Gene Kilgore’s Ranch Vacations

Ranch Vacations
The Leading Guide to Guest and Resort, Fly-Fishing, and Cross-Country Skiing Ranches in the United States and Canada, 6th Edition.

Food and wine shine this month at Paws Up

Paws upA weekend of bliss, interrupted only by food and wine? That’s what they promise you’ll find this month at Montana’s
Resort at Paws Up.

If you hurry, you just might catch the Montana Master Chefs series at this spectacular ranch, set to run from September 30 through October 3. The five chefs (from the Campanile Restaurant’s Mark Peel to the Bravo TV Channel’s “Top Chef contestant Lee Anne Wong) will present cooking demos, a cook-off challenge, and featured dinners. In between, there are wilderness activities and a champagne reception. The wines are just as impressive as the schedule: Grgich Hills Estate, Merry Edwards Winery, and Trefethen Family Vineyards. Don’t miss it! Rates: for 4 days/3 nights, $4,323 per couple. Call 800/ 473-0601 or go to


Festivities at the ranch

Some late-breaking news from our Ranchweb members:

Lone Mountain Ranch

Feb. 13-16: Mardi Gras Montana –style. In the Mardi Gras “Ski for Beads”  event, you show your Lone Mountain Ranch XC ski trail pass and receive festive Mardi Gras beads. Try a tasty New Orleans Fat Tuesday lunch in the dining lodge on Feb. 16 (from noon to 2) and you’ll find lots of Louisiana specials.

Sunday, March 7: Glide and Gorge. It’s an ideal event for skiers and foodies! Glide along the Ranch XC ski trails, and “gorge” along the way, stopping for gourmet salads/appetizers, like Jambalaya and cornbread, lamb brochettes, shrimp skewers, and delectable desserts. All will be paired with samples from local breweries and wine distributors. Details: $40 per person

Sleigh and Stay special. One night’s lodging in a cozy log Lone Mountain Ranch cabin, a sleigh ride dinner and breakfast the next morning in the Ranch Dining Lodge. Details: $195 per person (based on double occupancy).

Winter Getaways – One or two nights. One night Lone Mountain Ranch Getaway includes lodging in a cozy log cabin, dinner and breakfast in the Ranch Dining Lodge. Details: $195 per person (double occupancy). Two night getaways include two night’s lodging in a cabin, two dinners, one lunch and two breakfasts in the Ranch Dining Lodge; $195 per person/per night (based on double occupancy).

Triple Creek Ranch – Relais & Châteaux
Valentine’s Day Weekend – Feb 12 – 15, 2010. Triple Creek Ranch is always one really romantic hideaway, but on Valentine’s weekend the ranch takes it to a whole new level. Kick back during the day relaxing indoors or venturing outdoors amidst Montana’s stunning winter scenery, then while away evenings in front of a cozy fire in your luxury cabin. Chef Jake prepares  gourmet meals served in a rustic candlelit dining room. Executive Pastry Chef Christopher Whitten will present a selection of chocolate, while wine expert Jeremy White will suggest the correct wine to go with each taste treat. Details: From $650 per couple


Holiday ranch roundup

For our December news roundup, we’re continuing to roll out new features for the blog. Last month, we introduced Newsflash, Hot Deals, and Tips from the Ranchers. New to the blog this month: The Smart Ranch Traveler: suggestions on ways to save money on a ranch vacation. Stylish Dudes: New stuff ranchers/guests are wearing at the ranch. And Green Dudes: about new environmentally-friendly practices ranches have introduced. Happy holidays!



It’s the newest guest ranch in the West, set to open in May 2010 (but with a soft opening this month, see below). Set roughly halfway between Butte and Missoula, Montana, The Ranch at Rock Creek is a 6,800-acre ranch, anchored by the stylish Granite Lodge, with its spa, and Silver Dollar Saloon. Two private rental houses and several glam safari-style cabin/tents on platforms by the creek and in the woods augment the lodging. Lucky guests have private access to activities from sleigh rides, ice skating, cross country skiing and snowshoeing, to bowling, shooting sporting clays, and horseback riding. Inside the stone-and-timber Granite Lodge, guest rooms are decorated in iconic Western themes, but include all the comforts and luxury of a high-end hotel.

It’s all the vision of investment banker Jim Manley, who spent 30 years searching for the perfect setting for a ranch that he’d dreamed of owning since his youth (when Bonanza was his fave show). This unique combination of the authentic ranch setting with luxury amenities, five-star equivalent food and wine, and state-of-the-art facilities is right here in the American West. While the facility is new, it retains a sense of place and fits the surrounding environment perfectly. Dining room

In summer, the fun is endless: angling on blue-ribbon trout streams, mountain biking, archery, target shooting at sporting clays, hiking, or horseback riding in the famed big sky country. Nearby, you’ll find ghost towns, battlefields and museums to roam, rodeos, parades, and wildlife to watch.
At some point, after all that action, you’ll want to relax and rejuvenate at the ranch’s full service spa. Or maybe just hang out and enjoy the wine pairing, tea and cookies, and four-star level cuisine.

