Montana’s Oldest Working Dude Ranch Highlighted in Billings Gazette

The Lazy K Bar ranch, close to Big Timber, is the oldest working dude ranch in Montana, and ready to close its doors to guests forever. Tack Van Cleve, who’s been running the ranch with his sister Carol and her daughter, Kelly, is citing health issues in the Billings Gazette as the reason for desiring to retire.

Founded in 1922 in Sweet Grass County along the Crazy Mountain range, the dude ranch sits on 8,500 acre of property which includes the 11,214-foot Crazy Peak, and is listed for sale at $9 million.

Van Cleve’s grandfather, affectionately called “Scrumper,” build up the dude ranch with his wife Helen to supplement their cattle and sheep business, while catering to East Coast summer guests who wanted to experience their own Wild West adventure.

Tack’s parents, “Spike” and Barbara Van Cleve took over in 1958 and eventually passed the reigns to their own children. Tack Van Cleve remembers his parents having to brave the first three winters without running water and electricity.

While guests don’t have to fetch their own water anymore, the Lazy K Bar ranch is still very much a no-frills getaway. Van Cleve, who went on to become the president of the Dude Ranching Association says that compared to other outfits, the Lazy K Bar ranch, doesn’t rely on dressing staff in cowboy hats, boots and huge belt buckles, but rather focuses on running a ranch where guests can entertain themselves along with the occasional horseback ride to a mountain lake, home cooked dinners, and nights at the bonfire telling stories.

Hall and Hall has received a lot of interest in the property already, but its future is still uncertain. The Van Cleves would like the buyer to maintain Lazy K Bar as a working dude ranch, or at least make it into a retreat of sorts, so that people will still be able to enjoy its rugged beauty.

Founded in 1946 as an agricultural mortgage company, Hall and Hall has become the largest full-service rural real estate firm within the Rocky Mountain West and Great Plains regions.  A leader in its field, Hall and Hall manages more than 1 million  acres of land, services a loan portfolio of more than $400 million. For additional information about Hall and Hall, contact the company headquarters in Billings, Montana at (406) 656-7500 or