Rustic Elegance at Idaho’s Rocky Mountain Ranch
STANLEY, Idaho - At the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch, they say you may arrive a stranger, but you'll come back as a member of the family. And this family likes to have a good time.
This jewel of central Idaho flanks the majestic Sawtooth Mountains and the Salmon River runs through its 900 pristine acres, where guests ride horses, hike, mountain bike, fish and soak in a hot springs pool, among other things.
The ranch lies nine miles south of Stanley, Idaho on the Salmon River-Sawtooth Scenic Byways, considered a gem by "Top 10 Drives in the Northern Rockies," a travel Web site.
Peace, quiet, clean air and access to nature and outdoor adventure are just some of its appeal. It's surrounded by the largest protected wilderness area in the continental United States, so guests have endless trails to wander and a huge soothing buffer zone from the rest of the world. You only have to sit on the front porch and take note of the lack of man-made noise, punctuated by the occasional bird's call, to realize that.
In fact, sitting on Old Hickory rockers on the front porch is a popular not-so-active activity for guests. "The view really must be seen to be believed," said Sandra Beckwith, lodge manager of Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch. "A guest - while rocking on the front porch - once told me it was one of his three favorite views in the world, but at that moment he could not recall the other two."
It is not all quiet, all the time. Guests enjoy live music four nights a week, and many have been known to be inspired to dance a step or two, especially on barbecue night when the scene is lively.
The ranch rotates "fine ranch cuisine" dinner options with four nights of fine dining, two barbecue nights and one Dutch oven dinner.
The family-owned ranch accommodates about 50 guests at a time, so chances are new friends will be made and everyone will know each other's names long before they leave. Families love the place, and kids are sure to find new playmates quickly.
Accommodations include 14 cabin units in seven duplexes, a family cabin that accommodates nine, a honeymoon cabin and four rooms in the main lodge. The décor could be described as "rustically elegant" with all the modern amenities while retaining the ranch's historic integrity, including Oakley stone showers, the original stone fireplaces and many of the original handcrafted furnishings. The plush bedding is strictly top-of-the line and new. Built in 1930 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the accommodations provide modern comforts and historic charm.
Rates include a hearty breakfast, a packed picnic lunch guests can take with them on their daily activities, dinner, the use of mountain bikes and the natural hot springs swimming pool, a stocked fishing pond, access to the Salmon River, hiking on 900 scenic acres and a knowledgeable staff. A concierge will help guests decide what they might want to do each day and will make the arrangements.
"Actually all of our hosts and office staff are willing and able to help guests choose their adventures for a truly custom vacation," said Beckwith. "Gracious, personalized service is our hallmark."
The ranch can arrange guided horseback rides with on-ranch operator Pioneer Outfitters (http://www.pioneermountain.com/). Rides range from 1? hours to all-day excursions. They might include a stop for fishing or a picnic. An hour and a half on-ranch ride is included for guests staying at least four nights. Longer rides, including overnight pack tips, are available as well.
Rather walk? More than 200 hiking trails wind through the Sawtooth and White Cloud mountains surrounding the ranch. Guests can take an easy four-mile stroll along Fishhook Creek or hike up to Sawtooth Lake at 10,000 feet - 1,700 feet above the valley floor - while enjoying summer's wildflowers along the way, including Indian paintbrush, blue penstemon, lupine and sego lilies.
Many of the alpine lakes as well as the ranch's pond are stocked with fish. The pond features a paddleboat for anglers and those who just want to meander around the lake. There's also access to fishing on the Salmon River where it runs through the ranch.
Near the ranch are several whitewater rafting outfitters, where guests can get all the thrills they seek on their wild Western getaway. These trips can be arranged by the staff at guests' requests, and trips with White Otter Adventures can be billed to guests' rooms for convenience.
Other options include rock climbing, visiting nearby ghost towns or the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery, and photography, of course. Common wildlife spotting include eagles, osprey, fox, coyote, elk, antelope, ferret , deer, many bird species and spawning salmon late in the season. For a deeper understanding of the area, the ranch partners with the Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association
There are plenty of things for kids to do, too, ranging from pony rides and lawn games to kayaking on nearby Redfish Lake.
Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch also boasts an active natural hot spring which feeds directly into a swimming pool, where guests can indulge in a soothing swim or soak. Here, guests can soak away the day's exercise or just lie back and gaze at the stars which are undimmed by the lights of civilization.
For more information or to make reservations, go online to www.idahorocky.com/