The Bridger Mountains were named after Jim Bridger who pioneered a trail through the mountains in Southern Wyoming into the Bighorn Basin in the year of 1864, the mountains are set in a remarkable location offering a great escape into the great outdoors.
Your hosts grandparents were the original homesteaders and carved the ranch out of the wilderness. Their love and knowledge of the surroundings is passed onto guests with lots of narrative tales and historical explanations. There is an obvious concern for this beautiful environment.
On this riding holiday you are accommodated in log cabins all en-suite and decorated in authentic western style. All cowboys like their food but the meals here are superlative. Everyone eats together around the kitchen table and there is plenty of friendly chat and good company.
Mike is a horse trainer and most horses are bred and trained on the ranch with gentling methods. If you are interested in improving your riding skills, especially western and horsemanship, this is the place to come with regular clinics organised throughout the year and one day or more a week set aside for natural horsemanship clinics if wanted. Cattle work is also done for all the neighbours, so there is 22 square miles of territory to cover.
The horses are well schooled with paces to suit all. Your hosts have years of experience looking after guests. Here you will be welcomed along with many others who have discovered this haven and return year after year to enjoy the peace and hospitality of this horse riding holiday.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from AS of Cambridge on 03/09/2015
Please note that all our ranch prices are fully inclusive of local state taxes and charges. Extras commonly charged locally at ranches, and which we include in our prices are: state taxes (2-8%), local town taxes (1-5%) and accommodation tax ($1-5/night). Our prices include all of the above and are guaranteed not to be affected by currency fluctuations once booked.
ABOUT THE RANCH
Mary Leffingwell's father homesteaded the ranch at the turn of the century and her late husband began taking guests in 1934. The ranching and guest business worked so well together that her son, grandson and their wives have continued on in Mary's footsteps. Mary's autobiographical book, "Diamonds in the Snow", tells of her childhood and growing up in early day Montana. Third generation George and his wife Patricia, along with fourth generation Mike and his wife Maria, took over the running of the ranch. Having spent four generations caring for the land, they are very conscious of the pulse of nature and how they, as ranchers, must fit into that rhythm. They have learned to live in harmony with the wildlife and flora that insures the preservation of the natural health of the land, the ranch and that of the surrounding area. The high percentage of return guests is testimony to the pleasure, comfort and relaxation found here. They want to share these unspoiled rolling hills and timber clad slopes that lend to the calm relaxed atmosphere of this mountain valley. George has since passed away but the rest of Leffingwell family; Patricia, Mike, Maria and Mary, welcome you into their home to experience a living piece of history spanning almost one hundred years of raising horses and cattle and almost 70 years of sharing the 3,200 acre ranch with guests from all over the world.
HORSES AND RIDING
At this ranch, the emphasis is on horseback riding and horsemanship instruction. Many of the horses are born, raised and trained on the ranch from own brood stock especially selected for the temperament and physical ability needed in this terrain and for the security of the guests. They continue to improve their horse herd and enjoy sharing the horses with you. Guests are assigned a specific horse for the week, and are welcome to help care for their horses. There is no experience required and a willingness to learn is encouraged. All rides are accompanied by a wrangler. Guests will average four to seven hours of riding per day and will be accompanied on these rides by someone who knows the country. Usually, there is a two to three hour ride in the morning, back to the ranch house for lunch and a three to four hour ride in the afternoon. Once a week an all-day ride is scheduled and lunch is either taken along or brought to the riders chuckwagon style. Cattle working skills are usually taught in the arena with a few cattle a day or so before heading out into the open to move cattle. Once a week there is a natural horsemanship session if wanted. This is a real opportunity to learn more about the amazing skills that go into training a responsive quarter horse from breaking onwards. Rides are usually geared to the skill level of the average rider of the group and not all rides are in connection with the cattle. At selected times of the season, people can participate in working with the cattle, trail riding on the summer cattle range or horsemanship instruction in our outdoor riding/roping arena. There are many varied trails through rugged mountain terrain, gentle sloping foothills, grassy meadows and sagebrush flats, many of which were used by the Indians and our pioneering ancestors. In the winter months there is riding on most days and the winter calving season is from the end of February to the beginning of April. In addition the nearby Bridger Ski Station provides excellent skiing oportunities from December to the end of March.
