In the first episode of the insanely popular series “Yellowstone,” Kevin Costner’s character John Dutton quips, “Leverage is knowing if someone had all the money in the world, this is what they’d buy.” When the camera soars over his family’s sprawling Yellowstone Ranch in Montana, it’s easy to see why.
“Yellowstone” has it all: intense family drama, political intrigue, and more knock-down drag-out fights per episode than you can shake a branding iron at. It’s that explosive mix that has fans waiting impatiently for another season to arrive (hopefully later this year!).
To say the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, with its white barns and big-sky vistas is stunning would be an understatement. And for those of us who appreciate beautiful houses, the show also has us hooked on the historic log home where the Dutton family lives.
It’s obvious they didn’t film this on a backlot somewhere or on a soundstage with green screens. This is the real deal. And so is the house where they film the show in Montana.
Not only that, but you can rent two of the guest cabins on the property that you’ve seen on TV. Read on to learn all about it!
The Dutton Family’s Yellowstone Ranch
At the heart of “Yellowstone” is the story of a family doing everything in their power to hold onto the ranch where generations of Duttons have lived and worked before them.
Kevin Costner plays the patriarch, John Dutton, who realizes he needs to prepare his children to take over eventually.
But which of them can he trust with the future of their family’s legacy — Jamie (played by Wes Bentley), Beth (Kelly Reilly), or Kayce (Luke Grimes)?
They film “Yellowstone” in Darby, Montana, at the historic Chief Joseph Ranch.
Darby is a small town of about 720 people, about 4 hours west of Bozeman.
The Chief Joseph Ranch is near the Idaho border, in the foothills of the Bitterroot mountain range.
Chief Joseph Ranch sits on a trail once taken by the Lewis and Clark expedition.
The main house we see on “Yellowstone” is a 6,000-square-foot historic log mansion.
It was built in the early 1900s and was painstakingly restored in the 1990s.
The website for Chief Joseph Ranch explains its history in more detail:
The 2,500-acre property was located in the western part of lands inhabited by the Salish tribe for hundreds of years.
When Lewis and Clark entered the upper Bitterroot Valley in September 1805, they followed a trail used by the native tribes. The Nez Perce also annually traveled the trail south to reach the bison hunting grounds in the Big Hole Valley, often banding together with the Salish to counter threats from other tribes, notably the Blackfoot.
Chief Joseph led his people across the ranch in his flight from the U.S. Army during the Nez Perce War in the summer of 1877.
The property was homesteaded by settlers in 1880 and was originally known as the Shelton Ranch.
It was later sold to a glass tycoon from Ohio named William Ford.
He commissioned Bates & Gamble, an architectural firm in Toledo, to build his family’s summer home.
When Ford bought the ranch, it was an apple orchard:
Using both log and stone resources native to the grounds, William Ford began a three-year endeavor to build one of the great log structures of the American West: the Ford-Hollister Lodge. The family moved into the house in 1920.
Ford also built three massive barns as the centerpiece for his model dairy. He later replaced the apple trees with the largest herd of Holsteins west of the Mississippi. In the early 1920s, the dairy operation gave way to a Hereford herd.
In the 1950s, the Ford and Hollister Ranch was sold and renamed the Chief Joseph Ranch in honor of the great Nez Perce chief and his journey through the property.
(Note: I summarized the history above. Visit the Chief Joseph Ranch website for more details and to see old photos of the ranch!)
The Chief Joseph Ranch is currently owned by Shane Libel and his family, who says:
“We run the ranch as a guest ranch from June through August. We have horses and cows and we sell hay.
“The most surreal thing in the world is when you’re sitting in your own living room, watching a show that’s filmed in your house.”
(Can you imagine? Especially with some of the wild scenes on this show!)
When it comes to the historic log home they live in and where many of the “Yellowstone” scenes are shot, both inside and out, Libel says, “There’s always a balance between what we preserve historically and what we make functional for a modern family.”
“When we moved here we redid the kitchen, we redid the mudroom, we redid the great room, I could make a list a mile long of the things we improved.”
“Yellowstone” is a Paramount Network original series.
The streamer filmed a behind-the-scenes video showing the ranch during filming.
The Two-Story Great Room in the “Yellowstone” Lodge
Many of the scenes take place in this room around the river-rock fireplace.
Here you can see them filming one with Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser):
The behind-the-scenes video features an informative interview with Set Decorator Carla Curry.
She gives us all the details on the house and how they style it for the show:
Curry, who is also working on the sets for the “Yellowstone” prequel “1883,” says:
“This house is the real deal. This is what makes this show sing.
The lodge has become another character in our show.”
“The main timber that is up in the roof is 153′ long and it’s all from one single tree.”
“The lighting in here is original Tiffany, and original to the lodge.
We’re just thrilled to have these details in the Dutton world. It couldn’t be more spot-on.”
“The lodge has been here for generations, and we wanted it to feel like it has evolved over those generations,” Curry says.
“The sofas are new, the draperies are new, but we mixed them in with family heirloom antiques.
We want it to feel like generations have brought their style and aesthetics to the lodge.”
“We leave it here all year round and encourage the family to use it.
This is not a set, it is not a stage, this is a private home that we are lucky enough to be in.”
In a flashback to 1996 we see the Great Room decorated for Christmas (below):
There’s a balcony/loft area overlooking the Great Room from the second floor:
The Great Room is large enough to fit multiple seating and conversation areas.