“Guests have exclusive use of the 6,800 acre ranch, including The Granite Lodge, Spa, and Silver Dollar Saloon, plus private access to all activities, and everything ‘big sky country’ has to offer,’ notes General Manager Paul Robertson.

Details: The ranch celebrates its official grand opening in May 2010; starting rates (includes meals, activities) in May: rooms from $800 to $950 per person per night, tents from $825 to $1150; houses rent for $5000 to $6200 per night. This holiday season, private groups may get a sneak preview. Starting on December 17, The Ranch at Rock Creek is open for private groups who book the entire facility.It includes downhill skiing at nearby Discovery Basin with 60+ runs of all skill levels, horseback riding, on-ranch cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, massage treatments, and so much more. “Share this unforgettable western destination with your best clients and they will always be grateful.” For the holiday season, the all-inclusive package price starts at $17,600 per night; for details, please call 888/-757-2624.

Smart Ranch Traveler

Northwest Nebraska

At the Ponderosa Ranch, Kim & Jeff Lund tell me that “families can save a lot amount of money with the a la carte pricing that we offer our guests”. That is offered in additional to the traditional all inclusive vacation package. Essentially, guests can choose the amount of horseback riding they wish to do and pay only for the hours they ride. Families who do not have a lot of riding experience or are not into the sport only want 1-2 hours of riding at a time and that may be all they wish to do for the entire day. The Ponderosa’s guests can then fill their day with sightseeing activities in the area, which they can pick and choose to fit their budget as well. They can also choose the number of meals they eat with our family. “Each of our cabins have their own kitchens,” say the Lunds, “allowing families on a tight budget to prepare some or all of their own meals.”
Great cost-saving ideas! And it works at Ponderosa because, as the Lunds say, “Our guests chose our ranch because its a small, family-owned operation. We only take one family at a time riding (generally 4-5 people maximum) which allows for a very personalized experience.”

Hot Deals

Holiday Packages abound this month. It’s a great way to spend a festive holiday at the ranch and let them take care of the hard work! Here’s a selection of packages:


From her desk at Sandpoint’s Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, Janice tells us, “We are trying something a little different this year at the ranch with our sleigh rides.” Indeed. They’re hosting A Simple Christmas – Sleigh Rides And Christmas Trees beginning Sunday, November 29 and ending December 19 or until trees are gone. So gather the family together, bundle up and get ready to enjoy this family outing at the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.

First, you’ll load up on a horse drawn sleigh and ride through the forest out to the tree lot.  Pick out your own fresh cut, locally-grown Christmas tree, warm up at the bonfire, then hop back into your sleigh and ride back to the lodge where for popcorn, hot chocolate, and coffee.
A Simple Christmas—Sleigh Rides And Christmas Trees runs:
Sundays – Nov, 29th, Dec. 6th, Dec. 13th  at 3:00, 4:00, and 5:00
Wednesdays – Dec. 2nd, 9th, and 16th,  at 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00
Fridays – Dec.  4th and 11th   at 4:00, 5:00, and 6:00
Saturdays – Dec. 5th , 12th , 19th  at 11:00, 12:00 and 1:00
Reservations are required and available. Cost including tree is $90 plus tax for a family of four.
Each additional person is $15.00.  Kids five and under are free. If there is not enough snow, wagon rides will be substituted.

British Columbia, Canada

In Clinton, B.C., the Big Bar Guest Ranch offers a Christmas Package with a difference. “This year we are presenting a Danish Christmas,” our friend Susan notes. “This special Christmas will be complete with ceremonies and specialties from Denmark.” Following the Danish tradition, they’ll be celebrating Christmas on December 24.

Go ice skating, gaze at the star-filled night sky, ride through the snow, go on a dog sled trip, cross country ski, or perhaps just snuggle up in front of a crackling fire with a cup of warmth in your hands. Danish Christmas  Package: December 23–26 (3 Nights – 4 Days),
All Inclusive, Sagebrush Inn, $569.30 per couple (taxes included) – special pricing for children includes 3 Nights Accommodation (1 night free) and all meals, including special Christmas Eve Supper. Free outdoor activities: skating, snow shoeing, x-country skiing, star gazing. Activities with fees: Horseback riding, skidooing, dog sledding. All outdoor activities are weather dependent. Adds Susan, “Please let us know which activities you want to commit to at the time of booking.”

At Canada’s Tod Mountain Ranch, Christmas is a pretty big deal. “We take a traditional approach to the Christmas holidays. Our Christmas tree, which was grown here on the ranch, will be decorated with hundreds of twinkly lights and shiny baubles,” says Tracey.