There is a large log Ranch House with four bedrooms, all with private baths. All the rooms have a rustic feel with western decor. This building will be open year round, with a minimum of a week stay during the summer season. There are also three rustic log cabins. The large family cabin sleeps up to five people. It has two bedrooms, one with a double bed and one with two twin beds. Off the master bedroom is a screened porch with a single bed. The cabin also has a living room with a fireplace, a front room with another single bed, a kitchenette with a sink and refrigerator and a bathroom. The smaller cabin has two bedrooms, one with a double bed and one with two single beds and a bathroom.
The large family cabin and rustic log cabin rates are applicable for 3 or more adults in the same cabin.
The ranch offers delicious, excellently prepared wholesome meals including fresh garden vegetables, ranch raised beef, homemade breads and desserts.
The ranch is approximately a two hour drive from the entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Information on the park can be obtained through the local chamber of commerce. There are many other local sites of interest such as The Lewis and Clark Caverns and the ghost towns of Castle, Elkhorn, Virginia City, Nevada City and Bannock. Transportation is not provided by the ranch, however, car rentals are available in Bozeman. Within 8 miles of the ranch are the Bridger Mountains with many hiking trails and Fairy Lake, a beautiful glacial lake nestled high in the peaks of the Bridgers. Drop off and pick up is available to the Bridger Mountains. Northeast of the ranch are the Crazy Mountains, a rugged mountain range with many hiking trails and glacial lakes as well. Both the Bridger and the Crazy Mountains have excellent trout filled lakes and streams. The Yellowstone River is within an hours drive from the ranch. Fly fishing guides and river rafting trips are available. Activities off of the ranch are separate costs not included in the ranch package.
WILDLIFE AND LANDSCAPE
For the animal enthusiast we have many species of interest. The most common spied animal on the ranch is the deer, mule and white tail. Early in the morning or in the evening you can watch them grazing in the fields around the ranch. A great photo opportunity, as the deer are quite tame. Another common sight is both the golden eagle and the red tailed hawk. Both can be seen soaring high above the ranch riding on the thermal air currents of the foothills. It is quite a sight if you catch a glimpse of them hunting and catching prey. For the bird watcher, there are numerous species to observe including the entertaining hummingbirds which fly around and feed from the many feeders and lilacs bushes surrounding the ranch house. Also living within the area are elk, coyote, moose, black bear, mountain lion and many small mammals such as bob cat, lynx, wolverine, mink, weasel, beaver, marmot, cotton tail, showshoe and jack rabbits. The creek that flows through the ranch is home to rainbow, native cut throat and brown trout. We do not however have any rattle snakes or grizzly bears on the ranch or surrounding areas. The ranch is situated in a valley between two series of foothills leading to higher more mountainous terrain. In the lower creek bed areas are many cottonwood and willow trees and grassy pastures leading up to sage covered hills dotted with occasional aspen groves and fir trees. Higher up is more timbered and rugged landscapes. Wild flowers start showing up in May with an explosion of vibrant colors and innumerable varieties covering the hillsides in late June through July with late summer bloomers continuing on into August and even September. One good picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand pictures cannot do justice to this beautiful country.
The two nearest places to shop are Bozeman and Livingston. Bozeman is a nice western town which has a Mall as well as shops, art galleries and western apparel stores. Livingston offers the same on a smaller scale.
Unless otherwise pre-arranged, children are the responsibility of their parents. Children are encouraged to participate and are included in all ranch activities.
The ranch has a very laidback atmosphere and unstructured schedule with horseback riding being the main organized activity. Guests are welcome to fish in the creek that flows through the ranch, home to rainbow, native cut throat and brown trout. Or hike on the many trails in the wide open spaces and sage covered foothills of the Bridger Mountains. There is also many opportunities for bird watching, photography or just plain relaxing. Rafting trips outside of the ranch can also be arranged. All these extra make for a great holiday for non-riding companions.
We have an extensive range of Western Riding holidays across the world. Please click on the link below to go to our listings page:
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The horses are mainly quarter horses and cross along with some appaloosas. They range in size from 14.3hh to 15.3hh. There are about 52 horses on the ranch at any one time of which 37 are riding horses with the rest being young stock or broodmares. Most of the horses are home bred and trained with natural horsemanship methods. The horses are all ridden in western tack and the western riding style is utilised. Snaffle bits may be used on some horses. The horses are all exceptionally well schooled with beautiful soft mouths. You will be taught western techniques and at least once a week there will be an opportunity to learn natural horsemanship techniques. The work is all ranch work and the pace is slow. Before heading out to move cattle you will be taught how and practice your skills in the arena with cattle handling skills. Then with your newfound skills you will head off to shift cattle, check fences and pastures etc. This work is also done for the neighboring ranches so there is 20 square miles to cover! Riders are encouraged to take their own line and not ride nose to tail here. There are usually two rides out daily, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, of about 2-3 or 3.5 hours depending on the work to be done. You have your own horse assigned for the week and may help to saddle if you wish. As this is a true working ranch cattle work cannot be guaranteed; it all depends on what needs to be doing and when and this often cannot be organised in advance.
