Gold Was Found in the Mountains of Montana

mining in montana mountains

 There’s “gold in them thar’ hills” caused a rush of prospectors to head into the Upper Boulder Valley hoping to strike it rich.  At the peak of the gold rush in 1892-1893 over 500 men were in or near the mining town of Independence located in the high elevations of the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness.


 montana mining  history

 montana mining equipment

As early as 1882 huge stamp mills, steam engines, and other heavy equipment were hauled up the primitive Boulder Road by mule trains.  What a back-breaking strenuous trip this had to be for both man and beast!

 wilderness montana mining

 gold mining in montana

Some mining was done by digging and sorting rock close to the surface.  Other methods were to burrow into the size of the hill creating a mine shaft.  Some of the rocks were crushed as the mining site using large tubs with ball bearings.

mining equipment steam engine


  Most of the ore was hauled by horse-drawn wagons from mine sites to the stamp mills where the rocks were crushed. Runaways, as you can imagine when looking at the steep mountainsides, were very common.  One way miners prevented runaways was to hitch horses to the BACK of wagons to help “brake” the heavy loads.  The Independence mine, however, developed a unique way to get ore down the mountain.  It had a 1,000 foot long tramway to “chute” the blasted ore from an upper tunnel.  Remnants of the tramway’s lumber supports are visible today. 

mining stamp mill sm

equipment stamp mill

Independence's last year of prosperity was 1893.  As quickly as the boom began, it ended.  The site of the former boom town now consists of a few collapsed and rotting cabins, partially used woodpiles, and rock piled on the surface.  When prospectors moved on in the late 1890's to find riches elsewhere, the valuable big metal machines were left behind.  

Each week our Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch visitors are able to see these rusted pieces of machinery and get a feel for the times when prospectors roamed the regaion in hopes of finding riches of gold and silver.  Independence and the mining sites around it are truly a ghost town area!

"Multi-Generational" Family Reunions at a Dude Ranch

all-inclusive family reunion vaacation

Family reunions at a guest ranch are becoming more common, as it’s a great way for families who live long distances from each other to meet somewhere “in the middle” to spend quality time together.   Our remote location provides a place for people to gather and avoid all the distractions of their busy lives. Instead family memories are formed while spending a week in an all-inclusive vacation with their loved ones. 

multi-generational family vacation reunion

montana reunion vacation getaways3

Grandparents enjoy having their whole family together with them for the week, so they can share the memories made with their children, spouses, and grandchildren.  Even if they do not participate in all the ranch activities, grandparents are able to share part of the day’s activities.  Watching their grandkids get on a horse for the first time, roasting marshmallows at the campfire, or taking a walk to the fishing pond are just some of the memories in the making that can be shared for years to come.

montana reunion all-inclusive getaways4

One “special reunion” the ranch staff looks forward to each year occurs in mid-September.  Many years ago guests got acquainted that particular week and formed such good friendships that a tradition of meeting the same week each year continues.  All of these special friends have definitely become part of our Hawley Mountain family. 

Cabin Remnants Left from the Gold Mining Days in Montana

Looking through this window frame in the late 1880’s would show miners hard at work in this mountainous area of Montana trying to make it rich by hitting a valuable gold vein. At one time there were about 500 people living in this desolate area year round meeting challenges that are hard for us to fathom. If only these cabins could talk to share some amazing stories of these Montana pioneers!

cabin remnant 1

Memories Shared at Hawley Mountain Are Lasting!

It seems like some improtant event is celebrated every week at Hawley Mountain Ranch.  Everything from birthdays, anniversaries, and things in-between call for a celebration!  One of our favorite weeks for celebrating is in September when long time friends return to our guest ranch for a reunion with people they met years ago here. It's a week that we all look forward to each year! 

family vacation at dude ranch

A Special Proposal in the Mountains of Montana

Many romantic moments have occurred at Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch, and a very special one happened along the Boulder River this summer.

This past summer a young couple, Riley and Mason, came to the ranch with Riley's family.  Mason had a surprise in mind for his girlfriend and made arrangements for our manager Joe to help him out with his plan.  Mason suggested that he and Riley take a romantic stroll down to the the Boulder River which is located on the ranch.  Once they arrived to a pre-planned location along this beautiful riverbank Mason made his proposal of marriage to Riley.  Her answer was "Yes"!  Happy smiles are evident on both faces... 

proposal 1 400x400

proposal 2 400x400

proposal 3 400x400


 A Day in the Life of a Hawley Mountain Horse

Our Hawley Mountain horses live in a paradise much of the year.  They enjoy a wilderness situation for several months which promotes good health and stamina.  In late May wranglers gather the herd which can sometimes be a challenge, as the horses have experienced freedom for months and perhaps would like that life style to continue!  After getting their new shoes, the horses are brought up to the ranch to begin their four months of actual employment.  A first task is to help get trails cleared, while at the same time, the horses re-learn proper “behavior” when carrying their rider.

clearing trail

winter pasture4


See You at Our Dude Ranch Cookout!

Fun is provided by a fire…..great food cooked over hot coals followed by people gathering around a toasty campfire. 

Twice a week Hawley Mountain guests and staff head to the ranch cookout area to participate in food and fellowship.  Intense volleyball games (played by “mountain rules” of course!), roping attempts to snag our stationary “Norman, and horseshoe competitions are part of the evening’s entertainment. 

 ranch cookout at Hawley Mountain
roping at cookout
volleyball at hawley

Never Too Young to Start Fly Fishing in the Montana Wilderness!

