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.

Rancho luxurious: Montana’s Rock Creek

We’re continuing our series about some of the most luxurious guest ranches in the world, where lodging is top notch, cuisine is five-star quality, and activities almost unlimited. Today, we take you to Montana’s Ranch at Rock Creek.  RanchAtRock_1


Ranch at Rock Creek

Montana’s Ranch at Rock Creek serves up luxury along with some 50 miles of mountains, meadows, lakes and streams. For anyone who is looking for the perfect blending of comfort and wilderness, The Ranch at Rock Creek lets you choose between various lodging choices.

Accommodations include rooms in the Granite Lodge, the Luxury Canvas Cabins, Specialty suites and Homes. Their canvas-topped cabins offer luxury bedding and a private bathroom (choose ‘Glamping for Two’ and you get one of Rock Creek’s four Classic Canvas Cabins—each a gi-normous 630 square feet—which give you a spacious main room for your bedroom with enough living area to include a comfortable sitting area.RanchAtRock_7

At The Ranch at Rock Creek, recreational opportunities are virtually limitless. Horseback riding on trails that weave among 6,600 acres, fly fishing their 4-mile-stretch of Blue Ribbon Rock Creek, fishing in stocked trout ponds, hiking, wildlife watching, mountain biking, sporting clays, archery, rafting, and games in The Granite Lodge are all popular.

Relaxation is a part of the total experience at The Ranch at Rock Creek, with professional massage therapy treatments available in a dedicated five-room spa inside the stone-and-timber Granite Lodge.RanchAtRock_3

Details: $950-$7,500 per night. Please visit their website for a description of inclusions and exclusions. Cuisine at The Ranch reflects its pure surroundings – prime organic beef, elk, bison, free-range chicken, organic eggs, fresh fish, seasonal local fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs, all enhanced by an inspired wine list.

The Ranch at Rock Creek is available for corporate retreats, weddings, and family reunions. For more details, see


Ultra Ranches-luxury and service top the list

Lodge-FallTriple Creek Ranch


When you talk about Triple Creek Ranch, the words “award-winning” always seem to come up. This luxury resort, set in the Bitterroot Mountain Range of the Montana Rockies, was recently voted the #1 Inn/Small Lodge in the US and #2 Hotel in the World by Travel + Leisure’s 2012 Readers Choice Awards.

How do you get to be number one in the United States and number two in the world? Ranchweb’s blog editor recently asked Triple Creek Ranch representative Deb Schara.  “Triple Creek Ranch is one of the world’s highest ranked hotel over the past 5 years, according to Travel + Leisure’s ‘World’s Best’ ratings,” said Schara, “and we got there with a score of 98.22—one of the highest scores ever.”

If you’re wondering what it takes to achieve that ranking, Scharra has a ready answer. “Our reviews have been great because of our attention to detail,” she says. “All our employees — from servers to housekeeper — goes above and beyond to give guests the help they need. And it’s a team effort–no matter what activity you want to pursue that day—from horseback riding  to fly fishing in summer to skiing in winter.”

All of this high service hums through a uniquely beautiful facility. The acreage around the main lodge is dotted with individual cabins, each with a wood-burning fireplace, king log-post beds, and some with private hot tubs. Each cabin is set so that when you sit on your deck, you don’t stare at another cabin—just an amazing view.TripleCreek_3

“People love the privacy. You can be with others or totally alone with each other. Large screen TVs in cabins have Blue Ray players and a there’s a library of DVDs to choose from, so you can be entertained while you relax in the cabin.”

“Its beautiful and quiet–there’s no cell service–so we encourage people to go outside their comfort zone and try things. We’ve gotten people on a horse who’ve never petted one before,” notes Scharra. Nature tours get them out to enjoy the countryside.

Okay, so between the fabulous facilities, an attentive staff, and a variety of activies—the only thing we haven’t talked about is the food. Very quickly, I learn that food and wine is big here. “We have a sommelier and that makes all the difference. Guests can request wine tastings here in the main lodge, or after our cooking classes,” scharra says. “And its all inclusive if the guest comes during that time (when classes occur).”

