historic crail ranch

Self-Guided Tour



View of Crail Ranch buildings, c.1920

Start at the small cabin. In the spring of 1902, Crail brought his wife, Sallie, and their three children, Eugene, Emmett and Lilian, up the logging road from Bozeman and moved them into this small cabin, which was already on the property. We do not know what they did with the extra space, although photographs indicate that Sallie’s father, Abraham Creek, was living with them.

The small cabin was originally located about 70 yards south of its present location. It was moved in the 1950s so that it would not block the view of Lone Peak from the main cabin. Much later in its history, the small cabin suffered a fire, evidence of which can be seen on some logs and the boards around the door.

The Crail Ranch Grounds now comprise just about an acre. The last Crail, son Emmett, sold the ranch in 1950 to a couple named Hume who added additional acreage and then sold to a man named Sam Smeding in 1962. Smeding sold 1440 acres and the existing buildings in 1970 to the consortium put together by retired newscaster Chet Huntley to build Big Sky Resort. In the early 1980s, the resort gave the two historic buildings and an acre of land to the community. It is now preserved as an historic property by the Big Sky Community Organization.


A community garden project is tended in an old corral area on the Ranch

Informative view signs show scenes from the working life of the ranch from the 1910s to the 1950s. Each of the signs offers a perspective view of the ranch, highlighting buildings, fields, and other features from varying directions.

The west view sign is located at about the spot where the small cabin originally stood. The west windows of the main cabin are directly behind you.

As you read the sign, you can look up and see a magnificent view of Lone Peak. Imagine the land in 1902, and you will know why Franklin Crail and his family built their homestead in just this spot.

Take a walk around the main cabin. The Crail family set about building the main cabin right away. See if you can pick out the lines of logs that show that they first built a one-story cabin similar to the small cabin, and then extended to the east and added a second story. We know that before coming to the Gallatin Basin area, Franklin Crail built a homestead ranch in the Springhill section of Bozeman. We believe that his son Eugene, who became a carpenter, built much of the main cabin that you see here.

The Crail brand from 1906 hangs on the shed and is the Lazy F R; the Hume brand from 1956 is on the south walk.


David Coffin, current owner of first Crail homestead in the Bridgers, notes similarities in construction.

What’s inside?  For many years, the historic small cabin was used for storage. It is now a primary display area of the Crail Ranch Homestead Museum. On view are artifacts and photographs depicting the Crail Ranch as a working ranch, when cattle and sheep ranged over the meadows that are now the Big Sky golf course, and fields of hay covered areas that are now homes and condominiums.

Take a peek in the windows. The  furniture and artifacts in the living room or parlor display the “special” pieces that helped make homestead living “civilized” for the frontier family.


Tour guides highlight historic materials from the Crail family and other generous donors

The kitchen was the main work area in the home where the homestead wife and her helpers would be busy all day feeding the family and the ranch workers.



The upstairs bedrooms are viewable only on guided tours. On display are quilts dating to the late 1800s, sewn by Sallie Creek Crail.

Living room

Living room

Quilts from the 1800’s

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