No previous riding experience is necessary to ride on the ranch. The rides gradually increase in difficulty and time so no training is needed before coming out.
The weight limit for this ride is 14 st/200 lb/91 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
The accommodation is of an excellent standard. The main log ranch house has four substantial bedrooms all with private bathrooms, a large open plan sitting area with open log fire, dining area with long table and kitchen. There are also three rustic log cabins with more bedrooms for families. All have quality furnishings in authentic western style. There is no television or telephone in the cabins, the ranch telephone can be used with appropriate calling cards if necessary. Laundry facilities are available. Breakfast: Breakfast is served at the table and offers the usual full western selection: hot pancakes, sausages, eggs, french toast as well as the usual cereal, yoghurt, juice, coffee, bagels, toast, jam, tea, hot chocolate. Lunch: Salads, pastas, fresh vegetables, freshly baked bread and muffins and dessert. Dinner: There is a variety of home cooked ranch food, usually prepared from recipes handed down over the generations. Always home cooked and fresh with excellent steaks from the ranch! Alcohol is not available for purchase on site but a stop will be made at the local shops on the way from the airport so guests can buy any wine, beer, western gear or telephone cards they need before heading out to the ranch.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Typically the night time temperatures drop to the low 40's F and daytime temperatures are usually in the 60- 70's F but can reach the high 80's F in July and August. This means it is cool enough to sleep under a blanket and pleasant to ride in during the day.
We strongly advise you to consult with your General Practitioner before travelling. The best medical advice regarding suitable immunisations and prophylaxis to enable you to travel safely requires knowledge of your medical history and therefore cannot be covered in this advice sheet. Recommendations are also subject to change and it is important to obtain the most up to date information available.
There are no specific health requirements although do remember sun block.
It is best to bring any stocks required with you to the ranch.
Jeans or jodhpurs
Long sleeved shirts
Casual dinner wear
Short sleeved shirts
Rain gear (no ponchos)
Sneakers or soft shoes
There is an 8 day, 7 night programme with arrival and departures on Sundays. May to October is the real riding season where 4-6 hours of riding are the norm for a day. The cattle need to be moved on a regular, but not scheduled, basis in their high mountain pastures - please be aware that as this is a true working ranch cattle work cannot be guaranteed on any date.
2017: Sunday arrival and departure. Weekly from 16 April to 17 September
see single rates
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There is a multitude of wildlife on the ranch and in the area. 1500 elk live in the valley and wander through the ranch at will. Most evenings or mornings you can sit on the porch and watch herds of deer graze. Coyote, moose, black bear, mountain lion, antelope, golden eagle, red tailed hawk and many small mammals such as bob cat, lynx, wolverine, mink, weasel, beaver, marmot, cottontail, snowshoe and jack rabbits inhabit the area. Late June/July/August sees wonderful wild flowers in the valley.
If you have a rental car excursions to nearby sights such as Bridger Mountains with its many hiking trails, the beautiful glacial Fairly Lake, Crazy Mountains or even Yellowstone National Park. Most guests simply put up their feet and relax after a hard day.
Bozeman is a nice small western town with good shopping and nice steak houses. A trip there one afternoon or day can be arranged for a small cost locally (around £10).
There is no mobile phone service at the ranch and international phone calling cards are available to buy at the ranch.
The USA has 4 main times zones - Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST) and Pacific Standard Time (PST).
Vermont is on EST, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah are all on MST, California is on PST.
Weights and measures are imperial although weight is always expressed in pounds, not stone. The US gallon is 3.8 litres in contrast to an imperial gallon which is 4.2 litres.
Mobile telephone: In 2015 3G is widely available throughout the US in cities, towns, villages and along main highways with AT&T having the best overall coverage and T-mobile offering better speeds in cities. 4G is beginning to be available in cities. There are still a few rural areas which have no GSM reception but do have the older CDMA telephone networks. To be able to call from these areas we recommend buying a cheap Verizon phone from eg Walmart (from $13) and topping up with credit. Almost all hotels and airports offer free wifi connection.