Big Sky’s West Fork Camp
The year is 1805. As a scout with the Lewis and Clark expedition, you’ve just entered Montana. It’s June, so the expedition has to hunt elk and bear in the high country, near timberline.
In 195 years, this plot will hold one of the finest estates developed in southwest Montana and one of the first in the Yellowstone Club – West Fork Camp.
Architect Larry Pearson and current owner Greg LeMond, the three-time Tour de France winner, found this 17.04-acreage off Sandstone Road in 1999. They knew right away it was the club’s quintessential property. It had it all – flat ground, stunning views, trout ponds and clear water.
“This was a discovery,” says Pearson, who has since designed more than 50 properties at the Y.C. “We were pioneers when we found this level meadow in the mountains. [West Fork Camp] is the most unique site at the club. It’s livable and intuitive.”
This is Montana.
Stands of lodgepole pine reach straight and tall and paths connect cabins and trout ponds, drawing you into the landscape. Pioneer Mountain at 9,859 feet rises stolid above the treetops.
West Fork Camp, built by Yellowstone Traditions, contains three cabins, two outbuildings and a stone fire tower designed with historic Western wildfire lookouts in mind. Even with vast acreage, the camp has a sense of intimacy.
“What’s most interesting is the experience you get between the structures,” Pearson says. “It forces you to appreciate nature as you walk between the buildings, and to explore this pristine environment.”
Paths connect the main cabin, an authentic and refined log home, with the simple, 1800s-style trappers cabin set low to the earth beside the western-most pond. They meander south to a gathering hall designed as a center for family events and finally to the guest cabin, vehicle barn and fire tower.
Pearson designed the guest cabin using two historic log structures from Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch. An historic architectural style known as a “dogtrot,” links the cabins with a continuous roofline. The fire tower doubles as another living space, with three bunk beds and a downstairs bedroom; its wrap-around deck providing unobstructed views of Pioneer.
The structures are all comprised of local and regional stone and reclaimed lumber, their designs simple, traditional and exceptional.
Pearson’s pioneering designs are evident everywhere on the property. Approaching the main cabin, the details lead your eye up the dry-stack native schist on the near northwest corner, and across the custom milled logwork.
Stepping into the main cabin is like seeing an old friend, he says. A hand-stacked stone fireplace stands in the center, and the rest of the 1,800 heated-square-foot building seems to grow around it. Hand-hewn wood and wrought iron accents lend character and warmth.
Pearson’s design allows one to be a part of West Fork Camp, and part of Montana. It immerses observers in the landscape. From the trapper’s cabin tucked into the hillside to strolling the paths between the structures and along the ponds, one is connected to the estate.
Editor’s note: As of May 2013, West Fork Camp was listed for sale through L&K Realty in Big Sky. For more information visit lkrealestate.com or call (406) 995-2404.
This story was first published in the summer 2013 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.