Dining1111The chef was schooled at the CIA in New York and his specialty is wild game and fish, but Scharra notes that he also likes Asian and Southwest influences. “There’s almost no chance you’ll get bored with the menu,” she says, “because it changes daily.”  And if you’ve gone vegan or have food allergies, no worries— they will accommodate special diets and food allergies.

“We have our own gardens and orchards, so the veggies or fruits on your plate may have just been picked that morning.”

At the end of your stay, you can take a bit of the ranch home with you in the form of their own jams and jellies, or you can get a packed breakfast or lunch as you leave. They really take care of their guests.

“The staff is amazing,” concludes Scharra, “and that’s the key to it.”

Details: Open January, February, April through December. Capacity: 60 (for meetings: 60). Rates: Start at $950 per night, per couple. Memberships: Relais & Chateaux, Virtuoso, Andrew Harper, Orvis Endorsed Lodge, JG Black Book.

Winter activities: Skiing: flex your schussing muscles on Alpine or Nordic skis along the Continental Divide on the Montana-Idaho border. The ranch is just a short, 30-minute drive from skiing in the Northern Rockies at Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Resort or at Chief Joseph Pass for cross-country skiing (available through February, weather permitting). Not into skiing? Then how about dog sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing or that unique western sport call skijoring (a skier is pulled by a horse).

Coming soon: more “Ultra Ranches”, including The Ranch at Rock Creek, The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek, and The Resort at Paws Up.


C Lazy U hosts a Thanksgiving holiday weekend special



C Lazy U Ranch

C Lazy U is hosting a Thanksgiving holiday weekend special. Why? Well, there’s a LOT to be thankful for this Thanksgiving—and we can’t think of a better place to enjoy it than at the C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado!

The ranch invites you to “Bring your attitudes of gratitude and share the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend with our family” from November 21-25. You’ll enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner served on Thanksgiving Day, three gourmet meals included daily. There’s a two-night minimum.

Details: Rates: $325 per adult per night and $150 per child per night. BONUS: Buy three nights, get the fourth FREE!


Winter wonders at Montana’s Rock Creek Ranch

snowsceneHot Deals

In rugged Montana ranchland southeast of Missoula, lies The Ranch at Rock Creek—a guest ranch where wide open spaces and upscale amenities have been brought together. The Ranch at Rock Creek is a place that offers the feel of the ‘true West’ without sacrificing true comfort.

Visit in winter and you’ll find a balance between invigorating exercise and relaxing tranquility. Strap on your skis or snowboard and head for the downhill runs at Discovery Ski Area, just a short drive from the ranch.  You can make it into a workout in the deep snow, or just go for a leisurely stroll on one of their snowshoe specific trails.  Enjoy a sleigh tour of the ranch, or bound through fresh powder as you explore the ranch on horseback.  There are sledding hills, snowmen to build, hockey or ice skating on one of the frozen ponds. And always, the state-of-the-art Rock Creek spa awaits with a soothing hot stone massage or body wrap.

Winter Rates include: • All meals – festive menus and memorable cuisine • House wines and cocktails  • Downhill Skiing or Snowboarding at Discovery Basin with 60+ runs for all ski levels • Transportation to the Ski Area • Lift tickets • Equipment Rental  • Cross-country skiing • Snow-shoeing • Hockey • Ice Skating  • Hiking • Horseback Riding • Sleigh or Carriage Rides with hot buttered rum  • Sledding • Children’s Activities • Sporting Clay Shooting • Bowling • Billiards & Shuffle Board • Karaoke • Movies in the theatre
The Deal: Pay for three, stay four nights (when you book this special offer, you will also receive 2010 accommodation pricing). Offer valid now through April 3, 2011.


Winter ranches and rodeos

Hidden Meadow Ranch, Arizona

Hidden Meadow Ranch, Arizona

Winter ranches

Just as winter is approaching, you may be thinking the dude ranch season is over. Sure, some ranches in the high country roll up the welcome mats when the snow flies, but others just switch gears, trading hay wagons for sleighs and hiking boots for cross country skis. And for many of the Southwest (and South America) ranches, like Hidden Meadow Ranch (shown at right), winter is their high season, when temperatures rise and snowbirds flock to sunny climes. From Idaho’s Western Pleasure Guest Ranch to New York’s Pinegrove Dude Ranch & Family Resort,  to Wyoming’s Vee Bar Guest Ranch, you’ll find the welcome mat is out this winter.

