Imagine driving down the interstate with the biggest, darkest clouds you’ve ever seen creeping along behind you. When you get off of the main highway, you turn onto a road that takes you straight past endless fields of tall green grass, passing a few houses as you go. As you drive further away from the city, the dark clouds roll along behind you until you reach the sign that lets you know you’ve arrived: Gallatin River Lodge.
Located about 10 miles from downtown Bozeman, this luxury lodge is the ideal spot to relax and spend some time together as a family.
Because it is so removed from the center of town, it’s easy to get a feel for what living in rural Montana is like. The night we arrived, the dark rain clouds opened up, pouring rain down on the sloping green lawns surrounding the lodge but before that, whitetail deer wandered the property just in front of our porch, birds flew by trying to beat the storm and we could the mooing of a cow from a nearby farm. As thunder rumbled in the distance and bright flashes of lightning lit the purple cloud-filled sky, the raindrops could be heard splattering across the top of the pond outside. Eventually, the rain cleared and a rainbow emerged (seriously, it was like a movie) but the lightning and thunder went on through the night.
As with most summer thunderstorms, it was long gone the next morning with sunshine and blue skies as far as the eye could see. Whether dark and dreary or bright and bathed in sunlight, the property was truly beautiful.
The atmosphere isn’t the only thing that makes Gallatin River Lodge so special. The lodge, which has been around for almost 20 years, is crafted out of a beautiful mahogany-colored wood. The lobby’s large wood-framed windows, stone fireplace and wooden floors provide a welcoming first glimpse into the lodge’s beauty. Our room was situated in the Trout Cabin, with double French doors facing the lodge’s pond. The covered porch outside was lined with chairs to sit and watch the sun set (or the rainstorm without getting drenched!). Inside, the décor matched the atmosphere of the lobby, with wooden floors, fresh white linens and organic soap to use in the walk-in shower. Larger families would make good use of the upstairs suite, a two-bedroom two-bathroom unit with an entertainment room that sleeps six.
You can also enjoy your meals at the lodge’s on-site restaurant. The cozy dining room features an antique oak bar along one wall or you can choose to dine outside on the covered porch that also overlooks the pond. We tried out the restaurant during the complimentary breakfast, where I had the handmade breakfast sandwich with a side of fruit (by fruit, I mean cherries, berries, pineapple and more!). The food was delicious, but the quick service and welcoming conversation with the staff really made it a meal to remember.
While you’re at Gallatin River Lodge, try the restaurant for dinner and encourage kids to try new foods like the bison rib eye or roasted duck breast. With locally sourced ingredients from nearby farms and dairies, you are sure to find something you’ll love on the menu.
Make Your Vacation an Active One
You can definitely sit back and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the lodge, but there is so much to do in the area that you probably won’t want to.
Gallatin River Lodge is known as a fly fishing lodge, which can be a great way to show your little ones the best fishing techniques. The lodge employs professional guides that go out on day trips with guests to teach them the basics of fly fishing. As you might have guessed by their name, the Gallatin River is located nearby and, although it doesn’t connect directly to the property, the lodge has it’s own private entrance. Other rivers in the area include the Madison, Jefferson, Missouri and Yellowstone rivers and many guests also fish in nearby creeks and streams.
There are a variety of other activities in the surrounding area that your family can partake in. During the summer, try out horseback riding, ziplining, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking or mountain biking. The lodge is also located a short distance from the ever-popular Yellowstone National Park. In the wintertime, go snowshoeing or take a day trip to Yellowstone on a snow mobile. If your children are big into winter sports, take a trip to Big Sky or Bridger Bowl for a Nordic or alpine skiing adventure. The staff at Gallatin River Lodge can make suggestions or help you to set up reservations for many of the local activities.
In addition, the lodge itself has some laidback activities. Out back, kids will love spending the afternoon throwing horseshoes and beanbags. Make it a family affair and get a little competition going.
All in all, the isolated atmosphere at Gallatin River Lodge allows you to connect both as a family and with the nature around you. It may not be your typical big city family vacation, but it gives children a chance to slow down, have some fun and appreciate the simpler things in life.