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Living on a Montana Ranch

By John Anderson, Broker Associate, Licensed in MT, ID

“What’s it really like to live on a ranch?” is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from prospective clients.  As a general rule, those who ask me this question are urban or semi-rural dwellers yearning to escape the rat race encroaching on and permeating even the outskirts of most bustling communities.  And, yet, despite their dreams of escaping all the traffic and crowds, prospective ranch investors are wary about leaving their comfort zones.  They worry about living off the grid, and the availability of excellent medical care, international airports, cultural experiences, fine dining, upscale shopping—the list goes on.  Is it really worth sacrificing city comforts to be surrounded by spectacular mountain peaks and breathe fresh mountain air every day? If you ask me, yes. But, as a seasoned ranch broker living in Montana, I can tell you it’s a myth that creature comforts and the beauty of Big Sky living are not mutually exclusive.

Ambiance of Living on a Ranch

Thirty minutes north of the quaint community of White Sulphur Springs, Montana, lies Little Belt Elk Ranch.  As holds true for many cattle or recreational properties in Montana, visiting places like Little Belt is an unforgettable experience; it becomes a part of you.  Words fall short when describing this place; it is something to be felt.  I encountered an incredible sense of isolation during my stay.  Despite occasional glimpses of fencing, one gets an eerie feeling of being the first human to ever set eyes on Little Belt Elk Ranch. Its spirit floods you with thoughts of yesteryear when pioneers discovered the incredible blend of meadows, gently rolling emerald-green hills, majestic forest stands, and aspen groves.  This ranch is a mystical blend of past and present, refreshingly distanced from others yet within reach of what Montanans refer to as urban hubs, where metropolitan amenities are available.  The roads are plowed all winter and are accessible year-round.  Whether you are a skiing enthusiast or a couch connoisseur who enjoys a warm, cozy fire, the annual snowfall is bountiful and beautiful and offers something for everyone.  The ranch is equipped with fiberoptic, high-speed internet for individuals who need contact with the outside world. But, while it’s good to have options, a place like Little Belt Elk Ranch beats cruising the internet any day of the week.

Being on the ranch is nothing less than nourishing to the human spirit.  Herds of elk and deer frequent the lush meadows and seek sanctuary in the stands of trees.  A beautiful creek meanders across the property, offering fabulous angling and fly-fishing opportunities.  The patient bird enthusiast will see many feathered visitors as well.  It is a place where outdoor recreation is available onsite, with the added benefit of exploring nearby public forestland in your backyard.  Owners and their guests can enjoy nearby slopes or a day of shopping and dining in Bozeman, Helena, or Great Falls, all within an hour-and-a-half drive from the ranch.  And guests have easy access to international airports when it comes time for them to depart if you can get them to leave.

There is, in my opinion, nothing more liberating than living on a Montana ranch.  When you awaken in the morning for that first cup of whatever brings you joy, the first thing you won’t see is your neighbor and their first cup of whatever brings them joy. Living that Big Sky Montana ranch life, you’ll be out on your deck with your feet on an ottoman, drinking in the breathtaking and unrivaled Rocky Mountains views with sweeping meadows of green grass and forested slopes stretching to the foothills.  Standing in the tree line, you might see a lone moose munching on freshwater plant life.  You might spy a herd of elk lazily grazing in the meadow just below your house.  As you loosen up and settle into the morning, your mind drifts to your plans for the day.  Maybe a trail ride on your horse.  Perhaps you see a fish jump from the stream that meanders across your property, and you get a sudden urge to go fly fishing or angling.  Maybe your spouse has been bugging you to go for a hike up a wilderness lake trail. Perhaps you’re an ATV enthusiast, and you opt for a different kind of trail ride entirely.  Maybe you’re an amateur or professional photographer, and you get an irresistible urge to focus your lens and take a shot that might get picked up by National Geographic.  Or, you get an invitation to an art show, and you decide to go shopping for some trendy threads before making an appearance among local art enthusiasts.  Regardless of what adventure you choose for the day, it can be capped off by heading into town for an exquisite meal at a local yet renowned restaurant. Montana ranch life is unequaled in the opportunities it provides to travel back in time while also enjoying the present.  You can soak up the hustle-and-bustle of the modern world and stand in checkout lines of your choosing, then escape back to your ranch and leave the world behind. The choice is yours, but you can have both.

Belts Montana Little Belt Elk Ranch

Little Belt Elk Ranch, Meagher County, Montana

To Address the Concerns of Potential Buyers of Any Montana Ranch

  1. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting an experienced Montana ranch broker to assist you in your search for a ranch.  Be sure to make a list of your absolute must-haves so that the broker bears your needs in mind as he/she searches for a ranch that will meet your requirements.
  2. When it comes to high-speed Internet service, make sure your broker comprehends how important that will be to you.  Also, bear in mind that a large percentage of ranch owners in Montana are business owners or operators, whether the related business is raising beef cattle on the ranch or is an enterprise completely unrelated to the ranch.  Many ranch owners either hire a foreman and crew to run cattle on their land or they utilize their land for recreational pursuits only.  I think it’s fair to say that the majority of current ranch owners also need high-speed Internet, so they will have done all they can to procure that service if it’s possible.
  3. Quality medical care is normally not an issue, depending upon where a ranch is located.  For instance, in the case of the Little Belt Elk Ranch, there is an adequate hospital in the small town of White Sulphur Springs, and there are three urban hubs with superb medical care only an hour and a half away.  In the event of an extreme emergency, life flights are normally available in most locations.
  4. A ranch owner does not leave the amenities of a city behind.  Instead, the ranch owner has the best of both worlds, the serenity of life on a Montana ranch and the availability of going to a city for a dose of cultural experiences, festivals, shopping, and fine dining.


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