rooms: 12
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The ranch is a 640-acre spread where the guests help with the fall cattle round-up. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Bitterroot Dude Ranch Hotel Dubois
Bitterroot Ranch Dubois, Wyoming

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