Over Memorial Day weekend, Angela was invited to participate on a panel for the
Family Travel Association.
We were honored and excited that the association contacted her to participate.
When we learned that the invitation was also extended to our whole family and the meeting would incorporate a few days of fun at Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, Montana, we gladly accepted and started making our travel arrangements.
Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge is a special place. Repeatedly recognized as one of the top family vacation destinations in the country, it’s one of the few remaining places where kids can run and play freely without adults constantly looking over their shoulder.
The ranch is the only guest dude ranch in the United States that sits on a large lake – beautiful Flathead Lake, the largest surface area fresh water lake west of the Mississippi in the lower 48 states. The genuine caring staff along with the beautiful remote setting provide guests with a peaceful positive feeling. It’s one of those places that once you leave, you want to return time and time again.
In 1990 our Pierson family made our first visit to Flathead Lake Lodge. It became the first venue we ever decided to repeat, and the family ended up returning for a week each summer for the following seven years.
We’d add a week pre- or post- ranch each year and visited some amazing national parks of the west –
We visited the Tetons, Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Canadian Rockies – anywhere we could reach in a couple day’s drive.
Every year, the extension would change and the Flathead Lake Lodge segment would be the constant.
Several of the core staff that were there when my family visited in the 90’s are still happily employed there today.
Over 60% of the guests who visit are repeat, several now are second and third generation families, returning year after year.
A typical day begins with breakfast, and is followed by morning horseback rides, lessons, children’s programs, or other active adventure.
After lunch, in the heat of the afternoon while the horses rest, guests can go sailing, paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing, knee boarding, fishing; pretty much any water activity they can on the crystal clear water of Flathead Lake.
Late afternoon is another horseback activity, followed by dinner and then nightly entertainment or activity. There may be a campfire with s’mores and live music, a barn dance, a roping demonstration with local cowboys, or sunset boat cruise on the lake. One night a week, everyone rides either by horseback or old firetruck up into the mountains for “Steak-Fry” and enjoys a steak cooked over an open fire.
As the week progresses, everyone’s horsemanship improves.
A children’s rodeo is held so the kids can show off their new skills. Certain rides are designated for advanced riders so that those who are able and interested have an opportunity to go galloping through the ranch’s 2000 acres of wilderness.
Stays at the ranch during the summer season are for a week at a time. Guests arrive and depart on Sundays. Rates include all meals, lodging, horseback riding and most on-property activities. The ranch partners with several local specialty vendors and can help coordinate offsite activities at an additional cost including but not limited to whitewater rafting, scenic float trips, float & fly fishing, and lake fishing charters.
Accommodations range from individual family cabins to multifamily units. Each unit is equipped with a mini refrigerator and coffee maker. All have a small shared living space in addition to the bedrooms and bathroom. TV’s aren’t in any of the rooms by design; wifi is available for those who can’t do without it. The rooms are clean, cozy, and authentic Montana. They aren’t intended to be high-end luxury.
One doesn’t visit Montana to sit in a room and watch TV – the luxury is found in the experiences you can have when out exploring, and the lodge excels at providing those opportunities.
This trip was a short one for us. Still after only four days of Lodge life, Ella our oldest daughter, now 6, broke into tears on the way home asking when we could return and if we could move to Montana. I can’t say I’m surprised by her reaction, after four years of visiting for just a week when I was in High School, I decided a week just wasn’t enough and was lucky to be hired on as Lodge Staff for a summer.
One summer extended into a winter, then into another summer, and before I knew it, five years had passed by.
Now twenty years later, I’m still returning any chance we get.
I know it is only a matter of time before we find our daughters packing up their things
as they plan to head out to Montana for “summer job”.
While we will be sad when that day comes, we will also be excited if that job is one at Flathead Lake Lodge,
helping create memories for the next generation of guests while working for the caring Averill Family.
A short video from this year’s visit:
Contact us if we can help you plan your trip to Flathead Lake Lodge. Our familiarity with the surrounding area and knowledge of the property can help ensure you get the most out of your next family vacation!