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Ride Big Sky Country

Montana Horseback Riding

Take advantage of our advanced and diverse equestrian program!

At the Bar W Guest Ranch, horses are central to the ranch experience and our riding program is the ranch’s main attraction. Our knowledgeable wranglers, the assorted terrain, and our large herd of good mountain horses make riding at the Bar W exceptional.

From our home at the base of Spencer Mountain, we offer outstanding horseback riding in the mountainous Montana terrain surrounding the ranch, not to mention the thousands of acres the ranch has access to at other locations. You’ll ride in places with names like Sunday Creek, Lake Koocanusa, and the Kootenai National Forest.

If you find yourself on the cattle drive in the wide-open prairie of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, you’ll feel like you stepped back in time. There may be no other place quite like it; you’ll find there really are ‘purple mountains majesty’ waiting for you. The Bar W truly is an equestrian’s dream, where time will run a little slower, things will seem a little simpler, and every day will feel like Saturday.

A Week of Horseback Adventure

A week-long, all inclusive stay at the Bar W Guest Ranch grants you access to our diverse horseback riding program. Saddle up each day for a variety of different trail rides and horseback activities for some of the most exciting, yet relaxing outings into the Montana mountains that you could imagine. Horseback riding in the mountains is normally more deliberate, with attention paid to traversing up and down in elevation, while keeping an eye open for wildlife. More experienced guests will have the chance to ride at a faster pace where terrain and group dynamics allow.

Ride your trusted mount over foothills, through vibrant forests and up into the mountains, across lush meadows dotted with wildflowers, and discover breathtaking viewpoints and back country lakes.

  • Sway through the Kootenai National Forest on horseback to the pleasant rhythm of creaking saddle leather and take in the sounds and sights of unspoiled nature.
  • Tie your horse to a wilderness hitching post and stop for lunch overlooking a vivid aquamarine lake with wide, sandy beaches and soak in the cool mountain sunlight.
  • Enjoy a horseback riding program in the Montanan wilderness that is designed to be the core of our weekly guests’ experience, and often becomes the highlight of your stay.

Are you ready to see life from the saddle?


Not Staying at the Bar W? Come for a ride!

If you’re not staying at the ranch or you’re a local, don’t worry — you can still experience the thrill of horseback riding in Montana. Near Glacier National Park and sited only 3 miles from Whitefish, our ranch is easy to find and impossible to forget.

With a remuda of 90 horses, many of which were born and bred in Montana, we often have a few extra horses and a wrangler or two available for two-hour or half-day rides through the wooded mountain trails surrounding the ranch to scenic big sky viewpoints.

We offer trail rides to day guests based upon availability and trail conditions. Reservations are required and are accepted a maximum of one week in advance. Children must be 7 years old and we have a weight limit for riders of 220 lbs.

Warning: Day riders just get a sip of Montana wilderness by horseback, and you’re probably going to want more. We hand our weekly guests the bottle with no need to drink responsibly. This is one occasion where it’s encouraged to drink it all in.   


Horse Selection

Our experienced Head Wrangler hand-selects each horse from our herd for every rider based on age, weight, height, and riding ability. Honestly judging your riding ability is important. The Bar W has horses that are suitable for the novice rider all the way to horses that are only ridden by our experienced wranglers and very advanced guests. Overestimating your riding ability becomes a safety issue not only for you, but for all the other riders, our staff, and our horses.

Children must be 7 years old to ride alone on the trails, and for all-inclusive guests we have a weight limit of 275 lbs. We do ask that you consider if you are fit and healthy enough to enjoy an active and riding-centered vacation. Please give us a call and chat with us if you have any concerns or questions about what you can expect your riding experience to be like at the Bar W.

Wherever you’re at in your horseback riding journey, we strive to match you with an equine partner that suits you and gives you the confidence you need to take your riding experience to the next level.

We want you to feel at ease enough with your horse to call it your own throughout the week. Many of our guests forge close bonds with their horses and will request the same horse each year they return.


Horseback Riding Lessons

True horsemanship can take a lifetime to master. There is always more to learn – even for the most seasoned of riders. For all inclusive guests, you’ll have every opportunity to grow your knowledge and skill.

