Outdoor Upgrade

Luxury Lodges Redefine Roughing It

By John Coon

August 9, 2013

Sleeping in a tent on the cold, hard ground is not a requirement for enjoying the great outdoors. Tucked away within pristine wilderness, luxury hunting and fishing lodges offer unrivaled outdoor experiences paired with indulgent amenities.

The Lure of the River

Located in the heart of the Ashley National Forest 30 miles north of Altamont, the Crystal Ranch Lodge is situated on a 500-acre ranch in a secluded mountain valley. The ranch is surrounded on all sides by breathtaking mountain vistas and thick forests. It is the only cabin in the valley.

A multitude of spring-fed ponds dots the valley, but the crown jewel is a two-mile swath of the Yellowstone River.

It’s the epitome of a fly fishing paradise.

“We have two miles of private access to the Yellowstone River,” says Crystal Ranch Lodge owner Dave Ludlow. “Having that right out the front door is just epic. You can hear the water flowing right where you’re sitting on the patio. You can see it.”

Beyond fly fishing in the nearby river and ponds, the lodge offers guided ATV tours, guided horseback tours, kayaking on a man-made lake near the lodge, mountain biking on five miles worth of groomed trails and a one-hole golf course with a distance of 270 yards to the pin.

The lodge itself offers a game room, library, wi-fi for internet access and HD TVs. Guests receive meals and housekeeping services similar to those offered in a hotel room.

The central attraction, though, is fly fishing. Ludlow says brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout and cutthroat trout are found in abundance in the Yellowstone River and the various ponds and lakes on the ranch.

Ludlow hires a team of part-time seasonal guides to help guests get the most out of their fishing experience during their stay.

“They can find all the different places on the ranch,” he says. “We have beaver ponds. We have little lakes and pools. They know the waters. They know what to fish with. So the guides are there at their beck and call.”

Crystal Ranch Lodge has guests come from all over the country who want to experience fishing in Utah. They find the lodges like the Crystal Ranch Lodge appealing because they can enjoy the quiet solitude found there.

“If they come to our property, they’re the only ones fishing on 500 acres,” Ludlow says. “That’s pretty important to not have all the crowds to wade through. It’s just that private, exclusive benefit.”

A Piece of Paradise

There are plenty of options for people looking to enjoy the outdoors in comfort. Some lodges offer the chance to go pheasant hunting. Other lodges will take guests on a fully guided elk hunt. Some local hunting and fishing enthusiasts take it a step further. Instead of simply reserving a spot at a lodge for a weekend, they have taken the next step to purchase property and build their own lodge.

Floyd Hatch, owner of the Lazy H Ranch, bought his ranch property in Morgan County in 2004. Hatch built a successful career developing shopping centers, and he put those skills to use in constructing a hunting and fishing lodge for his family and close friends to enjoy.

“When we got it, there was nothing on it,” Hatch says. “It was a piece of raw ground. We had plans for the lodge on paper. Within four months, we had architectural plans and we were under construction within nine months after closing on the ranch.”

Since his lodge is designated as a Conservation Wildlife Management Unit, Hatch agrees to host one deer hunter per fall at his lodge. This hunter is one who draws out on a permit to hunt on the Lazy H Ranch property. Hatch also permits people who make an appointment at least a week in advance to fish from the 1 ½ mile section of East Canyon Creek that winds through his property.

“We’ll take as many as three groups a week,” Hatch says. “We think that is all the pressure that stream can handle.”  

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