For Sale

Spring High Ranch

$7,500,000 Fishtail, MT 1,138± Deeded Acres

Executive Summary

Spring High is one of the most stunningly beautiful mountain front ranches under the towering Beartooth Front which is part of the dramatic Absarokee Mountain Range that runs from Red Lodge to Livingston. This 1,778± acre ranch, which includes a 640± acre state of Montana grazing lease, consists of a series of verdant mountain valleys that drain across the ranch from a high ridge that lies along the property’s west boundary. These valleys have flowing mountain streams and/or lakes and offer an aesthetically pleasing mix of timber, aspens and rich grass meadows that accommodate a full cross-section of big game as well as 120 or more cows during the grazing season.

The ranch is located at the end of a private locked gate road and its upper reaches are adjacent to the Custer National Forest and within a short walk of the wilderness boundary. The improvements include a 10,000± square foot log lodge with six cozy bedrooms and huge common areas designed to accommodate guests. There is also a comfortable log caretaker’s house, a barn and a shop/equipment storage building. The beautifully designed front gate is an attractive precursor to the big views of the Beartooths that one encounters as one enters the ranch. This range is Montana’s newest and includes its highest peak. The property is only 70 miles southwest of Billings and 35 miles west of Red Lodge just above the appealing small community of Fishtail.

Just the Facts

  • Location: 12 Miles south of Fishtail at the base of the Beartooth Mountains adjacent to Custer National Forest.
  • Acreage: 1,778± (includes 640± acres of state of Montana grazing lease).
  • Terrain: Series of lush mountain valleys with timber, aspens and huge open grassy meadows.
  • Improvements: Massive log lodge, caretaker house, barn and shop. 
  • Water: Beautiful pond, lots of springs and multiple flowing streams. 
  • Operation: Strictly summer grazing for 120 pairs or equivalent. Family retreat. 
  • Access: Lies 3 miles on a private road past the end of a good county road. Some snow plowing required. End of the road ranch! Very private. 
  • Views: Dramatic! Of the Beartooth Front – Montana’s highest mountains.
  • Wildlife: Extensive big game. Very high-quality elk hunting ranch.  
  • Summary: Beautiful, end of the road private family retreat. 

General Description

Spring High is a classic mountain retreat ranch. Its upper reaches adjoin the Custer National Forest just a short distance from the wilderness boundary. The bulk of the ranch lies on the west slope of the Fiddler Creek Valley. Fiddler Creek itself rises just above the ranch flowing northerly through the state lease and runs just off the eastern boundary actually crossing the ranch again at one point. Several unnamed tributaries of Fiddler Creek, as well as the East Fork of Fiddler Creek, pass through the ranch in an easterly direction. As one moves from north to south on the ranch one crosses these unique small valleys each of which has its own mix of heavy timber, aspen groves, and well-sodded grass meadows. 

The main buildings are situated on the lower - northerly – end of the property. They include the lodge, a steel building housing a shop and equipment storage, a metal horse barn and an attractive 3-bedroom 2-bathroom log home. The owners have tapped into a prolific spring to create a beautiful fishing pond in front of the buildings. 

What makes Spring High special is that it is exceptionally beautiful internally with its secret lush valleys. Each time one crosses a ridge, one’s breath is taken away by the next magic valley with it own unique features. One will be swept away by this ranch even on an overcast day when the peaks of the Beartooth Front are obscured. On a clear day when one can see the mountains, it is truly breathtaking. 

Broker's Comments

Spring High Ranch lies along the mountains in a highly coveted area of Montana where ranches that adjoin the national forest are very tightly held and rarely become available. Spring High represents a significant holding whose classic intrinsic beauty is dramatically enhanced by the massive Beartooth Front that literally towers over it. Its aspen groves and dark timber interspersed with huge grassy meadows anchored by a full set of comfortable improvements offer a compelling value proposition in today’s marketplace.  

