Bull Hill Guest Ranch: America the Beautiful with horses and new-found family
KETTLE FALLS: At Bull Hill Guest Ranch you can experience America’s stunning open country on horseback, feeling like you’ve gone back in time to when the West was won. If you need a break from hard schedules, never-ending emails, and texts, Bull Hill Ranch owners, the Guglielmino family, has you covered as you become family for the duration of your visit.
It may be time for you to put on your wild side hat and let Bull Hill Ranch take you into one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Bull Hill Ranch sits high above the massive Columbia River in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains of Northeastern Washington, about 40 miles south of British Columbia. The nearest towns are Kettle Falls and historic Colville. The ranch is about a 2.5 hour car ride from Spokane.
Visitors fly into the Spokane Airport and can rent an SUV limo to take you to Bull Hill Ranch.
Columbia River – teeming with life and American legacy
Discovering the Columbia River, American fur trader Robert Gray must have experienced awe when exploring the Pacific Northwest. The area is, to this day, teeming with life. The same breath-taking discoveries as Gray found await anyone ready to put on some boots and hop into the saddle. A little trail dust in your nostrils is worth every whiff of clean mountain air.
Panoramic views of Idaho, Lake Roosevelt, and Canada are not in short supply at Bull Hill Guest Ranch. And frankly, it’s hard to find words to describe them. Pristine pine forests blanket the slopes as far as you can see. You get a sense that God is in charge here and the grandeur of his finest creations fills your soul.
Bull Hill Guest Ranch is part of a large working cattle ranch that dates back to 1903.
It started with Italian immigrants, Peter, and wife Mary Ansaldo who homesteaded a piece of property in the forested wilds of Washington. Mary’s daughter Kate became a Guglielmino after she married Minot, also an Italian immigrant. The Guglielmino family now owns and leases land covering just over 50,000 acres. About a quarter of that is actual deeded land.
What a legacy passed down three generations to six Guglielmino siblings.
One of the six siblings, Pete Guglielmino (along with wife Patsy), became the patriarch of Bull Hill Guest Ranch, building a legacy of unsurpassed hospitality.
Pete’s sons Hunter and Tucker are now fourth-generation ranch owners. Along with Pete’s brother Joe and nephew Brent Beardslee, they are the real deal in ranch and horse culture. Their speeches are rooted in the openness of the land pounded by the hoofbeats of galloping horses and cattle who graze in a wonderland of nature.
They are tied inextricably to the rain that makes tall emerald forests, and sunsets and sunrises that take words and worries away.
It appears their dreams, their wishes, and their hard work and sacrifices converge at Bull Hill Ranch. For them you wonder is there anything such as a bad day when you look at what they’ve built and share with others.
“I think we are one of the last of the authentic [ranches],” says Tucker.
The horses at Bull Hill work their way into your heart.
Sixty head of majestic horses serve the ranch guests during the day taking you through thick pine forests and open grassy fields. You can go up and down endless horse trails that run through the layered hills, watched over by hawks and eagles soaring in scenic skies. It’s a magical domain. This is not typical tourist horseback riding in a well-worn pattern, but a new horseback adventure every day.
You get to pick easy, medium, or hard rides.
At Bull Hill, you’ll find a horse and wrangler to suit you and your ability. Ages 5+ up can ride.
Wranglers Megan, Hailey, Jackie, Elizabeth, and Kate make sure of that. These experienced horsewomen hail from all parts of the country and have come together to get you on the back of a horse. Whether first time or experienced rider. These gals make sure you’re ‘good to go’ and the saddlery is done right.
Every minute on a Bull Hill Ranch horse is a minute well-spent.
“No hour is wasted that is spent in the saddle,” said horse lover Winston Churchill, who also believed, “When you’re on a horse, you have the best seat you will ever have.”
Every Bull Hill horse has a name and a personality to fall in love with. A variety of horse breeds make up the thundering herd who all seem to get along inside the corral and out. These equine beauties are noble, intelligent, and sensitive animals – well-loved by the Guglielmino family and staff.
There is no comparison of freedom equal to what you can feel on a horse. Pat Parelli, an American horse trainer who practices natural horsemanship, has this to say about horses,
“A horse doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care. Put your hand on your horse and your heart in your hand.” It really works.
The horses know the trails and are sure-footed. Remember true cowboys aren’t afraid to get dirty. A sore bottom earns you a place in the cowboy chronicles of Bull Hill.
Do yourself a favor and buy some good riding boots before you go. Tennis shoes will not serve you well.
Tucker says the biggest struggle is breaking and introducing the new horses into the herd.