The lodge has been featured in magazines like Architectural Digest.
The Dutton Ranch Kitchen
The kitchen doesn’t seem very big for a house of this size, but it has a lot of character with the log and stone walls, the plaid wallpaper, and the rows of hooks where they can hang their cowboy hats.
One of my favorite things about the kitchen is the large window over the sink that overlooks the property:
There are four bedrooms and two bathrooms on the second floor.
John Dutton’s Bedroom:
The cozy sitting area off John’s bedroom features another stone fireplace:
Beth Dutton’s Bedroom:
Beth, who is kind of terrifying (John Dutton says she even “walks mad”), is played by British actress Kelly Reilly.
In a flashback to 1996 we see her bathroom with pink paneled walls and a freestanding tub:
Set Decorator Carla Curry says they added the striped curtains throughout the house for the show.
One of my readers shared her family’s personal connection to the ranch:
“My mother grew up on that ranch. Her parents came over from Norway and her father, Ragnvald Storm, was one of the managers of the Ford Ranch.
“I remember a lot of stories of keeping the fireplace wood stocked for the walk-in fireplaces, watching all the parties from the catwalk above the great room, playing in the barns, etc. We have a very long history with that ranch/lodge. Even my grandmother’s sister, from Norway, was the cook there.
“The house is way up on a hill and it requires quite a hike (or ATV or horse) to get down around the road to the barns.
“My husband and I have visited several times and stayed in the main lodge. It’s amazing to see it all on TV, but it’s even more incredible in person.
She also mentions the dining room, saying, “I think the current owners have remodeled the dining room because the last time we were there, it was all glass windows (where my mother once found a rattlesnake curled up in the corner in the sun!). Unless those dining room scenes are filmed on a set, it’s certainly changed.”
This makes me wonder if they repurposed another room for the show, turning it into the dining room. If anyone has the scoop, let me know!
In 1993 Barbara Lloyd wrote about the ranch and its history for the New York Times:
Melvin Pervais, a 53-year-old Chippewa Indian, bought the 1,400-acre Chief Joseph Ranch in 1987. A self-made multimillionaire who grew up on the Ojibwa Reservation along the Canadian shore of Lake Superior, Mr. Pervais left the reservation when he was 16 and later made his fortune setting up control systems for nuclear power plants.
When Melvin Pervais bought the Chief Joseph Ranch in the 1980s, it was in serious disrepair:
“It was weed infested, no fences, barns falling apart,” Mr. Pervais said. But the ranch had a beguiling history, and its main log house, which Mr. Pervais refers to as the lodge, had retained its ornate beauty.
The NYT story reported that “Some of the logs in the lodge are 60 feet long and nearly 2 feet in diameter. A ridge timber, which runs the length of the roof line, is 120 feet long.” The trees were at least 200 years old.
The wood for the house was harvested from trees nearby. They let them dry out for a year in order to help preserve the bark.
This was a time-consuming and expensive process that would rarely (if ever) be replicated today. The bark was left on the outside of the house but removed from interior logs.
You can rent two of the cabins on the Chief Joseph Ranch.
They offer Lee Dutton’s and Rip Wheeler’s cabins for short-term stays.
Here’s how Lee’s Cabin appeared in Season 2 (below):
The ranch website says:
The Fisherman Cabin (Lee’s home) overlooks the Bitterroot River, providing 360-degree views of the Bitterroot Mountains and the Sapphire Mountains. Built in 1916, the cabin served as housing for the lodge’s domestic staff. $1,200 a night for up to 4 guests.
Rip’s cabin (which was later Kayce’s on the show) starts at $1,500 per night.
A tour of the ranch and the set locations is included. This would be my kind of vacation!
Check availability on the Chief Joseph Ranch website.
“Yellowstone” films on location at the main lodge, the barns, the trapper’s cabin, and the bunkhouse (shown below):
Chief Joseph Ranch owner Shane Libel says they leave the “Yellowstone Dutton Ranch” sign up at the entrance to the ranch year-round, even when they’re not filming, and get “hundreds of people” coming out to take photos of it. (I bet!)
I took these screenshots while streaming the show and watching the behind-the-scenes video provided by Paramount.
You can stream the first three seasons of “Yellowstone” on Peacock, but you’ll have to subscribe to Paramount Plus to stream the fourth. They’re reportedly going to start filming the fifth season later this year.
And then there’s the “Yellowstone” prequel, billed as the Dutton family’s origin story, called “1883” that you can only watch on Paramount Plus at the moment.
It stars real-life couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as John Dutton’s ancestors, James and Margaret Dutton.
For more information about “Yellowstone” and the ranch where it’s filmed:
- Chief Joseph Ranch Website
- Ranch Photos and Reservation Info for Cabin Rentals
- Behind-the-Scenes Video with Interviews
- The NYT Article about the Ranch’s History
- Architectural Digest article from 1994
- Paramount’s YouTube Channel for All Things “Yellowstone”
Are you a “Yellowstone” fan, counting the months until the next season arrives?
If you haven’t tuned in yet, sensitive viewers should know that it can be pretty violent at times. I’m often watching through my fingers, waiting for the fight scenes to be over because I’m such a wimp about that stuff. But the family drama and the gorgeous setting are compelling enough to keep me watching!
Check out my TV & Movie Houses page to see more faves I’ve featured,
like the house from “Knives Out” (shown below) and more!