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Rustic elegance at Rainbow Ranch

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BIG SKY – A couple sits on the leather couch by the fireplace at Rainbow Ranch Lodge, drinking cocktails. Jazz plays in the background, and flames lick the hardwood logs.

“That was the best snow of the year,” Alexis says. “When you went right to Obsidian, I cut under Lone Tree to the left side of the face. It was blown in with fresh snow all the way.” She sips a Stoli Doli, the pineapple-infused vodka that’s a house specialty.

“Obsidian was pretty good, too,” Charles says, and takes a bite of the Wagyu Carpaccio. “It’s still snowing,” he says and smiles.

Up for the weekend from Bozeman, they’re celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary at perhaps the most romantic resort in the area. They skied all day at Moonlight Basin, just up the road, and rolled down to the lodge when the lifts stopped turning.

Upon arrival, they had fresh-baked cookies in their room; delicious, they’re made by the ranch’s pastry chef Liz Michaels, formerly a pastry designer for Ritz Carlton. Rose petals were strewn across the bed – a surprise touch Charles requested.

Intimate details like these set Rainbow Ranch Lodge apart. Its extensive wine list, fine cuisine, serene riverside setting and professional but relaxed staff make it a hidden gem, both for locals and those traveling from afar.

The bartender stops by and brings Charles a Twin Cabin. Named for the trailhead just across the Gallatin River from the lodge, it’s Makers Mark infused with pear, house-made ginger soda, served on the rocks with a brandied cherry and is also made in-house – nearly as good as skiing powder.

At dinner, Alexis orders the trout, and Charles gets the bison. Their server, whose cheeks are also pink from snowboarding all day, pairs their meals with Champalou Vouvray, a Chenin Blanc from France’s Loire Valley, and Ladera Cabernet. He knows the offerings well – he’s been trained well and has tried everything on the menu.

Rainbow has a history of hospitality. The Lemon family homesteaded the land as a cattle ranch in 1919, but realizing it wasn’t ideal for livestock, they began renting cabins and making meals for folks headed from Bozeman to West Yellowstone, calling it the Half Way Inn. Renamed Rainbow Ranch in 1935, the property gained a reputation for fine food, wine and service in the early ‘90s, something current owner Scott Gibson continues to build upon today.

The lodge and grounds are elegant, yet with a relaxed Montana sensibility. To boot: Chef Ian Troxler sources many of the restaurant’s menu items from local farms including Trout Culture, Gallatin Valley Botanicals, Amaltheia Organic Dairy, Montana Wagyu Company, Lava Lake Lamb and Yellowstone Grass Fed Beef.

Charles and Alexis finish off the night with glasses of Moët & Chandon champagne and a made from scratch crème brûlée to share.


Rainbow Ranch Lodge offers packages ranging from outdoor adventures and romantic getaways or elopement celebrations to larger weddings and gatherings, as well as corporate retreats and meetings. Find the most current menu offerings, specials and details at

Megan Paulson is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Outlaw Partners.

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