Here’s a reminder of some of the winter fun you’ll find at Ranchweb’s member dude and guest ranch resorts.

Hidden Meadow Ranch

Don’t expect a desert getaway. Set in eastern Arizona’s White Mountains, you’ll find a log cabin hideaway surrounded by 2 million acres of majestic national forest. Their motto: escape from everything but luxury. Choose from tons of fun here:  horseback riding through the snow (weather permitting); horse-drawn sleigh rides; sledding; snowshoeing; back-country excursions via the ranch’s exclusive 24-passenger snowcat; ice fishing; cross-country skiing on the area’s groomed trails; skiing and snowboarding at Sunrise Ski Resort, within 30 minutes of the lodge.
Details: Guest cabins include wood-burning fireplaces, covered porch, pillow-top mattresses or feather beds, down pillows, hand carved wood and leather furniture, fine art and antiques, digital music channels. And if you must stay connected, you can with Internet access via Wired in the Woods®.

Conferences are unique at Peaceful Valley Ranch

How about some snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or cross country skiing in between your meetings? That’s a perfect conference mix at Peaceful Valley Ranch, near Lyons, Colorado. There’s everything your group needs for a successful conference: a big meeting room, AV equipment, meals and beverages for your breaks, plus a pool, game and exercise room when your team needs to blow off steam. And for that group bonding experience, a hay ride through the snow would give them something to talk about. Details: Families and small groups are welcome at the ranch in winter, which is open year-round. There’s plenty of winter fun: snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or cross country with ranch guides through the Roosevelt National Forest. Equipment is available for rental.


Themed winter weekends at Montana’s Triple Creek Ranch

That ultra-luxurious all-inclusive property in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, Triple Creek Ranch, recently introduced themed weekends to showcase the resort’s varied wintertime appeal. Triple Creek Ranch was recently named the #1 inn in the Continental U.S. and Canada, and the #2 hotel overall worldwide, in the 15th Annual Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards survey.

Themed weekends and seasonal celebrations at Triple Creek Ranch include: A Christmas to Remember; Ring in 2011 New Year’s; Western Horsemanship Weekends; Cooking School Weekends; and more. The next two themed weekends coming up are A Christmas to Remember and Ring in 2011.
Details: Rates include all meals (including hearty breakfasts, candlelit gourmet dinners and picnic lunches), house wine and house cocktails, snacks, unlimited use of the fitness center, and all ranch activities, including on-ranch trail rides, guided nature tours, ice fishing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. A Christmas to Remember. All decked out in holiday finery, the ranch’s celebration features Christmas Eve and Christmas Day gourmet dinners served with fine wines and accompanied by live entertainment. Rates from $650 per room, per night, per couple, excluding $150 holiday premium per room. Three-night minimum required. Ring in 2011. Fireworks over the Bitterroot Mountains and an evening horseback ride are highlights of the ranch’s New Year’s Eve celebration on December 31, 2010. A gourmet dinner, live entertainment, and all ranch activities are included. Rates from $650 per night, per couple, excluding $150 holiday premium per room. Three-night minimum stay required.

Ranch rodeos and gymkhanas

In winter, you can watch or sometimes join in ranch rodeos at spots like White Stallion Ranch in Arizona. At White Stallion, their Saturday rodeo has been a tradition for over 60 years. The rodeo is narrated with an eye to the history and tradition of ranching and rodeo in the West. It’s fitting, since the ranch owners, the True family, have been rodeoing since their youth; now their third generation is trying the sport. You’ll see some of the White Stallion wranglers, family, and friends compete in several events. Catch all the breathtaking action: barrel racing, team roping, breakaway roping, steer wrestling, and more.

