Imagine being serenaded to sleep by wolves howling in the distance as you snuggle up in your cozy log cabin. In the morning, you wake up to a fresh dusting of snow and a cluster of bison ambling past your window. This scenario is more than just a daydream for winter guests at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch.
The historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch Field Campus, located in the Lamar Valley surrounded by mountains and far from other development, serves as home base for the Yellowstone Forever Institute’s in-depth Field Seminars.
Yellowstone Forever’s Field Campus Manager Katie Roloson, who lives at the ranch in the wintertime, says the facility is spectacular year-round but has some special qualities in the winter that enchant visitors.
“The winter is much quieter since there are significantly fewer people visiting the park, and in the winter only one program at a time uses the ranch. When you stay here you feel like your group has a special piece of paradise all to itself.”
The location, of course, is the biggest draw. “People love waking up in this extraordinary setting and getting outside for early morning wildlife-watching or photography without having to get up really early to drive out to the Lamar Valley,” says Roloson.
Groups stay out for programs most of the day, then return to the ranch for dinner and an evening activity. “After that people tend to cozy up in their cabins for an early bedtime because most classes start early,” says Roloson.
“The bunkhouse is open for anyone who wants to be social. You’ll usually find several people there sipping a beverage, chatting, or playing a board game. We go through a lot of hot chocolate in the winter.”
While the ranch offers comfortable lodging in its wilderness setting, the “off-the-grid” facility offers a different experience than staying at a hotel. The buildings are heated by propane, but walks between the cabins, bunkhouse, and bathhouse require warm clothing and boots, as temperatures in the Lamar regularly drop below zero. Also, there’s no Internet service; cabins have no electrical outlets; and there’s no cell phone reception in the Lamar Valley. Guests at the ranch have the rare opportunity to leave their worries behind and unplug—literally.
Humans aren’t the only species that visit the ranch. Roloson says one of the best aspects of staying there in winter is the variety of wildlife, which can frequently be observed right from the comfort of the bunkhouse.
“Many animals move to lower elevations in the winter so we’ll see more wildlife near the ranch like elk, bison, wolves, coyotes, and foxes.” says Roloson. “It’s not unusual to hear wolves howling in the evening. We don’t often catch a glimpse of them right on the ranch property, but we will sometimes wake up in the morning and see wolf tracks through campus so we know they paid a visit.”
This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of Yellowstone Quarterly.