by Melynda Harrison – Atop gentle horses saddled by the expert staff at Brooks Lake Lodge, my family climbs into an impossibly beautiful meadow in the Absaroka Mountains of Wyoming. With a background of striated cliffs, a creek running over a mountain edge into a thin cascade, and late summer wildflowers hanging on for just a little longer all around us, I decided this might be one of the best family vacations we’ve had.
Our family has traveled through Europe and the Americas. For the most part, we have a great time, but we don’t always find things to do that all of us enjoy. The Brooks Lake Lodge is something we all loved, and it’s only a few hours from our home in Montana.
Brooks Lake Lodge, Wyoming
At this full-service dude ranch located in the Wyoming Rocky Mountains, between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, we got to pick our own activities. A morning of horseback riding was on everyone’s lists (I mean, that view!). In the afternoon, it was archery for 10-year-old Finn and my husband, Henry. Anders, 11, and I hiked to a beautiful lake. And the rest of the time we ate delicious food.
On riding days we spent a few hours on horseback, wandering through the mountains, spotting the last of summer wildflowers, and chatting. The boys looked and felt confident on their steeds. For Finn, getting into the wild without having to do any work was just his style. For me, getting into the wild in any form was mine. Henry got to wield his camera, and Anders is happy anywhere.
Hiking Near Brooks Lake Lodge
One of the things we love about trips like these is the opportunity to spend time together in spectacular surroundings. Even when choosing different activities, we had two days to wander and talk as a family. I think the best conversations happen on a trail, whether on foot or horse, when there is time to share what’s on our minds.
On a hike to Jade Lake, Anders and I recalled other adventures we had done together. This one was short – two miles each way—but steep in places. The effort was well worth the effort when we saw the aptly-named lake with its blue green color. Since Brooks Lake Lodge is surrounded by Bridger-Teton and Shoshone National Forests, we thought we might see other people on the trails, but no one else was around.
Returning to the lodge for afternoon tea, we met up with Finn and Henry. Finn was thrilled with his archery experience. He was a natural, it seemed, at shooting balloons with arrows. For an animal-loving vegetarian, the kid sure likes to fire away.
Activities at Brooks Lake Lodge
Since everything is taken care of at Brooks Lake Lodge, we didn’t have to do much. That’s what I want to do on vacation –play all day and make no decisions, do no cooking, and no cleaning. We did have to make one decision, though – what activities we wanted to do. Horseback riding, fishing, hiking, archery, canoeing, and spa services (for an extra fee) were all on the menu. My favorite part is that we didn’t all have to make the same decisions. Everyone got to choose what they did each day.
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Every evening, ranch wranglers moved the horses from corrals to their grazing area. As the animals took off, galloping below the striking cliffs on their way to greener pastures, we stood on the patio, hot tea and cookies in hand, and watched them go.
Dining at Brooks Lake Lodge
After a gourmet dinner in the 100-year-old historic lodge, the boys and I hopped into the hot tub and watched the alpenglow on Pinnacle Butte. That night we cozied into our family cabin. The Western accommodations may look rustic, but have all the comforts and amenities of a modern cabin, with central heat to complement the wood burning stoves, contemporary bathrooms, down comforters, and snug beds.
Though it was August, we woke to snow one morning at our 9,200-foot location. We pulled on boots (Montanans are always prepared for snow) and tramped to the lodge for another tasty breakfast; Bananas Foster french toast for the kids, and made to order omelets for the adults.
We decided to skip the morning canoeing as it was too cold to be out on the lake, even for prepared Montanans. Henry and I stepped out on the patio with coffee and tea and took another good look at the Pinnacle Buttes, Austin’s Peak, and Brooks Mountain. We’ve been to a lot of pretty places, but the view from Brooks Lake Lodge takes the cake.
After an hour of board games and puzzle playing in the lodge, we headed back through Yellowstone and on to home.
Doing whatever we wanted to do, eating what we wanted to eat, entirely surrounded by mountains and meadows…this is a family vacation we definitely want to repeat.
If You Go:
Brooks Lake Lodge has a three night minimum in summer and two nights in winter.
Brooks Lake Lodge is east of Grand Teton National Park and south of Yellowstone National Park near the Continental Divide on U.S. Highway 26. The closest town in Dubois, 25 miles to the southeast.
The nearest airport to the Lodge is Jackson Hole Airport (JAC).
Other airports in the area include Riverton (RIW) and Idaho Falls (IDA).
If you are driving from Jackson, Wyoming, do not use your GPS! Follow these directions:
- Travel north on Route 26 to Moran Junction from Jackson Hole or airport.
- At Moran Junction, you will continue on Route 26 heading east Brooks Lake Road is 7 miles past the top of Togwotee Pass.
- Look for a sign on the right that reads Brooks Lake Recreation Area. Brooks Lake Road is on your left at this sign.
- Take this left onto Brooks Lake Road 515 (gravel road) and continue 5 miles to the lodge.
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Melynda Harrison is contributing editor to Outdoor Families Magazine and writes for numerous publications. Her company YellowstoneTrips.com, specializes in Yellowstone travel. Learn more at travelingmel.com, on YouTube, and Instagram.
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