Campground Review: Monster Lake Ranch, Cody, Wyoming

Monster Lake Ranch Cody, Wyoming

Dates of Stay: Monday May 29-Wednesday May 31, 2017

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Six miles south of Cody, Wyoming on Highway 120 with the Absaroka Mountain Range to the west and the still visable Big Horn Mountains to the west sits a relatively small 10,000 acre Wyoming ranch called Monster Lake Ranch. The name of the ranch comes from it’s namesake a nearly 200 acre lake on the property that is stocked with it’s namesake monster sized trout fish of all breeds. Monster Lake is a world class flat water fly-fishing destination to avid fishermen and even hunters.

While the word may be out about the fishing at Monster Lake, their little unknown secret is the plethora of lodging options from traditional teepee’s to cowboy camps, from glamping tents to brick and morter lodging cabins, to four full service RV hookup sites.  We looked at our other RV options for our stay in Cody. They included a KOA and two local campgrounds. We selected to stay at Monster Lake Ranch because this location offered us a quiet alternative at a cheaper rate than any of the other options. Based on our experience during our visit here, we would book this campground again and again.

Check In and The RV Sites: 

Mid Afternoon the caravan of travelers pulled into Monster Lake. The office manager was on her first week of employment and still figuring things out. She told us we were the only guest on the ranch, welcomed us to explore the ranch as much as we were interested (she only requested that we shut the gates after we went through them), directed us to the RV sites and sent us on our way.

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The sites are a short walk to Quick Lake, the second lake on the property and near the homes the ranch staff live in. We found 30 and 50 amp service as well as sewer and fresh water. The sites are graveled. In the interest of full disclosure, the sites themselves were nothing fancy. In fact, they resembled a gravel parking lot. We lined up three in a row and set up our camp.

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The Rest of the Ranch 

Of course there is the namesake lake, Monster Lake on property. It actually sits to the east of the main office and needs to be driven to. In addition to that lake there is also a second smaller lake, Quick Lake, closer to the entrance of the ranch.  The men were advised to use sinking line on their rods and they were able to get some practice casting in at Quick Lake before their big day of fishing.

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We know there is a restaurant and a bar on the ranch, which I believe are called the Bliss Restaurant and The Cutthroat Saloon but I am not totally positive of that.  They provide guest the opportunity for a meal or a cocktail without having to go into Cody. Unfortunately, both were closed during our stay.  Sadly, there is no outside signage to indicate its existence nor were we handed any type of information on Ranch amenities upon our check in. We did camp next to two staff who work in the restaurant who did confirm there was a restaurant and we did see an outdoor cooking area so I am assuming some of the food served is cooked over a large open flame. It seems as if we started our vacation about four days too early of that magical June 1 summer start.

Very much like fishing, hunting experiences are also available on Monster Lake Ranch.  Bird Hunting  as well as a pistol shooting range and a rifle shooting range are available on property. The pistol range is by the office and near the restaurant. The rifle shooting range is some distance away but you can actually see some of the targets from the main area of the ranch. No one was on property shooting while we were there. I do imagine there would be a chance you could hear the short range shooting from the RV sites but the wind does carry sound differently so I am not sure.

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Several of the ranches different types of lodging are located near Quick Lake.  Five total traditional teepee’s, two one bedroom cabins, two three bedrooms, as well as a cowboy camps.  The cowboy camp is a remote rustic wooden cabin. They also have canvas wall tents on platforms around the property.  As many of the lodging is rustic there is a shower house close to the main office. Members of our group did visit the shower house and reported that it was clean and nice.

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What would a ranch be without animals? Well, thankfully we really don’t have to find out because this ranch has animals; both wild and domestic. Quick Lake had geese on it; even babies. The ranch has llama’s and horses. The male horses were separated from the mare’s and colts. The kids loved watching the horses. We also saw plenty of wild animals: antelope, mule deer, pheasants, prairie dogs, meadowlarks, rabbits, and magpies. The ranch also has two, three or four hour trail riding adventures available.

As we roamed the ranch, it became very clear to us. We had come to this place to fish but each of us were having a great moment on a ranch in Wyoming. Speaking for myself it was nice to feel small. The ranch maybe small for Wyoming standards, it felt huge to me. The wide open range allows you to see forever in almost every direction you turn. Even though it is a working ranch we hardly saw any people. Knowing that our next stop on this vacation is Yellowstone National Park and the crowds that attracts, we enjoyed the seclusion Monster Lake Ranch afforded us.

