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Eggnog the Ranch Elf: A Travelogue

After Thanksgiving celebrations ended, a surprise guest arrived on our doorstep, direct from the North Pole. It was Eggnog, the Ranch elf. We suspect he traveled all this way to make sure the many families who celebrate at The Ranch are well taken care of, and we were happy to show him the ropes of our country Christmas. While he’s been here, he’s crossed a few things off his bucket list. In true Rancher spirit, he also pitched in to help out when possible.

As he looks to depart on Christmas Eve to head back to Santa’s workshop, we’re sharing his travelogue with our Blog at Rock Creek readers.

An Elven Itinerary

Each Ranch guest, young or old, receives their own customized itinerary. Eggnog was no exception. Ranch Ambassador Kendra Foster worked diligently on an itinerary that would be worthy of one of Santa’s helpers. First she noted down the things that were important to Eggnog, next to her own to-do list. (See below). Then, she incorporated included Ranch activities, Little Grizzlies Kids Club outings and special Christmas events into Eggnog’s elven itinerary.

Decking the Halls

Come December, our Activities team forages for Christmas trees across The Ranch’s forestland. The hunt required lots of strong arms, and even a Ranger UTV or two. One of Eggnog’s twice-daily included activities was a Montana Master Naturalist trek in the snow with Ranch Naturalist and Beekeeper Kelsey Bruns. Eggnog scouted his own tree while learning about our eco-system. When the time came, he chopped it down and carried it back to his accommodation.

Western Mercantile Style

In order to feel like a real rancher, he visited Mercantile Manager Cat Johnson. He requested a new Western outfit worthy of his next adventures. He also looked around to see if our Western Mercantile was supplying goods that were up to Santa’s standards. The smile on his face says it all. With mostly locally sourced goods, and some even made by our Ranchers themselves, Eggnog was happy to see that quality gifts were available for any last-minute holiday shoppers.

Life Between the (Pointy) Ears

Dressed in his new bandana, vest and boots, Eggnog was keen to see The Ranch from the saddle. He hopped on a horse and ascended Mary Beth’s Peak. Eggnog’s considerable expertise with sleighs was also invaluable as our wranglers trained our draft horse teams for their Christmas Day sleigh rides.

After his trail ride, he inspected the barnyard to make sure the goats, the sheep, cattle herd and 80-strong horse herd were ready for the holidays. He even had time to work up an appetite for Executive Chef Josh Drage’s farm-to-table cuisine while visiting the chuck wagon.

The Fire is So Delightful

Eggnog attended Yule Night, a local celebration in our hometown, Philipsburg, and he was a welcome guest at our holiday party. That night, he warmed his hands by the bonfire and sipped on s’mores hot chocolate. If you’re searching for a hot cocoa recipe this Christmas, we highly recommend this festive one from our “Eat, Drink & Be Merry” blog—tested and approved by Eggnog himself.

Later that weekend, he enjoyed Mixology Hour with Bar Manager Ned Derosier, and enjoyed a frosty Yule Mule mocktail in a copper mug. Adults can visit the blog to get this tasty recipe, or try Silver Dollar Saloon cocktails, the Resolution or Grand-Fashioned—recipes fit for your rustic-luxe New Year’s plans.

Snow Angels, Snow Sports & Yoga

Eggnog spent his days ice skating, sledding, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and making snow angels. As his stay neared its end, he resolved to rejuvenate his muscles in our Granite Nature Spa.

He enjoyed a fireside yoga session with Granite Spa Manager Karen Piacuqadio. The Ranch offers a number of styles of mind & body classes, including yoga, natural movement training and forest bathing, but Elf Yoga was entirely new to us. All spa services are customized, so Karen made sure Eggnog’s practice was to his liking.

Eggnog’s Little Workshop

Before he left, Eggnog had time to make a bespoke birthday bouquet for Lead Wrangler Mindy Avila. Our own Groups & Events Team Members Christina Wernikowski, Kate DeMello, Lauren Messmore, Ashley Atkinson and Chris Lane were impressed by his work. These professionals value perfection and lead the holiday decorating effort at The Ranch. This season they even designed their own Festival of Trees Nordic Christmas Tree, which made over $8,000 for local healthcare projects.

Eggnog was a wonderful addition to The Ranch’s family this year. We hope you have as much fun relishing the holidays as we do. Stay tuned on Instagram to see how our White Christmas unfolds. Happy Holidays from our Ranch family to yours!


Ranch sign designed by Groups & Events Team Member Kate DeMello. 



The Ranch at Rock Creek hosts seasonal celebrations throughout the year. See our winter specials and our tips for top-notch multi-generational family travel. 