At Arizona’s Rancho de los Caballeros, the one rodeo event takes on a whole new meaning to the corporate cowboys and cowgirls: the Rancho de los Caballeros Team Penning Program. For business groups meeting at the ranch conference facilities, it’s a unique way to train team members in the art of communication, motivation, and relationship development. Team Penning entails dividing your group into teams of three or four, plus a cowboy who’ll give as much or as little help as you wish. Each team takes turns riding into an arena to cut three yearling steers out of a herd; they then drive them into a pen as quickly as possible. Deceptively simple, this timed event is guaranteed to provide a challenging and exciting learning experience for all. Just ask one of the Rancho’s sales staff for details on team penning and other events tailored around your existing company programs or customized to your specific goals.

Or plan ahead to get in on the action yourself in summertime. Several ranches offer summertime gymkhanas—games on horseback—that guests can join (for a full list of ranches that offer gymkhanas, see’s R Lazy S Ranch welcomes children of 7 years and older from June through August (September is an adults only month). Their special riding program includes instruction, half-day trail rides, all-day rides to nearby mountain lakes and lively gymkhanas. You should also check out Colorado’s Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Wit’s End Guest Ranch Resort & Spa,  Montana’s Sweet Grass Ranch, and Wyoming’s CM Ranch, T Cross Ranch, Vee Bar Guest Ranch, or Heart Six Ranch.


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


Dude food

Change you can believe in: that’s what you’ll find on the menu at today’s dude ranches. Dude and guest ranch resort dining is no longer solely the bastion of beef, beans, and BBQ, although you’ll  find that great beef and hearty meals never go out of style. Today’s most cutting-edge dude ranches boast trained chefs, gourmet meals, and wine lists.

“Dude ranches used to be the original farm-to-table dining experience,” says Stephanie Wilson of Colorado’s Vista Verde Ranch (seen above), “and these days were seeing a revitalization in the commitment to that school of thought.”

She continues, “There is more notice being paid to ranch gardens, local produce and livestock providers, and more interest in fresh and healthy foods for our guests.”  It used to be that ranch fare meant steak and potatoes, bacon and eggs across the board, Wilson adds, but as clientele adapt their tastes, ranches are providing more light fare. But not to worry, those heartier options are still there for those who want to ‘eat like a cowboy’.

At Vista Verde, Wilson notes, “Our wine tasting and cooking classes have been a favorite of our guests for a long time. During the wine tasting, the guests get to learn about and taste fabulous wines, but they also get to share stories and learn more about our chef’s background, experiences, and interests.  The cooking class, too, is a very hands-on, intimate experience.”

Click through from the Ranchweb home page to the Ranchweb Food & Wine pages; you’ll find sample wine lists and menus to give you a hint of the culinary experience awaiting you. And while menus do change frequently (check each ranch’s website directly for their latest food details) you’ll get an idea of the chef’s food style at each ranch.

Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort

A native of France, Executive Chef Pascal Godé (Go-Day) has created Alisal’s signature culinary style—savory California fresh cuisine classics, often with a western flair. You’ll find breakfast buffets at Alisal are plentiful: fresh fruit, homemade cinnamon rolls, and popular morning entrees. Pause for lunch throughout the day at a either poolside snack bar or two golf course grills. Dinners are a main event, and an occasion for which to dress up. Dinner menus change daily and include at least 10 entrees nightly, from thick steaks, chicken, or ribs, grilled over Alisal oak to locally caught fish, pastas, and locally picked vegetables. more served with innovative sauces.

In the heart of Santa Barbara County wine country, Alisal brings together haute cuisine with French and Mediterranean accents and fresh local California ingredients, with a relaxed ranch atmosphere. Guests enjoy a Modified American plan (breakfast and dinner included in the room rate) dining in Alisal’s Ranch Room (exclusive to Alisal guests), try the River Grill, or have your meal brought to your room.

Elk Mountain Dude and Guest Ranch

Set in the heart of the Rockies near Buena Vista, Colorado, Elk Mountain Dude and Guest Ranch is in a remotely enclave of the secluded San Isabel National Forest. This family-run ranch is intimate (just 30 guests) and old fashioned. Meals are hearty, and barbecue is done Santa Maria-style: on a long, open grill or spit.
The food is plentiful, freshly prepared, and very much in the tradition of Old West dude ranch dining, from the barbecued brisket to the cowboy cookies. Old favorites include the trail ride cookout and the big steak fry, while new favorites run from the country candlelight supper to sumptuous desserts. The ranch owners we have kids, so they know to offer a kids’ menu with items the kids will enjoy. Special diets are happily accommodated. Want to play with (or photograph) the deer, elk, or antelope? This is your spot.

