off-grid ranches guide

Imagine traveling for an hour by GWD Ranger, snowcat or snowmobile, sitting mountain top, overlooking tens of thousands of acres without a light bulb in sight. Take in the views ranging from the skyline of high peaks to the rocky crags of valley floors, from timbered ridges to open parks.

Now picture yourself, your friends and your family living in comfort and safety while enjoying direct access to the “hard to get to” West. This is no longer just a dream. Lifestyles in the remote backcountry of the West have entered a new level of comfort with the benefits of today’s off-grid ranches.

The true Western hunt has evolved

Growing up as an outfitter in the West, owning and running backcountry camps from the Wilderness Areas of Colorado to the remote National Parks of Alaska, no matter how hard we worked to provide creature comforts for our guests and ourselves, those goals historically fell far short of real comfort.

To a “true” hunter, leaving a warm bed, pulling on socks from a warm floor, and relishing the creature comforts of a warm toilet seat were pleasures one enjoyed after hunting season ended. We addicted types—both men and women—have packed light for the overnight bivi, only to have bad weather slip in and add more to our “true” western hunt than we originally bargained for.

Now, as a western ranch broker with M4 Ranch Group, I’ve been fortunate enough to discover that there are real western hunting experiences that allow for the comforts of life for the family and friends of the aggressive hunter. Even if you aren’t just this side of nuts when it comes to curling up under the brows of a pine tree while snow stacks up on your never-warm-enough sleeping bag, you can still find yourself at daylight on a ridge where the perfect bull meandered the day before.

I have recently had the privilege of spending some quality time on just such remote western ranches. The kind of place where you fall asleep to the bugling bulls. The kind of place where you wake up just before sun-up, have a hot shower, drink a hot cup of coffee, throw on your newly washed hunting clothes, eat a hot breakfast, grab your rifle and quietly slip out the door ready to hunt, stepping directly into elk country.

Interior of off-grid ranch, guide to off-grid ranches

Sustainable roughing it

As the demands upon us grow and our time seems to become more and more limited, as big game tags in quality areas become more and more difficult to attain, and as the West has continued to shrink, these rare, large backcountry ranches not only provide a place to recreate and hunt in comfort, but also a place to escape the increasing bonds of society. A place to build a legacy. A place to find refuge for family and friends. A place where white noise is not the norm.

The terms living in the backwoods or living in the outback have taken on a very different meaning in the world of new technologies. For 
those who have taken advantage, the days of roughing it are long gone. 
More and more remote ranches are being built and greatly improved with today’s technology, providing the comforts and safety of any home in any city while being miles and miles from the nearest street light.

For example, we recently listed just such a world-class, remote Colorado Ranch: Red Hawk Ranch, located in the peaks just above Crested Butte, Colorado. Like many out-of-the-way western ranches, this one was built with the ultimate in creature comforts constructed at 
every level. And it sits right in the migratory path of the famed Gunnison Elk Herd, home to some of the West’s biggest mule deer bucks.

Modern energy for secluded living

Electricity has become a worry-free part of these off-grid ranches. The newly increased productivity of solar panels, innovations of the new inverters, and advancements in modern monitoring systems have greatly added to the exceptional storage capacity of today’s lithium-ion and salt water batteries and even the new Tesla Powerwall. Providing reliable, truly deliverable, on-demand electricity to a remote, full-size ranch house is an easily attainable goal. Think of the single innovation of the LED light bulb; this one tool has changed the backcountry ranch house’s power demand challenges forever.

The historically tested and true fuel sources of wood and propane provide consistent, reliable heat, allowing the backcountry ranch house to sit comfortably at the tree line even during the coldest mountain nights. Many of these western ranches have road systems that provide summer access to fill buried propane fuel tanks, providing the luxury of on-demand hot water, the cooling needs of a propane refrigerator, and thermostatically controlled forced-air back-up heat.

One of the remote hunting ranches we worked on recently had an off-grid wood stove heating system with digital controls and forced air vents built in. Three-foot logs in the stove, coupled with the forced air fan that was powered by the electricity gathered from the sun by solar panels and stored tandem batteries, easily delivered on-demand heat to the top-of-the-world, five-bedroom, four-bath hunting lodge.

Off-grid energy, guide to off-grid ranches

Technology transforms the backcountry experience

On many of these more remote western ranches, the biggest problem is driving through elk to hunt elk! We are even seeing owners take advantage of the new electric hunting vehicles. When you live in elk country, the last thing you want to do is scare your wildlife neighbors on your way to the distant hunting spot.

Many of us yearn for the quiet of the backcountry, the solitude of the private mountain basin, or the unencumbered views of distant peaks—even running at times from the onslaught of new and ever-changing technology. We can now safely move to and from our favorite backcountry spots in silence or we can call out to whoever, whenever, from our tiny satellite phones. We can find our trails and blinds in the worst snowstorm with GIS technology. We can talk, move and live safely in the wild through the innovations of the current modern world, all while enjoying what nature has provided.

Bottom line: Today’s technology is building a better, safer and more accessible remote backcountry ranch. If you’re looking for comfortable, remote living that can deliver the big game and recreational opportunities you love, give us a call at M4 Ranch Group.


  • Dan Murphy has called southwestern Colorado home his entire adult life. His dedication to understanding issues at the heart of western Colorado has been exemplified through his service in numerous arenas. Dan’s work commitment, positive outlook, and approach on wildlife and domestic issues have brought forth progressive, positive, and life altering changes. He has spent a lifetime understanding rivers, western lands, wildlife, and the issues they face. He is currently the Owner/Broker of Team Murphy Realty and M4 Ranch Group a division of Team Murphy Realty, specializing in ranch and recreational properties in Colorado and New Mexico.

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