Stop by the Most Sophisticated Dude Ranch in America

Saddle up for brisk days and cozy fireside nights at some of the plushest digs in the West.

Jan 21, 2015
Outside Magazine

"You’ll arrive to a roaring fire and a steaming mug of mulled wine before you’re escorted to your room."    Photo: Courtesy of the Ranch at Rock Creek

A river literally runs through this 6,600-acre guest ranch deep in Montana’s cowboy country. Winters here have a way of separating the rhinestone cowboys from the genuine, and the Ranch at Rock Creek is plenty genuine—the owners raise cattle in addition to hosting guests, and the lodge’s decor is inspired by archival photos of the area from the 19th century.

You’ll arrive to a roaring fire and a steaming mug of mulled wine before you’re escorted to your room. We recommend the Trapper Cabin—a romantic spot on Rock Creek that’s half insulated canvas tent, half plush cabin, with a woodstove, Persian carpets, and a private hot tub on the deck. Daylight is scarce this time of year, so make the most of it with a foray into the pines along the property’s 20 miles of cross-country ski trails, try a geocache scavenger hunt on snowshoes, or strap on some skates for a spin around the frozen pond near the main lodge. Better yet, sip a cup of hot cocoa and let a team of Percherons pull you through snowy meadows in an open sleigh.

Once the sun sinks over the John Long Mountains, repair to the lodge for more mulled wine and dinner of local leg of lamb and cabernet-poached pears. It’s usually tough being a cowboy in the Montana winter. Not here.

What You Need to Know Before You Pack Your Boots and Go

Access: Fly into Missoula International Airport; a driver will meet you. From $850, all-inclusive.

Forecast: February: 38° high, 17° low

Detour: Take a break from the slopes to kick and glide on groomed nordic trails circling the lake. It’s the most peaceful way to experience the old-growth snowscape around the lodge.

Indulge: After a chilly day out, nothing warms the bones like a Saddle Sore soak and full-body massage at Rock Creek’s Granite Spa ($300). Just have them wake you for dinner.

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