Learn about the locale

Location

The Spring High Ranch is located at the base of the Beartooth Mountains adjacent to the national forest approximately 12 miles south of Fishtail and 35 miles west of Red Lodge. This places it about 70 miles southwest of Billings - Montana’s largest city - and its busy commercial airport. Commercial air service at Billings Logan Airport is provided by American, Delta, United, Horizon, Frontier and Allegiant airlines. These airlines offer multiple flights each day to Salt Lake City, Seattle, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Denver with seasonal non-stops to Dallas and Chicago. 

The ranch has comfortable access by paved highway to within five miles of the ranch. The next three miles are on a good graveled county road that dead ends at a locked gate shared by three other landowners. A good private road takes one the rest of the way to the ranch. The Spring High Ranch is truly at the “end of the road” as the other users branch off in different directions. There is absolutely no access through the ranch’s deeded lands for any other parties. 

Locale

The “Beartooth Front” bounded by Red Lodge and the Rock Creek Valley on the easterly end and Nye and the Stillwater River Valley on the westerly end is one of the most dramatically beautiful areas in Montana. The Beartooth Mountains dominate the views to the south and the foothills and valleys that emanate from this massive granite range tend to be very lush and green and the rivers and streams are loaded with trout. 

It is an area that was traditionally home to many very productive small to medium sized foothill/mountain ranches settled over 130 years ago. The ranches that immediately adjoin the Beartooth Front have actually been consolidated into some very good sized operating ranches over the years and have gone into quite strong hands. Certain areas have also seen some smaller tract development as the area has been sought after as a recreational outlet for Billings as well as for non-residents who came in originally from the northern Midwest on the railroad. They now fly in to Billings from throughout the U.S. Many chose to buy small ranches or recreational retreats here to avoid what they consider to be the “flash and glitter” of the Bozeman/Big Sky/Yellowstone Club area.  

As regards the immediately surrounding neighbors, one good-sized ranch borders to the north and east and one of the area’s oldest and largest ranches that is protected from development by a conservation easement lies to the east and south. There are two smaller recreational retreat properties on the northwest boundary that share the access road. However, because of the natural terrain, one is not really aware of these properties and they are considered to be in strong hands and unlikely to be subject to any additional development.

Of particular note is a wonderful recent addition to the neighborhood known as Tippet Rise. Tippet Rise describes itself as follows: Tippet Rise Art Center is located in Fishtail, Montana, against the backdrop of the Beartooth Mountains, roughly midway between Billings and Bozeman and north of Yellowstone National Park. Set on a 10,260-acre working sheep and cattle ranch, Tippet Rise hosts classical chamber music and recitals and exhibits large-scale, outdoor sculptures. Tippet Rise celebrates the concept that art, music, architecture, and nature are inextricably linked in the human experience, each making the others more powerful. The art center features musical performance spaces indoors and out, with programs that seek to create memorable experiences for performers and audience members alike. Classical concerts are held on summer weekends in the Olivier Music Barn, or outdoors under the Domo. Bike, hike, or take a tour by carbon-neutral electric van.

Tippet Rise is only four years old and has just begun to weave its magic in the community while already having achieved worldwide recognition for its intimate but exceptional offerings of both music and art. The impact has been palpable to the heart and soul of the area and its residents. The longer-term impact on land values and on the desirability of a region that was already one of the most sought after in the northern Rockies is impossible to determine at this time. Here is a link to their website: https://tippetrise.org/. Hall and Hall is proud to have played a very small part in helping Peter and Cathy Halsted put this remarkable project together. We think it will do much to make this area of Montana a place where increasing numbers of sophisticated individuals and families will want to live. 

Many smaller towns of varying sizes have grown up over the years and provide wonderful outlets for the ranches in the area. Roscoe, Dean, Nye, Columbus and Absarokee are all within a short drive of the ranch and Red Lodge is about a 35 to 40-minute drive. Each of these towns has its own character and besides restaurants, shops, and other services they offer an employment base for employees that can commute to the ranch on a daily basis and not require on-ranch accommodation.