We like to start our youngsters out at a early age learning the art of fly fishing.  It's one sport that can be done from a young age until years far beyond. What better way to enjoy the outdoors than fishing along the bank of a pond or creek, or better yet, wade out into a pristine mountain stream like our Boulder River which is surrounded by unbeatable scenery.  However, this youngster seems to be more interested in the fishing rod than the scenery right now!  

fly fishing in Montana

fly fishing family vacation


     "Someone talked me into trying this fly fishing fishing activity.  I've held the rod, looked over the parts, and now my line is floating in the water. Where are the fish?!  I wasn't told that this sport takes a lot of patience and practice!" 

 A really great reason to start fly fishing when you are young...lots of time to accomplish BOTH..

dude ranch fly fishing

 COVID-19 Information

hawley mountain wilderness

With our remote location and small group of visitors coming each week to a wilderness area , Hawley Mountain Ranch should provide a less worrisome environment of peace and comfort for those eager to get on with a more normal life. We are excited about the 2021 season and look forward to seeing former guests and acquiring many new friends as well. We are very thankfull to have finished the 2020 season with no COVID infections of guests or staff during or after their stays.

In regards to the COVID 19 issue, we feel fortunate to live in Sweet Grass County.  Whenever you venture out into society these days there could be an inherent risk. Although Montana has had spikes in the virus, it is still a fairly safe place to vacation.

 BRAY’S CABIN in Montana....Now Just a Pond!

Brays Cabin

A very picturesque place in the Upper Boulder area just south of Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch is what used to be known to us as Bray’s Cabin.  Tucked back in the forest by a pristine spring-fed pond was a dwelling built by Robert Bray, probably in the 1920’s, along the old mining road to Independence.  Robert forded the Boulder River near 4-Mile to reach his cabin.

Are You Game for a Unique Ride in the Montana Wilderness?

Have you ever thought of taking a wild ride into a mountainous wilderness?
Our Pinzgauer, an Austrian military vehicle, has provided many people with such an adventure.

mountain jeep ride

Our guests have a hard time believing that the Pinzgauer can travel on some of the very difficult terrain that it encounters.  Crossing creeks, driving over huge boulders, and climbing up steep, narrow, and rocky roads doesn't faze this vehicle in any way.  While traveling to the end of the primitive road views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking!

Montana "Puddle Jumping" by Horseback or Guests!

Often dude ranch activities will run into some type of obstacle. 
Some are more serious than others.....and then some are just plain "interesting!"

montana puddle jumping1

Springtime in the Montana Mountains

After long months of winter in Montana the first signs of spring are always refreshing, especially in the higher altitudes where winter starts early in the fall and ends late in the spring. May and June are also our rainy months which along with some sunshine help to norish the grass and flowers. 

montana spring flowers2
montana mountain hike


Springtime in the mountains is a perfect time to enjoy a hike in our scenic areas.  What makes it special are the beautiful meadow flowers and the abundance of green meadows.  It's hard to take in all of the beautiful surroundings while walking, so at times it's a good idea to just stretch out in the lush grass and take in all the amazing views that Montana has to offer.

montana mountain hike3

montana mountain hike 2



Near the lodge a crop of buttercups are growing on the southern slope of the cliff.  In the higher elevations the Indian paintbrush is spotted long into the summer season.  Once these flowers are seen in the various areas around the ranch we know that spring has arrived!

montana mountain flowers3
montana spring flowers


Mountain Horseback Riding with Skye

horse at dude ranch1

horse at dude ranch3

horse at dude ranch2

"Hangout" Place for Families at Hawley Mountain Ranch


We can't think of a better place for a family to gather to experience new things, share lasting memories, and spend quality time together than booking a family vacation at a dude ranch.  Lots of smiles and laughter are seen and heard during the guests' week stay at Hawley Mountain.

 family Montana vacation

 family reunion vacation


Each week  guests arrive as a single, a couple, a few good friends, or a family with children.  Some weeks the whole ranch is booked by one large family who gather from all parts of the country to share a special time of reuniting after being apart for a long period of time.  There are few distractions at the ranch due to our remote location, so guests spend a lot of time interacting with each other and sharing lots of experiences.

family vacation in mountains




These return guests found an interesting place for a family photo!  Not for the faint of heart, but it was a hike they had taken before and were well aware of the height issues.  Wouldn't that make a great Christmas card picture?





Sometimes a family member just prefers a little "alone" time!  No high places, no comverations, no cell service, or any other distractions that seem to occupy peoples' lives.  Just "hanging out" can be a perfect way to spend some vacation time in our Montana wilderness....

child on montana vacation


A Montana Meadow Ride Is Fun for Guests

horseback ride in meadow

Let the adventure begin as wrangler Ryan leads the horseback riders from the barn to start a meadow ride.  Some of our most scenic views are found on the easier trail rides in the meadows around Hawley Mountain Ranch.

Montana meadow horseback ride

horseback riding inmountain meadow


 The meadow ride just below the lodge gives riders an opportunity to enjoy the scenery surrounding them without having to deal with narrow rocky trails.  Riding by our stocked trout pond and being totally surrounded by the 10,000 feet mountains is relaxing, especially for those who have not ridden much before their arrival at our dude ranch.    June is especially enjoyable because of the green grass and wide variety of beautiful wildflowers.

ranch horseback ride As the guests leave the barn and head down the hill away from the lodge they anticipate the fun that lies ahead for them on these horseback rides.  So much to see and do in a week's time...let the experience begin!


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We are included in Visit Montana

Our activities are permitted by the Gallatin National Forest.


There are a wide variety of ranches to choose from. 
For more information that might help pick the right ranch go to the page "How to select a dude ranch".