The Local Area:

On our second day at Monster Lake Ranch, we said good luck to Wayne as he went to fly fish on Monster Lake. The rest of us headed into Cody to catch up on laundry at the local laundromat and lunch at a local restaurant: Millstone Pizza Company.  We enjoyed pizza and sandwiches, cold drinks, and the kids enjoyed playing in the arcade. That afternoon, each family selected a different activity and we went their separate ways with the plan to meet back together for our first community meal that evening. We had planned for three community meals during our two week vacation and the first of those was happening at Monster Lake Ranch.

Our Ranch Experiences:

As the day began to settle and we started finding our way back to the ranch from our afternoon of sightseeing, we noticed the clouds were building and the sky was darkening. We were able to enjoy a quick Wyoming rain shower. The clouds were impressive and so was the rainbow.  Wayne’s fishing guide for the afternoon, Mike, offered to take us to see a site he said would knock our socks off.  As he escorted us to parts of the ranch we would not have visited by ourselves, he did warn us that we had to be cautious of rattle snakes  Mike escorted us to Cowboy Camp and carefully walked us to the edge of a rocky bluff carefully avoiding all snakes as we went.  During our trip, Mike told us that the some of rock on the ranch has petroglyphs from Native Americans but we would surely encounter snakes so he would not recommend us exploring alone.

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After our ranch tour, we were able to enjoy a campfire as the ranch hands had come by and made us a fire ring and supplied us with firewood. We enjoyed a community meal of hot dogs, chili, all the fixin’s, and ended it with s’mores and board games.

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After dinner, Wayne decided to organize and put away his fishing gear. He also thought it was a good time to flush our black tank. So with water running into our black tank, he wondered away from the water to his fishing gear. The rest of us were completely pre-occupied with the campfire until two things started happening simultaneously. Wayne started yelling at The Boy to pull the black tank lever and we noticed water coming off the awning.  Wayne had literally left the water running, which filled up the black tank, filled up the toilet, and with no other place for the water to go was coming out the vent on the roof of the camper! The Boy pulled the black tank valve and water poured out of the hose. Everyone was quick to assist us but no one wanted to open either door to the camper. I think each of us feared the camper was full of water.

Thankfully we had minimal water in the camper. Just a small area around the bathroom.  Weeks after the vacation is over, we are still teasing Wayne about his method for flushing the black tank. I do hope he has learned to not walk away or try and multi-task during this chore.

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Disaster adverted, mess soaked up, we spent the rest of our last night at Monster Ranch around the campfire and enjoying the stars. There is very little ambient light to interfere with stargazing out on the ranch.

Recommendations:

We left Monster Ranch with only a few recommendations. We loved the seclusion and the ample space available at Monster Lake Ranch, and I am not sure referring to the RV sites but to the feel of the entire ranch. The RV sites are located right next to staff housing, which was not problematic but it did feel as if the RV sites were an after thought. Like, we have this extra staff housing that we are not using so we can rent it out to the public. Monster Lake Ranch has taken a lot of care to make other parts of the ranch a meaningful experience and it would be nice if they put that same thought into the RV sites.

Throughout our planning and visit with Monster Lake Ranch, we could not help but notice that the staff in the office at Monster Lake Ranch changed frequently. The person who confirmed our reservations was not the same person who checked us in. The office manager who checked us in told us she was brand new and had no idea we were coming until we were in her office. Thankfully she was able to find our reservations and was able to seamlessly provide us with service. Sadly, when we called back a few weeks ago, there is another brand new office manager. Obviously we consumers don’t necessarily need to know the inner workings as long as the workings keep working but in the mean time, make sure you make reservations, keep the documentation, and confirm your appointments.

Monster Lake Ranch has made one massive change since we made our visit in May 2018 and that is their web presence. We have noticed they have updated their  website. The new website is easy to navigate, is appealing, extensively offers information on all of the services available at the ranch.

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Conclusion:

We spent two nights and a few days on the ranch. Sadly Wayne had little lunch in the fishing department but we found a place of solitude. We found a place where the animals still roam.  We found a place where the wild pheasants woke us in the morning and the meadowlarks sang to us every evening. We found a place with beautiful views both during the day and the night.

If you are interested in fly fishing or bird hunting  then this is the place for you. While Wayne did not have much luck he still hopes for a chance to return and catch one of those monster trout that swim in monster lake.

If you are like us, passing through Cody on your way to or from Yellowstone National Park, Monster Lake Ranch offers you a haven from the hustle and bustle and the crowds. A peaceful place to stay before or after a visit to the national park offers that balance  we often seek during our vacations. At $35 a night, Monster Lake offers you something no other campground in Cody offers; wide open space.

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