We offer group lessons in our large outdoor arena three mornings a week, where our wranglers teach everything from the basics of learning to ride a horse to confidently, and safely loping on your horse. Learn how to better communicate with your horse and develop a true partnership.

Our experienced wranglers will take the time to make sure each guest receives one-on-one instruction that’s personalized to your riding level. Learn at your own pace.

  • Experience the satisfaction of improving an old skill or the thrill of learning a new one.
  • Private lessons can be arranged at an additional charge for weekly guests.

Limited lesson opportunities are also available for day guests, reservations are required.


Let’s Rodeo!

Throughout your week at the ranch, you’ll put together horseback riding skills worthy of a rodeo queen or king. Towards the end of the week you will have the chance to ride in the Bar W Guest Rodeo for some friendly competition, with your fan base of new friends and family cheering you on!

Try your hand at the basics of team penning, where you’ll get to experience cattle work from horseback. After that you’ll take a break from the saddle and learn how to throw a lasso from the ground using our steer roping dummies. When you think you’re ready, take your rope into the pen and test your skill by trying to rope one of the real steers.

As an all-inclusive guest, you will also get the chance to learn the ins and outs of barrel racing and pole bending, two of rodeo’s most well know timed competition events. Whether you goal is to just have fun or to win, there’s an event for every person on Rodeo Day. And when it gets hot, we cool everybody off with a water balloon toss!


Family Saddle Time

The Bar W has one of the most extensive kids’ programs of any dude ranch in Montana.

For the small fries ages 3 and under we can arrange babysitting for an hourly rate, and they’ll get to enjoy a few hand-walked pony rides around the ranch during the week.

The fun really begins in our Cowpoke Program, for those kiddos aged 4 to 6. Cowpokes will get to experience daily pony rides (sometimes on a real horse), join their family in competition on Rodeo Day, learn how to be responsible for the care and feeding of animals with daily chores in the Cowpoke Corner, group games, and western themed arts and crafts. cowpokes have their very own Kid’s Counselor, and while they’re around the horses they’ll get the thrill of hanging out with our Wranglers.

And for our junior buckaroos, children aged 7 to 12, the world opens up. Many of our junior buckaroos choose to do the same rides as their parents, while others choose to hang back with other kids for shorter rides, fun group activities, and maybe make a western themed craft to show off to their family.


Western Cattle Drive and Round Up

Experience a real western cattle drive during one of our most popular specialty weeks. You’ll get to experience the horsemanship and beautiful country inherent in our spring or fall round-up.

“Cowboying the Great Divide” fills quickly, as it provides a unique and authentic experience few guest ranches offer. Guests of our weeklong cattle drive package will spend long hours in the saddle riding rugged terrain, help bring in the herd, sort cattle, and get hands on experience vaccinating and branding. Then after a long day of hard, satisfying work, relax around the campfire for an evening of camaraderie swapping tall tales under the starry big sky. You’ll feel like a real ranch hand right down to the dirty jeans and broke-in boots. Even full-time cowboys and cowgirls can’t wait for this experience every year!

2020 Dates: June 6-13, 2020, and September 19-26, 2020

2021 Dates: June 5-12, 2021, and September 18-25, 2021


Wagon Rides

Bask in Big Sky Country splendor with a Bar W wagon ride that will transport you to a simpler time.

For guests staying at the ranch, enjoy a wagon ride Monday evening. Our wagons are pulled by our draft horse teams and the sound of the horses’ massive hooves hitting the pavement in sync with each other, and the sheer strength of our gentle giants creates a truly unique experience that finishes with a great dinner at our gazebo by the scenic Spencer Lake.

If you’re visiting the area, or you’re a local looking for a fun event to share with family and friends, we offer wagon rides on a limited availability basis Thursday or Saturday evening. A wagon ride is a great way to tour the ranch, and you have the option to finish your evening with a dinner, dessert, and coffee at one of our ranch locations. Reservations are required. Call for more information. There is a minimum of 10 required to make a reservation.