Darwin Ranch: Most Remote in the Lower 48

The Darwin Ranch is a family-operated guest ranch located in Wyoming’s Gros Ventre Wilderness and the most remote guest ranch in the lower 48 states.


Spending your Jackson Hole vacation at a guest ranch is an authentic way to experience the West. And  “the Darwin Ranch is like nothing else in the West,” said Oliver Klingenstein, co-owner alongside his mother, Kathy.


“Finding inspiration in the safari lodges of East Africa, we offer unparalleled experiences and unforgettable hospitality at our secluded high-altitude oasis,” Oliver said. “At the most remote guest ranch in the lower 48 states, 25 miles down a dirt road, you will find a herd of horses dotting a spectacular green river valley amidst a collection of 100-year-old cabins.”


The Darwin Ranch has been hosting guests on and off since the 1920s. It was more formally a guest operation in the 1930s, and then it wasn’t again until its revival in 1964—and the Darwin has been operating as such since.


The Darwin Ranch is like nothing else in the West.


While at the ranch you can spend the day riding and hiking across mountain ridgelines without a soul for miles in any direction. You can wet a line or settle into an afternoon with a book. You can savor extraordinary meals prepared by the farm-to-table kitchen that sources directly from the family farm. You can gather for cocktails on the porch of the main lodge overlooking the twists and turns of the Gros Ventre River and watch the sunset while soaking in the wood-fired hot tub. And you can drift off to sleep in the stunning hand-built cabins whose modern style blends gracefully into the bones of century-old structures.


“We offer the best,” Oliver explained. “You experience the best access to the epic remoteness of the Bridger-Teton Forest and the Gros Ventre Wilderness and an approach that offers you the freedom to make this experience your own as well as the best service that quietly assures that your experience is unforgettable.”


You will enjoy the wild on your own terms, with or without a guide.


Many evenings conclude with guests gathered around the fire in the lodge or on the porch looking up at the stars. Livelier evenings find guests and crew gathered around the piano or dancing in the living room.


The ranch can accommodate 18 guests in nine spaces. Extra beds and cots take the maximum capacity to 23.


There are three private cabins, all free-standing. Each has a screened porch, a bath and a queen bed plus a twin/daybed.  There is also one larger cabin split into four separate rooms, each with its own entrance, bath and porch. An additional room is available on one end of the Willow (utility) cabin, plus the Loft in the upstairs of the lodge.



With a background in sustainable farming, conservation and environmental issues, Oliver and Kathy are committed to preserving, protecting and sharing the land.


“We are off the grid and are working towards a zero-waste future,” said Oliver.


For Darwin, this includes commitments to maintaining the lightest possible footprint from holistic pasture management to facilitating exploration and personal challenge and communicating the wonders of the location and broader ecosystem. Additionally, the ranch provides a relaxed, responsive and friendly guest experience, from meticulously preparing for adversity—asking that guests understand their role in individual and collective safety—to developing a unique, Mustang-based equestrian program and engaging in conversation about the privileges, responsibilities and complexities of recreating in a wilderness area.


“The majority of the ranch’s meat and vegetables come from our sister ranch outside of Cody, Wyoming,” Oliver said, “where we raise beef and pork following sustainable, integrated agricultural practices. We fill in with organic meat and produce from Teton and Sublette counties whenever possible.”


The menus are made from scratch, vegetable-forward, varied and vibrant, reflecting the bounty of the summer season here. The cooks are experienced, imaginative and inspired by chefs and traditions from around the world.



“The Darwin Ranch is like nowhere else on earth,” Oliver said. “Our guests come back year after year as a jumping-off point to their wilderness exploration—it is the platform and the wilderness is the vacation. Once you unpack and park your car, you won’t see a vehicle for the rest of the week.”


You will enjoy the wild on your own terms, with or without a guide.


The Klingensteins believe that there is real value in the opportunity for exploration and true adventure, especially in a welcoming, intimate and luxurious setting, and with the benefit of a safety net that is largely unseen. A significant aspect of this is focusing on creating a loose-reined atmosphere of curiosity, learning and self-challenge, be it with respect to gaining confidence in moving through the rugged backcountry, discovering local flora and fauna, or in saddling a horse and helping the wranglers run the herd out to pasture for the night.


In addition to the guest ranch, The Darwin Ranch also offers a Wilderness Camp which is six miles up the Gros Ventre River, across from Upper Falls.


Hunting in autumn at the Darwin is the “quintessential Western hunt,” said Oliver. Running from late September through the end of October, hunts are based from the ranch and guests travel on horseback.


“Our hunting ethics go hand-in-hand with our ranch’s ethos centering around growing, raising and harvesting sustainable food,” Oliver said. “We also offer hunts to in-state hunters with no prior experience who are eager to learn and to harvest their own meat.”


The Darwin Ranch summer season runs from June through September.  Visit darwinranch.com for more information and to inquire about reservations. You may also email Kathy at thedarwinranch@gmail.com. Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Facebook

> Photographs @dellpickles  Video @rachel_harris_  @mattcollinsusa

Julie Butler

Julie Butler is the editor of Jackson Hole Traveler. She has been making a living for many moons as a journalist, newspaper and magazine editor, and national magazine copywriter. The mother of four adult children, she relocated from Connecticut to Jackson Hole in 2014, ago after being a loyal visitor for 20 years.

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