5 Unique Jobs at the World’s Only Forbes Travel Guide 5-Star Ranch

Working at the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star guest ranch requires a special type of person. Our jobs require people who are highly social, working with The Ranch team and guests day-after-day, and thriving in a secluded outdoor environment.

The Ranch at Rock Creek lies just off a dirt road 75 miles from the nearest city. The people who make our ranch thrive are mountain souls and adventurers who value living beyond the hustle and bustle of city life. At the same time, they are professionals with the capacity to meet hundreds of Forbes Travel Guide standards (we’re judged on 800) on a daily basis.

Executive Chef Josh Drage and Executive Sous Chef Ben Miller bike back to the Granite Lodge with fresh herbs from their garden
Executive Chef Josh Drage and Executive Sous Chef Ben Miller ride from the herb garden to the kitchen.

Unconventional Jobs For Adventurous Souls

Even the more well-known hospitality jobs that we fill, such as Housekeeping Manager, Bellman or Front Desk Agent, aren’t run-of-the-mill. The environment and experiential nature of The Ranch means that jobs are anything but ordinary — just ask the Front Desk Agent who had to keep tabs on a mother moose and baby when they settled down for a morning snack in front of the Granite Lodge this fall.

The people who love, live and work at The Ranch are unique, but the careers and seasonal jobs we offer also follow suit. We are featuring some of those jobs that may sound unconventional, but are essential in keeping our 6,600 acres working as an experiential travel destination and working cattle ranch. Read more…

A Joyful Kickoff to the Season of Giving

Giving Thanks

Before thanks have even been given in the traditional American way, we’re giving thanks to our community through a local tradition. This Friday and Saturday, we will host the 4th annual Granite County Festival of Trees in our bedecked Buckle Barn. Though Santa doesn’t make his appearance for another month and a half, it’s fair to say our elves are busy as ever preparing for this charity event. Read on to garner the recipe for our Bar Manager’s wassail-worthy mulled wine. 

17 Christmas trees lit up the Buckle Barn before the Festival of Trees gala auction
“It’s a Wonderful Life” plays in the Buckle Barn before the 2015 Festival of Trees Gala Auction.

Joy in Montana, Joy to the World

The Granite County Festival of Trees is the only major fundraiser for the local non-profit organization, the Granite County Medical Foundation. Since the event’s inception, The Ranch has been a sponsor, and for the last three years we’ve served as angel sponsor and host. The first year, the event raised over $10,000 and last year’s event it raised $35,000 for local health projects.

The outside view of the Buckle Barn after the 2015 Granite County Festival of Trees
Peeking into the windows of the Buckle Barn before the 2015 Gala Auction. 

These projects have ranged from buying new beds for the long-term care and acute care patients at our local medical center to supplying AEDs to local law enforcement vehicles and to helping provide car seat checks and bike helmets to the area’s youth. When you live in a remote mountain environment, you truly appreciate emergency and preventive health services that help your staff, family, friends and neighbors.


Mercantile artisan, Pat Siler of Philipsburg’s Back Creek Pottery, created commemorative ornaments for the event. 

In addition to the Festival of Trees, The Ranch also hosts our hometown’s Granite High School prom and supports a long list of charity projects throughout the year. We believe one of the most important parts of our commitment to sustainability is giving back to local organizations and supporting local businesses and artisans.

“Our whole Ranch team truly enjoys helping to produce this community event. We are proud of our angel sponsorship and look forward to our participation every year. Our group coordinators and culinary team are very talented and create memorable family reunions, corporate retreats and weddings throughout the year. But this greatly anticipated event is extra special because it brings our community together for a wonderful cause and represents the official start to The Ranch’s holiday season celebrations.” ~Steve Shotsberger, General Manager

We are happy to be recognized for our giving and sustainability initiatives through our National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World affiliation, but these charity projects also signify a personal connection to many of our employees, who volunteer their time to serve on local non-profit boards, volunteer for projects and even work as Ski Patrol or volunteer fire fighters to ensure the safety and health of local residents. Read more…

What is Forest Bathing?

Travel & Nature Therapy: Shinrin-Yoku/Forest Bathing

“The walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise…I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”
~Henry David Thoreau, “Walking.”

Montana ranks 44th in population size, but this allows us to be leaders in another way—in our access to nature. The Ranch itself is mid-way between America’s first National Park, Yellowstone and the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park. Montanans love having a homestead and venturing out into our vast public lands. It seems the more wide open spaces you see, the more you crave them.