Essentially this area has a strong ranching base as well as clear dedication to maintaining the open space along the mountains. Many of the ranches have conservation easements and it is extremely unusual to find a property for sale along the mountain front adjoining the national forest. Properties like Spring High are rare to find and generally are held in strong hands for multiple generations. 

In addition to its obvious beauty and recreational appeal, this is, in fact, terrific cattle country, so it has not been difficult to keep the land in agriculture. Socially it is extremely interesting because it boasts such a diversity of residents from business and professional people from Billings to local ranchers to tradespeople from the small towns and retirees to wealthy non-resident ranch owners who all share a common dedication to maintaining this unique and stimulating community. 

Red Lodge offers a touch of international sophistication because it has a long history of being both a gateway to Yellowstone Park and something of a destination ski resort. As stated earlier it also has tended to attract people from all over the world who have opted to choose a quieter lifestyle than one would find in the more internationally known resort towns. This area is truly unique in Montana and has its own special character. 

Climate

The climate is typical of mountain ranches in the 5,000 to 6,000 foot elevation range east of the continental divide. Warm but not excessively hot summer days with cool nights. Winters with good snow cover and temperatures that normally run around freezing during the days and in the teens or below at night. However, the area can also suffer from extremes of cold on one end and on the other end the area is subject to Chinook winds which can bring some very warm temperatures up into the 50’s fahrenheit range during the winter. The fall season is normally pleasant into November with occasional surprises in both directions from a Labor Day snowstorm that quickly melts to shirtsleeve weather at Thanksgiving. The area is known for good precipitation in the spring and can be subject to heavy, wet snows during March and April. This of course contributes to the area’s reputation for having some of the most sought-after summer grazing in the State.

Aesthetic Considerations

There is no question that Spring High Ranch is one of the most beautiful ranches on the market today. It has the ingredients that everyone is looking for – dramatic mountain views, a pleasing mixture of rolling hills and valleys covered with open parks, aspen groves, small lakes, and heavier timber.

Learn more about the property

Acreage (Deeded & Leased)

The ranch consists of approximately 1,138 deeded acres and 640± acres of land leased for grazing purposes from the state of Montana for a total of 1,778± acres. We are estimating that about fifty percent of the ranch is timbered or treed and the balance is open grazing or occupied by buildings. 

Deeded Acres: 1,138±

State Leased Acres: 640±

Total Leased Acres: 640±

Total Acres: 1,778±

Additional Information

CONSERVATION EASEMENT

Spring High is unencumbered by any conservation easements. It would unquestionably lend itself to an easement. The tax benefits from such a donation or the proceeds from a sale of an easement would have the effect of significantly reducing the purchase price. 

Improvements

The Spring High Ranch features a grand lodge and functional support buildings that provide all the ranch’s basic needs. They are in good condition and ready for immediate occupancy. The primary structures can be described as follows:

LODGE 

This estimated 10,000 square foot building is designed to accommodate and entertain guests. The public end of the lodge is built of logs that can only be described as “massive”. One approaches the lodge from the south on a circular driveway parking under a dramatic portico. One enters a hallway graced by an attractive waterfall feature that includes a bison and a beaver family. This hallway leads in two directions – one to the bedroom wing and the other into the great room. 

As one enters this room, which is fully two stories high, one cannot help but be impressed by the towering stone fireplace that one can almost walk into anchoring a sunken conversation area at one end and the huge bank of windows at the other end that offer amazing views of the Beartooth Front. This room also includes other comfortable seating areas, a bar, a full kitchen and a dining area. A huge log staircase leads up to a mezzanine bar area that is well suited for gaming where one could imagine a pool table and/or a poker table. Outside there is a stone patio with a beautifully designed rock barbecue and smoker. 

A right turn in the hallway from the front door takes one to the bedroom wing which includes five private, cozy bedrooms and a bunkroom for children. The lodge has six bathrooms and a half bathroom in the great room. It also includes an oversize three car garage. 

MANAGERS HOUSE

This comfortable, attractive 2,200± square foot home on two levels has square log siding and extensive decks. The upstairs is a large open great room which includes a kitchen, living room and dining area with doors extending out onto a wide deck. The downstairs offers three bedrooms and two bathrooms. 