The Home Ranch

If words like “world class” and “gourmet cuisine” are a bit overworked in describing the Home Ranch, it’s totally understandable. This is the only Colorado dude ranch which has earned a membership in the prestigious Relais & Chateaux. On the ranch website they’re pretty direct, saying “We won’t pussyfoot around the subject: our food is amazing. For those that may not know, Relais & Chateaux is French for “this place has truly incredible food.”
Executive chef Clyde Nelson could be a star at a Manhattan hotspot if he weren’t admittedly “allergic to cities.” Nelson’s so-called ‘allergy’ is all to guests’ benefit, as he whips up everything from fresh Colorado game to grilled cherrystone clams, tender filet mignon, and fresh lobster tails. Dessert isn’t forgotten (phyllo apple rose w/ lime curd) nor are hors d’oeuvres (sample: duck nachos w/ mango salsa or spinach, artichoke & asiago dip w/ crostini). Although we can foresee one potential problem. After one of the Home Ranch’s breakfasts (shirred eggs baked in a skillet with oven-dried tomatoes, asparagus, gruyere & ganna padano cheeses, tarragon & chives & cream), you may want to wait a while before climbing on your horse.

Vista Verde Ranch

A luxury ranch that’s also laid back, that’s Vista Verde (shown above). Yes, there’s an executive chef (Matt Campbell) and a full staff of trained and experienced chefs. And many meals include formal plated entrees and wine service every evening.  But there are kids’ menus and casual cookouts, too—okay, gourmet cookouts, but cookouts nonetheless.

Breakfast is always a treat, often with a fancy twist, from honey wheat pancakes to eggs Benedict. Lunch might be grilled burgers and portabella mushrooms or steak and shrimp kabobs on the grill. Dinner is the main event here, less formal and family style during the week and more formal on weekends, but always multi-course and always a delight. More surprises: the chefs  offer cooking classes and wine tastings.  And wine and beer are included with meals and stocked in your cabin along with other beverages. It’s all part of Vista Verde’s all-inclusive resort rates. And of course, special dietary needs are easily accommodated.

R Lazy S Ranch

Get a table by the window: this 325-acre ranch bumps up against Grand Teton National Park and the shark-toothed Teton Mountains are in full view to the west of the ranch. To the east, the sinewy Snake River. “We know our cooks are the best,” they say at the R Lazy S Ranch, describing it as “gourmet home cooking, Western style”.

Good thing, because you’re bound to work up an appetite from hiking and riding the Teton trails or fishing in the sparkling alpine lakes. When you snag a glistening trout, bring it back to the ranch and they’ll grill it up for you. Western hospitality is served up at meal time, whether it’s a sit down dinner in the lodge, a buffet or a cookout. Children and teenagers get their own dining room to share with and make new friends, separate from the adult guests. If you like your vacation ranch low-key but high on spectacular settings, this is the spot for you. The R Lazy S is near the town of Jackson; 30 minutes from a major airport.


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


Top 5 myths about guest ranch dining

Food and wine has become much more important to today’s vacationers, and guest ranches understand that and are responding. In fact, many ranches have made some of their biggest changes in their dining rooms (and most don’t ring the dinner gong anymore, like the cartoon character below). Now all they have to do is convince some suppertravelers that their old ideas about ranch food are, well, so yesterday. Here are the top five dude ranch food and wine myths, debunked.

Myth No. 1: Guests dine every night on barbecue beef, and a plate of beans.

TRUTH: Well, once that was the idea of a perfect meal at a dude ranch. And while that’s perfectly delicious food, the average menu at today’s guest ranch now goes far beyond that in sophistication. At New Mexico’s The Lodge at Chama, Executive Chef Kirk Vandermaat and his staff have one goal: that guests “cherish their days and evenings here at Chama”. Each morning, you  choose your coming evening’s fare from your own personalized menu; options: native selections of elk, bison, trout, and quail; oh, and of course choice steaks.

Myth No. 2: I am trying to stay on a special diet, and a ranch can’t adjust its menu for me.