“As the horses get older, you have to replenish with young blood and it’s always a chore to find and train new ones,” he says. “For the cattle, the challenges come down to weather and available feed. Rainy years yield good grazing land and the cattle gain weight well.”
Drought years are not so good. The cattle have to move to where natural food can be obtained, keeping in mind horses still need to eat off the land, too. In order to take you where you’ve never been before.
Head wrangler Joe Guglielmino can fulfill your dreams and bucket lists.
Droving cattle at Bull Hill Ranch is a huge rush as you descend from the high feeding grounds down 2000 vertical feet to the valley floor below. That opens up to grassy plains leading up to the entrance road and Columbia River.
Joe reminds riders of their job to drive the cattle, quite a bit different than a scenic ride to be had for another day.
The mighty Columbia River brims with salmon, sturgeon, trout, and pike. Semi-nomadic tribes called the upper Columbia River their home for thousands of years. They migrated in the summer to fish for salmon before returning to winter grounds. It still seems so untouched there. Call it rustic and romantic.
Quality accommodations without the corporate ‘turn and burn’ feel.
Pete Guglielmino started guiding hunts out of college and soon realized the land his family owned was really special. So in 1995 he took out a loan and broke ground for his envisioned guest ranch. It was just tents back then with “a pretty rank and small herd of cattle horses,” says Tucker, much different than today.
For Pete and all involved it was “If you build it, they will come.”
Over time hunting tents were replaced with cabins including a couple of luxury cabins. A new horse barn was built and the horse herd expanded. The barn at Bull Hill is the horse ‘Ritz’ of Kettle Falls.
When Glamping became popular in 2012 – the Guglielmino family brought back two Glamping tents. Repeat guests and word of mouth keep the boys and girls at Bull Hill busy.
They like to keep their total number of guests small (around 35) making it a very personal experience.
Included with overnight accommodations are 3 square meals a day, an open bar, and all activities for one price per person.
Prices vary according to what type of cabin or Glamping tent you pick. Incredible as it seems, it’s true. Other activities include trap shooting, fishing, and paddleboat cruising at Ansaldo Lake, hiking, mountain biking, or make your own adventure. There’s even an Old West saloon tour you can ride up to and hitch your horse out front, something you only see in western movies. There is a small fee for the Saloon museum inside honoring America’s military heroes.
The Bull Ranch Cookhouse: Great food and boot-kicking western fun.
Cooks Chris and Kayla hold nothing back serving up a feast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everyone gathers at the Cookhouse for home cooking with a wide variety of selections for each meal and all you can eat.
Get hearty ranch breakfasts; bacon like you’ve never tasted. Lunch waits for you after a brisk morning ride. If you choose an all-day ride – a sack lunch goes with you.
At night, steaks, chicken, Tri-tip, taco night, creative salads, mashed potatoes, and much more, topped off with yummy desserts. And of course coffee anytime.
Then gather around the bar for socializing with Bull Hill Ranch staff and other guests who become instant friends.
After a year of isolation from the pandemic – people are happy to meet together and tell their horse story for the day.
Or you can read all about the history of Bull Hill, play games or just look out the view window, tummy full, a day at the ranch fulfilled. The Rocky Mountain ‘high’ of your previous rides still pumping through your veins.
Even the ranch dogs warm up to you, especially in the Cookhouse. You might get a nose on your lap and some ‘forlorn’ eyes that melt any cowboy or cowgirl’s heart.
Western ways are part of America’s heritage.
Tucker Guglielmino describes ranch culture as “too ingrained in the American spirit to ever go away.” He’s the first person you meet when booking a stay. You can feel his smile through an email and you instantly know he’s out to please.
Yet, sadly he reminds “there are less and less ranches each year so the ability to experience it becomes harder and harder.”
But the wranglers don’t run off statistics, they feed off a passion for their land and its creatures. It’s about the family at Bull Hill. Being close- knit comes naturally for this clan and you get to be part of that when you visit.
“It’s like us being the “Cheers” version of a guest ranch where you feel like you’re home and everyone knows your name,” says Tucker.
The history of Pacific Northwest lives on at Bull Hill Guest Ranch. And when the day is done, the herd runs free at night. Feeding, frolicking, and kicking up their powerful hooves. Have you ever heard the resounding neighs of horses echoing throughout the still and lofty hills? People return year after year for the genuine, exciting, yet relaxing atmosphere.
If you want to go:
3738 Bull Hill Road
Kettle Falls, WA 99141
About the Author:
Senior Staff Writer for CommDigiNews, Jeanne McKinney is an award-winning writer whose focus and passion is our United States active-duty military members and military news. Her Patriot Profiles offer an inside look at the amazing active-duty men and women in all Armed Services, including U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard.
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