This was an amazing experience, but I am not sure we picked the most family-friendly of places to stay. If you are going to explore any or all of these three states I strongly encourage you to take a day or two and stay on a ranch. Prices usually include food, lodging, and some activities, and you will leave with rich experiences you will not soon forget.
We stayed at the Upper Canyon Outfitters Dude Ranch in Alder, Montana. The scenery was breathtaking as the ranch sits on the edge of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. On the phone, the folks were happy to take our reservation and arrange a horseback riding lesson for the kids, but when we arrived, I gathered that their ranch was more geared toward serious hunters and horse riding outdoor-type adults who enjoy riding and fishing for 2 or 3 days deep in the forest. We felt out of place and more than a little unwanted. Our hosts were uptight and made us feel uncomfortable, fearful that someone might break any of their numerous rules, which we were more than happy to follow. The kids were super well-behaved, but that still didn’t break the tension, which is sad, because what should have rated a 10+ on the experience scale was marred by a bad attitude (they should never have taken our reservation if they did not want children there).
We did enjoy seeing the horses, piggies, and hanging out with Stetson the dog (the only friendly face around), who was only too happy to show my son Joel and the rest of the kids around. The kids did eventually get their horseback-riding lesson, after which our hosts were only too happy to see us leave.