Photo by Caleb Lee

Conversely, the world in general is growing ever more industrialized. Eighty-two percent of North Americans live in an urban setting. With that number projected to grow, scientists are studying the unforeseen physical and mental cost of moving away from natural settings. At the same time the research mounts, we’ve spent the better part of 2017 developing programs that help guests connect with our natural setting, from Montana naturalist classes to Nat Geo narrative photography lessons to natural play environments in the Little Grizzlies Kids Club and natural movement and forest bathing Granite Spa classes.

This week we look at the role of nature in restoring mental and physical health, as well as society’s skepticism toward nature therapy and the power of vacations to get us out of our routine and try new things. Read more…

5 Luxe Ways to Celebrate and Savor the Fall Harvest

The Ranch’s New Fall Harvest Festivities

This early October, we are channeling The Ranch’s beehives and buzzing around diligently in preparation of one of our biggest celebrations of the year, Autumn Harvest Weekend. Although we celebrate most major holidays here, our fall harvest celebration is a labor of love – the love of food grown, raised and made in Montana.


Photo by Lynn Donaldson

Everything about this celebration is inspired by Western Montana and its purveyors, pioneers and culture. If you’re looking for an unparalleled culinary journey through the legendary West, we have a few select accommodations remaining, like Bear House below. Contact our Reservations Specialists today for last-minute availability.


Bear House is a one-of-a-kind luxury home, perfect for groups of friends or families. 

Click here to see the full Autumn Harvest itinerary, or stay on this page to see five ways we’re celebrating Montana’s bountiful fall harvest this October. Read more…

Announcing Exclusive, Inclusive Downhill Skiing at The Ranch

Now is the time to dream of the next blissful getaway that takes advantage of all a season can offer. We’re thrilled to announce that a winter stay at The Ranch will now include virtually every way to delight in Montana’s snowy splendor. We’ve just added downhill skiing and snowboarding excursions to our list of over a dozen fully inclusive winter activities!

Skiers ride the lifts at Discovery Ski Area. The hill is known for beautiful slopes and no lift lines.
The Anaconda-Pintler mountain range provides an epic backdrop for skiing at 8,158 feet. 


Downhill Skiing, Complimentary Nights & More

Winter guests will now enjoy reduced all-inclusive rates, airport transfers from three local airports, all meals and premium beverages, twice-daily on-Ranch activities, plus excursions to our local ski mountain, Discovery Ski Area.

What’s more, winter guests staying three nights at The Ranch will receive a complimentary fourth night! Winter travelers can also take advantage of one of three winter special offers that includes over $800 in added value and allows them to discover new curated adventures, like a romantic winter getaway, a frontier-inspired legendary adventure or a luxury spa and nature retreat.


Effortless Winter Planning

We offer curated adventures to channel inspiring, even transformative, experiences within our long list of experiential travel options. However, a stay at The Ranch is the anti-thesis of a pre-packaged holiday or a crowded ski vacation. These additions are incorporated into individual customized itineraries that reflect a guest’s desires for relaxation or adventure.

A snowboarder enjoys a sunny day on the slopes at Discovery Ski Area
Discovery boasts an annual snowfall of approx. 215 inches. There are eight lifts, runs for all skill levels and a terrain park. 

Guests will find themselves savoring a relaxed setting where their chosen daily activities seamlessly combine with exceptional dining experiences on thousands of acres of unspoiled snowy terrain.

General Manager Steve Shotsberger noted, “The aim of our all-inclusive rates and these curated winter offers is to provide an expertly planned, enriching winter getaway that is unequaled in the luxury world. We encourage our guests to have higher expectations of what they can experience on their next winter vacation. They are invited to soak up the beauty of our pristine natural setting through new and inspiring winter sports while experiencing warm hospitality and excellent service.”


Eagle’s Perch is a two-story luxury log home in a pristine winter setting along Rock Creek.  Read more…

Sweet Life of Bees: A Montana Apiary Story

Join us as we follow our new colleagues—the bees—as they homestead in the Rock Creek Valley. Chapters are in reverse order so that followers can read the latest updates first. To read from the beginning scroll to Chapter 1 near the end of the page. 

Chapter 4, Winter: Ranch-to-Table Honey

by Kelsey Bruns, Beekeeper, Master Naturalist and Little Grizzlies Kids Club Coordinator

Honey is an amazingly diverse food that can enhance a dish or soothe symptoms of the common cold. It has been harvested and used for thousands of years, thus, working its way into cultural and medicinal practices worldwide. This year at The Ranch, we have been able to harvest 10 gallons of our very own honey that reflects our local ecosystem, and it’s going to make the farm-to-table culinary experience just a touch sweeter as we move into the winter months.


Photo of winter glamping on Rock Creek by Joey Wong of Kava Studios.


Dining with Honey

At The Ranch, Executive Chef Josh Drage and his culinary team use an average of 25 gallons of honey per year!  Though honey is often only thought of as a sweetener, this product is far more dynamic. Our culinary team uses honey as a seasoning and flavoring agent in everything from soups and sauces to marinades for our local meat products. Its floral and earthy flavor components can accent savory dishes in addition to sweet treats.

A Ranch server pours tea to drink during a fireside event


Pairing Power

Just like wine, honey takes on the flavors of its ecosystem. Honey can be sweet, musky, and malty — to name just a few tasting points. Those flavors can be emboldened by pairing them with certain ingredients. We look forward to using this flavor enhancer multiple ways in our ever changing seasonal Montana menus.

As part of our winter seasonal offerings, our Bar Manager Ned Derosier is also incorporating our honey into the drink menus. As the days are getting colder and the snow flies onto our valley floor, there is no better way to warm up than with our simple, but very special, Honey Harvest Hot Toddy!


Honey Harvest Hot Toddy Recipe

Ingredients: Read more…

Mixology Hour: Bringing Home the Art of Craft Cocktails

While whiskey straight up may be the stereotypical cowboy drink, it’s certainly not the only option for wetting your whistle in the West. The Ranch at Rock Creek is an experiential oasis, perfectly suited to a martini before the Homestead Supper Club, a Negroni as a fireside aperitif, or a margarita by the pool.

The Motherlode Cocktail sits ready to be enjoyed after mixology hour in the Great Room
Read on to find the recipe for this cocktail, The Motherlode. 

Cocktails are a cultural experience, steeped in centuries of creative pairings. The beauty of mixology is that you can adapt recipes to the setting, the season and the individual.

Bar Manager Ned Derosier’s cocktail menus in the Silver Dollar Saloon and the Great Room change frequently to highlight local spirits and seasonal abundance. For example, summer cocktails might feature foraged sage, huckleberries and Flathead cherries. You’re sure to get a taste of wild Montana when you saddle up to the bar.

Artisan cocktails in the Silver Dollar Saloon at The Ranch at Rock Creek luxury guest ranch
In fact, you can literally saddle up to the bar in the Silver Dollar Saloon. 

Read more…

What is Experiential Travel?

Since The Ranch at Rock Creek opened in 2010, we’ve centered our guest experience around the Montana traditions of outdoor adventure and family ranching. Guests discover a still-pristine natural world through a spirit of play.



What is Experiential Travel?

As a dedicated experiential travel destination, we want to share our hard won expertise. Immersion is a passion that reaches every Ranch staff member and department. Some of us grew up here and carry on the traditions of ranching through our work. Others of us came for a season and found such a deep connection to Southwest Montana that it changed how we wanted to live our lives.

Over the past seven years, we’ve also spoken to our guests about what they take away from their visits. So often we hear about a life-changing moment, an unforgettable vacation or a once-in-a-lifetime event. Here, we’ve distilled the criteria that we believe are essential in making a vacation a life-changing experience. We hope you’ll take time to ensure these elements are included before you journey to a culinary class in Italy, the hot springs near Machu Picchu or a ranch vacation in Montana.

Read more…

National Geographic & An Inspiring Year of Sustainable Tourism

Unique Lodges of the World: Sustainability In Action

The National Geographic Society was not content to simply change the face of travel reporting and photography. In 2015, they set out to make “tourism a catalyst for positive change.” They created the Unique Lodges of the World Collection, in order to seek, recognize and promote hotels that made sustainability paramount in their mission. The Ranch at Rock Creek has been part of this incredible collection since its inception—the only US charter member.

A Ranch wrangler proudly caries the stars and stripes during the Fourth of July rodeo at The Ranch at Rock Creek in southwest MontanaPreserving The Rodeo Tradition:  The Ranch’s summer and celebration rodeos involve local rodeo athletes and Ranch staff.

In order to showcase efforts made in the first full year of the collection, National Geographic just released their 2016 Unique Lodges of the World Impact Report. The efforts that our sister lodges are involved in are truly inspiring, and today, we’re even more honored to be a part of this esteemed group. As a group, Unique Lodge members have helped conserve 3.7 million acres of terrestrial and marine habitat, and contributed a collective US $76 million to cultural heritage preservation, in addition to US $4.3 million for community development initiatives. The investment of time, money and manpower across 50 contributing lodges shows their formidable passion for making sustainable tourism the norm, not the outlier in the travel industry. Read more…