During the day, relax and enjoy the comfort, calm and tranquility of the ranch. Go hiking, snowshoeing or cross country skiing on ungroomed trails around the ranch. Visit Sun Peaks Resort (just 15 minutes away) for downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiles. Sun Peaks has 100 runs open on all three mountains and we hear it has snowed pretty much every day for the past three weeks. But the ranch is down in the valley with warmer weather and less snow plus the quiet, calm, relaxing environment of the ranch. Christmas Special Package: December 23- 28 ($125 per person per night). On Christmas Eve, after dinner, you can join the local ranchers at the annual carol service at our country church followed by mulled wine and mince pies back at the ranch. Dinner on Christmas Day will be a traditional Christmas feast with roast turkey, baked ham and all the trimmings. dog sledding and sleigh rides. You can even ski with Santa at Sun Peaks on 23rd and 24th December. Rate includes accommodation, all meals, unlimited non-alcoholic drinks & snacks throughout your stay and use of all ranch facilities.

Stylish Dudes


ESTANCIA LOS POTREROSEstancia Los Potreros Argentina by Astrid Harrisson Guides

Set in a lush reserve in Argentina’s Cordoba Hills, Estancia Los Potreros dates from 1574 and is deservedly proud of its heritage. Travelers to the ranch often come away imbued with the Gaucho spirit that permeates the ranch. Happily, they can take away something more tangible as well.

Shown at right is the boina headgear worn by Estancia Los Potreros gauchos. “This is the ‘new stuff’ we all wear on the ranch,” our friend Robin tells us. “They attract such respect that even the men wear them.” And you can buy boinas on the ranch.

Green Dude Ranches

We also wanted to mention the Estancia’s Environmental Memorandum, which may be reason enough for some environmentally-conscious travelers to visit the farm in Argentina. The owners have a passion for conservation and the preservation of the environment. They cherish the farm’s spring water and use wind and solar energy.

“We take inspiration from a Native American Proverb,” says Robin. “It goes: We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”. Well said.

Here is an excerpt from their memorandum:
“…The horses are bred locally and the farm is the source of employment for a number of local people. The farm believe in totally organic farming; they do not use any growth hormones, pesticides, insecticides or chemical fertilizers.”

“They are careful not to overgraze and keep the stocking rate to a minimum level that allows the natural grasses to regenerate. The cattle and horses are free range and the cattle eat back certain paddocks to build natural fire breaks in the winter.”
For more, read their philosophy in full by clicking here.


Ranch rodeos and horsemanship

horseback-ridersAudrey at Arizona‘s Hidden Meadow Ranch just sent me a note about their upcoming Wild West Rodeo Month, June 1-30. It sounds like a blast.

Wild West Rodeo Month includes all Hidden Meadow Ranch’s normal equine-related activities (trail rides, etc.) plus a whole lot more. Special activities include: thorough saddling/grooming lessons (encouraging a more hands-on approach to the horse experience);  two all-day off-property rides to  Mt. Baldy and Mt. Escadilla (two of the three highest points in Arizona), complete with lunch on the trail;   arena games including the wild horse catch, egg and spoon race, barrel racing, ribbon race, and many more;   horse training demos;   roping demonstrations and lessons; a cattle drive with faux cows; and probably everyone’s favorite, team penning competitions (with rented cattle!).

Nestled on 150 acres of private land in the heart of the White Mountains, Hidden Meadow Ranch is an all-inclusive hideaway replete with 12 rustically-elegant log cabins, unparalleled amenities, exceptional service and cuisine, and year-round family activities such as hiking, fly-fishing, archery, canoeing, leather-making, horseback riding and much more.

More ranches with rodeo and horsemanship clinics and events: Check out Montana‘s Runamuk Guest Ranch, outside Billings, for horsemanship clinics, cattle handling clinics, one-on-one instruction, and riding for the advanced. At British Columbia’s Siwash Lake Ranch, they offer horsemanship, wildlife spotting, hiking with naturalists and eco-adventure clinics; says Allyson, “June is the BEST month at Siwash for wildlife-watching and hands-on horsemanship.”


Ranch-style fun at Cowboy Days

If a hearty breakfast is the best way to start the day, then the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum’s 10th annual Cowboy Days festival should get off to a good start. Held in Las Cruces, New Mexico at one of the West’s premier museums celebrating farming and ranching, Cowboy Days is set for March 14-15.

For many, however, the fun begins at 8 A.M. each day with the cowboy breakfast. A chuck wagon cook will create an authentic cowboy breakfast featuring Dutch oven favorites such as biscuits and gravy, and eggs and bacon (tickets $9 in advance, $10 on the day). Cowboy Days admission is included in the price of the breakfast tickets.

The festival includes live western music, living history fun, and arts and crafts show and a Charreada (Mexican style rodeo), horsemanship demonstrations, rides, and more.Cowboy Days also marks the opening of an extensive new exhibit at the museum. “A Most Terrible Wonder: Firearms from 1600 to 1900” features dozens of guns from the museum’s collections.

For more information, please call 575/ 522-4100 or click here.

And why not visit a New Mexico ranch while you’re there? The Geronimo Trails Guest Ranch , open year-round, offers a real Old West adventure set in southwest New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. Or check out The Lodge at Chama. It’s a world-class outdoor sporting destination and outstanding corporate retreat on 36,000 acres with supurb lake trophy trout fishing and one of the worlds largest private elk herds.