Travelers yearning to get close to the land should head to southwestern Montana and the rugged mountain town of Darby. Here, in Big Sky Country along the Continental Divide, 260 miles from Yellowstone and four hours south of Glacier National Park, the hiking trails beckon even the most citified explorers. The area’s grande dame is the 2,600-acre Triple Creek Ranch, where cozy wood cabins are furnished with working fireplaces, whirlpool bathtubs, and log-post beds. Activity-filled days might start with fly-fishing for rainbow trout or snowshoeing on Trapper Peak, the tallest mountain in the Bitterroot range, and end with warm chocolate-chip cookies served by cowboy-booted staffers. Darby’s Main Street has plenty of pioneer-worthy pit stops, starting with Deb’s Restaurant for plate-size pancakes and eggs or hearty oven-baked sandwiches. Just a few storefronts south, the Old West Gallery, Antiques & Candy Store is best known for its sweets selection: more than 400 varieties of hard candies and gourmet chocolates, plus rows of house-made fudges in flavors ranging from fragrant huckleberry to chocolate peanut butter. Across the street Jimmy Harrison constructs bespoke cowboy hats and fedoras at the Double H Custom Hat Company. Drive a few miles south to the Naughty Moose, a hunting lodge-inspired space decked out in deer trophies, for an expertly prepared rib-eye steak and perhaps a spontaneous line dance.
Montana Active Tip: Instead of seeing Yellowstone National Park from the inside of a car, explore it on horseback. One- and two-hour interpretive rides are available for adults and children in Canyon Village and around the Mammoth Hot Springs. From $38 per person.
Montana Family Tip: Triple Creek Ranch only allows guests who are age 16 and older. Bring the entire clan to Sula Country Store & Resort, 15 miles from Darby, where simple log cabins have fully stocked kitchens, barbecue grills, and porch swings, as well as kid-friendly amenities such as miniature golf and a fishing pond. 7060 U.S. Hwy. 93 S., Sula; 406/821-3364; cottages from $80 a night.
Montana: World’s Best Scorecard
Triple Creek Ranch Darby 97.10
Deb’s Restaurant 112 S. Main St., Darby; 406/821-4798; lunch for two $35.
Double H Custom Hat Company 121 S. Main St., Darby; 406/821-3300; doublehhats.com.
Naughty Moose 5388 Hwy. 93 S., Conner; 406/821-9955; dinner for two $70.
Old West Gallery, Antiques & Candy Store 202 S. Main St., Darby; 406/821-4076; montanaoldwestgallery.com.
Triple Creek Ranch 551 W. Fork Rd., Darby; 800/654-2943 or 406/821-4600; triplecreekranch.com; cabins from $750.
Yellowstone National Park 200 Old Yellowstone Trail, Gardiner; 307/344-7381; nps.gov.