FURNISHINGS

The buildings are beautifully and comfortably furnished and the ranch is offered furnished and equipped.

SUPPORT BUILDINGS 

Behind the lodge there is a 2,400± square foot steel shop/equipment storage building with a full concrete floor. There is also a metal barn nearby with a heated tack room that was designed to accommodate the ranch’s riding horses. 

LANDSCAPING

The owners have chosen to landscape the main lodge and sprinkle and mow huge expanses of grass which makes for an impressive and grand entrance. 

Water Resources

Spring High is a true wilderness ranch and has no cultivated or irrigated land other than the lawns in the building compound. As one drives around the ranch in the middle of the summer with grasses coming up to the windows of one’s pickup, there is no question that there are hundreds of acres that could be cut for hay were one so inclined. There was likely a time when it was cut for hay back in the homestead days. 

The property is blessed with miles of mountain streams and an unknown number of natural springs. There are also wells for the improvements. The owners have created a beautiful lake just a short distance from the lodge in a private valley. It has been stocked in the past. There is potential for creating other lakes as well. One of the springs which flows around 40 GPM reportedly meets EPA standards for bottled water. 

Mineral Rights

All minerals appurtenant to the property and owned by the current owners will be conveyed to the buyer.

Timber Resources

There is substantial timber on the ranch and the owners have undertaken a thinning process to improve forest health. 

Taxes

Based upon past years the annual real estate taxes are estimated at $26,310. 

Learn about the recreational amenities

Fishery Resources

Fishing is limited to the lakes on the ranch, which include Spring High’s private access to Lily Pond and Crater lakes that are situated on the state land. The Yellowstone, Stillwater, East Rosebud and West Rosebud rivers are all within 30 minutes of the ranch. These rivers quietly represent some of the best fishing in a state that is known to offer some of the best fishing in the world. Locals like to ride into the many lakes in the Beartooths above the ranch that offer a different fishing experience. 

Wildlife Resources

Spring High Ranch, because of its diverse habitat, is loaded with wildlife. Moose, elk, whitetail and mule deer and black bear are all either permanent residents or frequent visitors to the ranch. Bird and waterfowl species include grouse, eagles, geese, ducks, sandhill cranes, herons and turkeys. The ranch has protected its hunting for many years and would make an ideal base for big game hunting should one be so inclined. 

Learn about the general operations

General Operations

Spring High has always been a sought-after summer home for livestock with its lush pastures and ample water. The resource needs to be grazed to remain healthy. We recommend making an arrangement with one of the ranchers in the area to bring cattle onto the ranch during the summer months. Normally 120 pairs or 150 yearlings for the season hardly make a dent in the available grass – leaving lots for the wildlife. One can earn cash to cover some of the ranch expenses but often such an arrangement can lead to beneficial quid pro quo relationships whereby a local rancher can provide needed services and equipment in exchange for the grazing. 

Spring High with its extraordinary lodge would definitely lend itself to being leased out through VRBO or Airbnb during the tourist season which has been extended well into the spring and fall. We are told that Yellowstone Park is normally busier in September than in the latter half of August. This would be another way to offset some of the ranch’s expenses should an owner not use it for the entire season. Under a scenario in which a new owner might build a private home separate from the lodge, this would allow the lodge to be rented separately. 

Otherwise the property is best suited for a family retreat which can easily be looked after by one person who could bring in seasonal help when needed to take care of guests. The many nearby towns make this a viable alternative. The ranch is well set up for this with its attractive manager’s house and the huge public spaces in the lodge. As mentioned above, we in fact often suggest that a new owner dedicate the lodge to family and guests and find a nice site to build a private home. It goes without saying that there are some amazing building sites. 

Terms

This price includes equipment and furnishings that are currently on the ranch and owned by sellers. Sellers plan to remove only their personal items and photos. A formal list will be provided for review and acceptance during the due diligence phase of an accepted offer.

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