TRUTH: Many ranches now can accommodate special diets and reasonable requests for options; overall, the result is better quality and more variety. “Food is often fad-driven,” notes Russell True at Arizona‘s White Stallion Ranch. “We’ve done macrobiotics for some guests, vegetarian menus; and we adjusted to the no carbs/ high protein movement. Now, were back to less extreme fare,” True says. “We’re not a gourmet ranch, but we try to adjust to mainstream tastes and offer options to people, whether its more chicken or lighter fare. ”

Myth No. 3: I know I can get a nice steak on a ranch, but by the end of the week, I’ll be starved for some fresh veggies.

TRUTH: The ‘locavore‘ movement (where the goal is to eat food grown/produced nearby) has hit the ranch, too; many guest ranches team up with local farmers to make sure that plenty of fresh, local produce is available to their guests. At Three Bars Cattle & Guest Ranch in British Columbia, Tyler Beckley contends that “all of our meals use the finest fresh vegetables available and are cooked to perfection.”

Myth No. 4: I’m on a low-sodium diet, and won’t find anything to eat at a ranch.

TRUTH: Most ranches can offer you low-sodium options—especially if you alert them ahead of time. “We can do low-sodium easily,” says True. “If they want a nice grilled swordfish instead of steak, we’re happy to make the change to healthy options and adjust.”

Myth No. 5: If I want a decent glass of wine with dinner, I’ll have to bring a bottle myself.

TRUTH: At many ranches, you’ll have trouble deciding what wine to try from their wine list. British Columbia, for example, is home to some great white wines, and local ranches will introduce you to some real finds. “We have access to some great, affordable wines in Canada that you don’t see a lot of in the US,” says Tyler Beckley. “My wine list is not over priced or pretentious, and the fun is in finding great wines that are not expensive.” Three Bars also also carries wines from Argentina, Chile, France, Spain, and New Zealand.

White Stallion Ranch brought in a sommalier to put together a wine list that includes selections from all over the world. “It has been hugely popular,” says True.


Dude ranch dining trends

19590033Times have changed since the days when the dude ranch cook simply fired up the campfire and then served guests with a plate of beans and brisket. Don’t get us wrong: we love cookouts. But as with contemporary cuisine everywhere, the dude ranch dining room has adapted to its share of trends. Now you can usually get low-sodium, low-fat, and even get vegan or other special menus (upon request). And some dude ranches go way above what you’d expect.

Take TRIPLE CREEK RANCH, in Darby, Montana. Here, dinner is a four-course event (prepared by a French Institute-trained executive chef). Of course, house wines are included, or guests may choose to add wine pairings from the ranch wine cellar (and how many dude ranches can boast such a cellar?) featuring premium wines from more than a dozen countries.

Triple Creek Ranch entree

Triple Creek Ranch entree

In a dining room with dramatic views of the Bitterroot Mountains, Triple Creek guests are treated to wholesome breakfasts, healthful lunches, and gourmet dinners–even tasting menus. They also have a Chef’s Table giving you an insider’s view of the ranch’s high-tech kitchen. After dinner, nibble on delights from the cheese cart, which include, says the website, “cheeses from the affineurs Hervé Mons, Randolph Hodgson and Luigi Guffanti”. And while the attire for guests is dude ranch casual, the lodge’s dining tables are set with crisp, white tablecloths and flickering candles. It all meets the standards demanded by membership in the exclusive Relais & Châteaux (the ranch has been a member since 1996).

Co-owner Wayne Kilpatrick notes, “We’re more the resort end of the Dude and Guest ranch industry. Guests come to Triple Creek not just to ride, but for the whole bit—romance, too.” Kilpatrick continues, “Our dining room is fine dining, but not communal; it’s more like a restaurant, so guests can spend time by themselves.”

More ranch dining: Another option for elegant dining is Wyoming’s Brooks Lake Lodge; for dinner, the lodge chefs prepare a three-course meal using the freshest ingredients and a regional flare; the menu changes nightly and is always followed by a dessert prepared by their pastry chef.  For great Southern BBQ rib and chicken cookouts, plus homemade soups, breads, and pastries, visit Clear Creek Ranch in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains; it’s open from April through December.