Visit historic Montana OTO dude ranch

Historic OTO Ranch in Gardiner opens for tours 

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MONTANA has long been known for its ranching lifestyle.

As Montana’s very first dude ranch, the O.T.O. Ranch near Gardiner holds a special place in Montana's ranching history.

The OTO Ranch was the first dude ranch in Montana that explored the cowboy and ranching experience. The OTO Ranch dates back to 1898 when Dick and Dora Randall purchased land north of Yellowstone National Park. They offered guided trips in the surrounding wilderness until 1912 ,when guests became so numerous that the Randalls opened up cabins, followed by the construction of the expansive lodge between 1914 and 1920.

Considered the “Father of Montana Dude Ranching,” Dick Randall promoted the O.T.O. Ranch heavily, traveling to eastern states attracting guests to this new outdoor vacation experience. 

Ownership of the ranch changed hands until it was ultimately acquired by the U.S. Forest Service from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to preserve and manage it in the 1990s.

On Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, the local community is invited back to the historic O.T.O. Dude Ranch to tour the ranch and learn about its part in the history of Montana guest ranches.

The Randalls drew guests to the rustic western experience until the sale of the ranch in the mid-1930s to Gay Randall and Chan Libbey. The OTO Ranch was run as a dude ranch until 1939 and in ts heyday, the O.T.O. attracted illustrious guests and became a center point of western architecture, craftsmanship and furniture—including being one of famed western craftsman Thomas Molesworth’s first commissions.

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Ranch Preservation’s Yellowstone Pop-Up event will be the first to bring dude ranch guests back to the historically significant property in an effort to continue the preservation and restoration of the O.T.O. Dude Ranch. All of the proceeds of this special pop-up event will be donated toward the efforts to preserve and restore the historic O.T.O. Dude Ranch, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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This year’s O.T.O. Dude Ranch Open House will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with tours of the ranch and educational opportunities presented by Custer Gallatin National Forest. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Ticket sales from a raffle for a three-night dude ranch vacation from Ranch Preservation, which manages the True Ranch Collection of historic ranches in the West, will be donated to the Yellowstone Community Fund. Please note, this will be a cash-only event.

Last year’s Open House welcomed members of the community to the historic ranch, with over 600 visitors traveling from all over the state. 

This summer, the O.T.O. was utilized for a second season of Ranch Preservation’s Yellowstone Pop-Up Ranch. The pop-up events, produced in cooperation with Custer Gallatin National Forest, have welcomed dudes back to the ranch after it was closed to guests for 80 years. Ranch Preservation brought in horses, staff and décor to operate the ranch as a dude ranch for seven weeks. Event proceeds benefit the preservation and restoration of the O.T.O.

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At the open house, guests will be able to tour the main lodge and ranch cabins styled true to how they once were with cozy furnishings, animal mounts and Navajo rugs.

Due to the narrow, one-lane mountain road that accesses the O.T.O., visitors should be prepared for one-way timed travel restrictions upon arrival to and departure from the ranch. Vehicles will be permitted to drive from the Cedar Creek Trailhead to the O.T.O. on each hour of the event for 15 minutes, beginning from 9 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. Departures from the ranch will take place 30 minutes past each hour. Visitors should plan their travel times accordingly or can plan to park at the Cedar Creek Trailhead and hike to the ranch, approximately 1.5 miles up the road. 

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The True Ranch Collection is a selection of historic dude ranches offering guests an authentic western experience.


True Ranch Collection's Montana property is the Circle Bar Ranch in Utica, Montana.

The Circle Bar Ranch in Utica, Montana, is a historic guest ranch that dates back to the 1800s in central Montana. The 520-acre guest ranch sits at the base of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. Guests can explore the mountains by horseback, and enjoy fishing, hiking, shooting, archery, and other activities while staying in historic accommodations. 

At the Circle Bar Ranch, guests can explore the surrounding area of the Judith River Headwaters and the Little Belt Mountains and ride where western artist Charlie Russell once rode. At 5,000 feet in elevation, the Circle Bar enjoys the best of Montana’s weather with a host of activities to enjoy.

To learn more about the O.T.O. Dude Ranch Open House, visit: