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The Ranch at Rock Creek

Adored

Stylish, luxurious, five-star Wild West dude ranch

Phillipsburg, Montana 79 Carriage House Lane (406) 859-6027 www.theranchatrockcreek.com

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At a Glance

Located on 6,600 acres, the lavish Ranch at Rock Creek offers incredibly stylish rooms, suites, houses and tented accommodations in what is a personal and gorgeous interpretation of a Wild West adventure.

Indagare Loves

  • The on-property bowling alley and movie theater, so days spent in the outdoors can be coupled with fun evenings relaxing
  • The Historic Barn, a three-bedroom accommodation that boasts a bunk room with six beds and is ideal for two families traveling together
  • That the Ranch, while expensive, delivers on all fronts with an incredible culinary program, attentive but personal staff, abundance of activities and incredibly stylish décor

The Ranch at Rock Creek Review

Patience is the key to paradise. In the case of The Ranch at Rock Creek, a resort in southwestern Montana, that proverb rings particularly true. It took owner James Manley 23 years and some 200 property visits all around the American West before he found a spot that fit his specifications—and then some. The stunning 6,600 acres that surround the ranch are pure Big Sky Montana, with soaring mountain and sloping hillsides, fairy-tale pine forests, seemingly endless meadows and, of course, a river that runs through it all that happens to be one of the premier sporting streams in the region.

The accommodations are housed in different structures on either side of the river, from plush rooms in the main lodge to sumptuous suites in restored cabins throughout the property to seven stunning freestanding one- to five-bedroom homes with full kitchens situated a short walk from the lodge and saloon. For those who want to be right on the edge of the river, Rock Creek (which locals pronounce “crick”) offers canvas tents that give a whole new meaning to “glamping.” Part haute log cabin and part double-canvas tent, they are equipped with screened-in porches, carpet-clad interiors, gas fireplaces and en-suite bathrooms. Each is also assigned a full private bathroom in the bathhouses behind the tents. Two cabins, Trapper and Sweet Grass, are open year-round thanks to in-floor heating and boast hot tubs. While the tents are a five-minute walk (each accommodation also comes stocked with bikes) from the main house, they are right next to the barn and activity center, making them particularly convenient in the summer and for active guests.

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting at the same time as Jet Zarkadas, the ranch’s fascinating, diminutive designer from Arizona, point to any of the objects she handpicked in the rooms she crafted, and she’ll tell you the source and provenance of each object and why she put it where she did. “I wanted the interiors to tell the stories of this part of Montana,” she says, “The stories of the Native Americans, of the miners and of the wranglers and ranchers.” The palette is lush, consisting of deep reds and chocolates. Many of the spaces are clad in wood, some of it reclaimed from old Montana and Pennsylvania barns, with distinctive touches provided by decorative objects, antiques and a huge collection of regional historic photographs, sourced from dealers around the West.

Every decorative detail is top quality, and you can tell that no expense was spared. But the overall vibe is relaxed. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel instantly at home or, rather, in the home of a friend who is thrilled to have you as a guest. Don’t worry about tracking in mud from a fantastic hike or long trail ride. This is a working ranch, and ultimately it’s all about the stunning scenery and the hard-working cowboys, wranglers, fly-fishermen and mountaineers who all share a passion for Montana’s wide expanses. You’ll have great fun partaking in any activity (and there are many) under their guidance.

In the warm months, on-property options include hiking the 50 miles of logging trails, mountain biking, horseback riding, shooting clays, paintball and archery. And, of course, fishing—this is one of the main reasons visitors come to this part of Montana, and the fishing on Rock Creek is considered some of the best in the area. On rainy days, the ranch provides an array of indoor activities in the Saloon. It includes a lounge and bar area, equipped with saddle stools, of course, as well as a theater with a 14-foot movie screen, facilities for ping pong and foosball, billiard tables and a four-lane bowling alley. Guests can also spend time shopping at the Mercantile, indulging in spa treatments at the spa or working up a sweat at the small but well-equipped gym (yoga can be arranged upon request). When the temperature drops, there’s an abundance of winter activities such as skiing (the hill is a 30-minute drive from property), snowmobiling, snow-shoeing and horse-drawn sleigh rides.

The property’s mission is to immerse you in the experience, encouraging you to get outside and try new activities, knowing that you can return to a cosseting base at the end of a fun-filled, action-packed day. It also helps to know that you’ll be returning to the cuisine of chef Josh Drage, whose delicious dishes follow the farm-to-table trend, with produce, herbs and meats all sourced from the local community.

At one point during your stay, you will surely wind up on the Top of the World trail, which ends on a high plain with stunning views. Your hand resting on the pommel of your saddle, your posture unconsciously echoing that of old-time cowboys surveying the land, you can watch hundreds of elk thunder across the horizon. En route back to Manley’s Western dream come true, you will pass a wooden sign with the trail name: Paradise.

Indagare Tip

If you’re traveling with kids, take the short drive to Philipsburg, a tiny town nearby that happens to have the nation’s second-largest candy store, the Sweet Palace (109 East Broadway St.; 406-859-3353).

Who Should Stay

Couples, families and groups of friends who love the American West and exploring outdoors and who enjoy a plush but authentic Western setting. The Ranch at Rock Creek is also a fabulous place to take over as a larger group for a special occasion, anniversary or party.

Rooms to Get

Couples looking for a romantic get-away should consider the Trapper Suite, which has a secluded setting and hot tub. Larger families can take over one of the homes (up to five-bedrooms) for their private use. Since there is such a variety of accommodations that fit specific needs and interests, please contact the Indagare Bookings Team for more information.

Getting There

The closest airport to The Ranch is Missoula, about a 1-hour-15 minute drive to the property. You can also fly into Bozeman, about a 2-hour-30-minute drive away.

Comments (3) OpenClose

3 Comments

  1. Indagare
    4:45 pm | August 14, 2012

    From an Indagare member: “We had a blast. It was everyone’s favorite vacation to date. My kids could bike to the stables, rod and gun club and the main lodge within minutes of leaving our accommodations. The food was outstanding. For dinner they always offered a vegetarian option which was always equally as delicious as the local beef. We figured out after a few days the best seats were outside next to the fireplace. Only two four-person tables get to enjoy it, so if you are a small party, try and reserve it. Also, I would highly recommend reserving at least one of your favorite activities per day before going. They were a bit short staffed and we almost got closed out of archery and could not do paint ball. We horseback rode, but there were no defined levels and the beginners and advanced riders sometimes had to compromise their ride. To insure you get exactly what you want, you have to pay for a private class. My son loved the shooting program as did my husband. We all loved archery. You get to hike through the mountains and try and spear stuffed elk and mountain lions. Had no idea it would be so much fun.

    The staff was outstanding; they all had very different personalities and stories to tell. I can not say enough about their professionalism and character. The Saloon and the fire pit at the main lodge were hopping every night. It was a great way for the kids to interact with other children. Smores, pool, and karaoke were lots of fun!”

  2. Indagare
    9:24 pm | August 9, 2017

    From Indagare member T.J.: “The Ranch at Rock Creek was over the top awesome! The service was phenomenal, food delicious and activities a lot of fun. We went horseback-riding, conquered the ropes course, mountain biked and went shooting and fishing. We would definitely consider going back to RaRC again and would highly recommend it to all (and we already have to a few friends)!”

  3. Indagare
    3:23 pm | September 6, 2017

    From Indagare member Marianna Green: “It was all pretty perfect. The service was great, the food was fabulous and it’s so very beautiful. We stayed in the Lodge, which actually turned out to be fantastic. It was fun to be so close to the evening activities, and the band even let Josie sing with them! It’s my hope we will be able to go back to Rock Creek for many summer trips.”

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