Wyoming, with a population density of six people per square mile, may never have been more appealing as a vacation destination as it is now.
As the summer travel season looms with no end to social distancing in sight, it's little wonder the Cowboy State is suddenly in vogue.
And one Wyoming resort property is offering what few others can: your own private ranch where you can quarantine in ultimate luxury.
A cool $25,000 per night
Magee Homestead, located in scenic and remote Saratoga, is offering up its collection of nine high-end cabins to those lucky few who can afford the steep price tag: a minimum of $25,000 a night to rent out the entire property.
And with most groups choosing to stay at least seven nights, the (minimum) cost is a jaw-dropping $175,000.
Of course, the amenities guests receive for this chunk of change are unsurprisingly plentiful. Rooms, meals, and most activities are included in the nightly rate, though guests will have to spend extra for certain services like spa treatments.
Magee, a member of the highly regarded Relais & Chateaux group of hotels, is one of the most lauded ranches in the country.
The property is nestled in 30,000 private acres of prairies, mountains and rivers, all of which act as a playground for the resort's guests.
Accommodations include nine historically restored cabins, which are dotted along a manicured path and surround a central fire pit. The largest structures are like small homes, with three bedrooms and a full kitchen, but all of them feature pitch-perfect Western interior décor and astounding views of the surrounding wilderness.
Activities include everything from horseback trail rides, to touring the property in an all-terrain Polaris Ranger vehicle, to an adrenaline-pumping session of paintball on a private hilltop meadow.
Afterwards, guests can relax at the private on-site spa, which boasts both an outdoor pool with cabanas and an indoor grotto for late-night dips.
Spa services are held either in lush private rooms or in the property's outdoor teepee: popular options include a heated river stone massage and a scalp treatment created to alleviate the symptoms of adjusting to high altitude.
And of course, due to Covid-19, aestheticians will be in gloves and face shields for an added layer of protection.
A Covid first
Interestingly, this full-property rental almost didn't happen.
Magee, which is part of the larger resort of Brush Creek Ranch, was planning on staying closed for its entire 2020 season, with just the more family-oriented Lodge and Spa property opening for interested guests.
The hotel's management originally felt that the Lodge was the most likely to attract guests during the pandemic (Magee is usually closed to children), so they planned on consolidating staff onto just the one property. But then, "we started to get a lot of inquiries about private buyouts," says Magee Homestead's proprietor Jeremy Belnap.
"Families were really interested in getting away; traveling, dreaming and seeing their families again, if they weren't all in quarantine together. So, we thought it made a lot of sense to open up to buyouts."
Within just a few weeks of announcing the availability, Magee booked four groups (including one that will be staying for an enviable 14 days), and "we'll probably do eight to 10 weeks of business there this summer," Belnap says.
Considering the resort's normal summer schedule only runs June 20 to the end of September, the property was actually able to salvage a decent portion of their busy season. Normally, rates for the rooms start at $1,000 per person per night, with a minimum of two guests in each room.
Customized and tailored
For Belnap and his staff, private buyouts allow for more creativity and flexibility than their normal operation.
Almost everything can be tailored to the guests' wishes, from group activities to customized meals. "We'll iron out all of their likes and dislikes," Belnap says of liaising with the group before arrival. "If they really want to do an Italian or Mexican night, we'll create it. We can really get custom with the group's desires."
The staff can arrange outings from a family competition at the on-site gun range to a day high in the tree canopies within the challenging ropes course.
While the property can technically be rented for as little as one person, the nine cabins contain a total of 12 bedrooms, with room for a group as large as 27 people.
Typically, Magee has around 25 staff members, depending on the size of the group, which means there is often more staff than guests. The high ratio means a level of pampering rare at all but the most exclusive properties in the world.
Aside from the tailored activities and the sumptuous cabins, Magee -- and the larger property of Brush Creek Ranch -- is also known for its innovative cuisine, which marries the ingredients of the American West with sophisticated preparations.
There is, naturally, a private dining room at Magee, but guests also have the option of taking a short drive to The Farm, Brush Creek's gorgeous on-site complex of a restaurant, brewery, distillery, creamery and bakery. Diners there can choose from high-end multi-course menus at the upscale Cheyenne Club, and the property will be holding socially distanced outdoor events this summer as well.
For guests in accommodations with kitchens and an inclination to cook, food from the Ranch can be procured.
Magee is taking guest health and safety seriously and has implemented new practices in response to the coronavirus.
All staff will wear masks (and gloves when necessary), and the hotel will provide optional ones for guests to wear if they choose.
There is also a dedicated team for each group's stay, so that staff won't be coming and going from the property during the visit. "You can build relationships [with the staff], but also know that you don't have a different server every single day, exposing yourself to that many more people," says Belnap.
And, since the property is closed to all but one party at a time, there is no need for spacing tables six feet apart in the dining room or for guests to social distance from one another during activities. "If you have the whole place to yourself, there will be some amount of normalcy," says Belnap.
A rarity in these times, no doubt.