Gravel crunched under the new tyres of the ranch’s shiny Escalade as we turned onto the property road. Before us lay 2670-plus hectares of mostly untouched Montana landscape, home of The Ranch at Rock Creek. A quick tour around took us past a variety of accommodation types, including large private cabins, guestrooms in the main Granite Lodge, suites in the renovated Historic Barn, and luxury canvas tents that lined the riverbank of Rock Creek. Recognised as a founding member of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World and the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide five-star guest ranch, you don’t have to be on the property long to know you’re about to partake in a very special experience.
Each and every indoor space at The Ranch at Rock Creek captivates your attention with stunning design details and rustic décor; however, you can’t help but be lured outside most of the day with a myriad of amazing outdoor activities at your fingertips. From bonfires and sleigh rides in the winter to fly-fishing and horseback riding in the summer, The Ranch at Rock Creek offers a world-class, all-inclusive experience that’s second to none.
Traveller: Sarah Driggs
Room: Loft (within the Historic Barn)
Address: 79 Carriage House Lane, Philipsburg, Montana 59858
Date: February 2017
Best for: A world-class luxury ranch under the big Montana sky.
The Signature factor
With land stretching further than the eye can see and more staff than there are guests, it’s the outdoor experiences here that really steal the show. During our winter stay, we enjoyed sporting clays on the insanely fun 11-trap shooting range, drove brand-new Polaris snowmobiles through fresh powder along the scenic trails, rode horses through the meadow and up into the foothills, and cast our hand at fly-fishing on the property’s Blue Ribbon trout stream, Rock Creek. The best part is, with such sprawling and diverse terrain, you can experience everything on property and with your own private guide.
For over 20 years, owner Jim Manley searched for the perfect spot to build his dream guest ranch. With a high standard of requirements relating to quality and type of terrain, he exhibited great patience over those decades until the absolute right property became available in 2007. Manley spent the first few years renovating the original homestead buildings on the ranch, then building new luxury cabins and common spaces. He brought in a renowned designer from New Mexico to add beautiful western-style furniture, artwork and décor, while maintaining its inherent rustic charm. With five-star luxury amenities of every kind, you can follow up a day of outdoor adventure with a pampering massage at the Granite Spa or an Old Fashioned atop the saddle-style bars seats in the Silver Dollar Saloon.
The undeniable rugged beauty of the ranch’s landscape strikes you first. Trout-filled Rock Creek pierces the property right down the middle in the valley and craggy mountains rise up to the clouds on either side. Choosing your activities for the day in the Rod & Gun Club activity centre, filled with the newest toys and equipment, makes you feel as if you’re in the world’s greatest adult playground. Equally impressive, the design and décor of common areas like the Granite Lodge and Silver Dollar Saloon exude a wonderfully cosy, relaxed-luxury vibe. Upon walking into the lodge, you immediately want to sink into the chestnut-brown leather sofas by the fireplace with a good book and marshmallow-topped mug of hot chocolate.
For our visit to the ranch, we stayed in the magnificent Loft suite of the historic barn, which dates back to the 1880s and was the original homestead’s barn. Enchanting and elegant, the space features a king-sized bed, luxurious linens, a seating area complete with a full-sized wooden poker table, and a bathroom that took our breath away. Walking up a few stairs of original wood, you enter a gratuitously large, almost regal space. At the centre, a grand chandelier hangs from the exposed-beam ceiling above, illuminating the most beautiful porcelain claw-foot tub below. Beyond the tub, a large window affords sweeping views of the snow-capped Montana mountains.
Accommodation runs the gamut at The Ranch at Rock Creek, so picking the very best really depends on your style. For a large space, consider one of the luxury homes or private cabins, like Bluebird. Set on the river, it has a private porch, king-sized canopy bed and in-house sauna. For a canvas tent experience, Trapper was our favourite. Located in a secluded corner of the property, the tent has its own private porch with outdoor soaking tub and offers killer views of the mountains during the day and the stars at night.
On my plate
Every morning on the ranch begins with a delicious breakfast from Chef Drage’s kitchen. Growing up in rural Alaska, Drage learned to cook innovative dishes using local ingredients from his mother. He’s been at The Ranch at Rock Creek from the beginning and his food alone brings people back time and again. If we could dive into his Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes every morning, we would. And that bacon… it’s enough to write home about. Come dinnertime, Drage has a new menu and dining experience ready each night. Whether it’s a multi-course tasting menu or a barbecue-style dinner in the Buckle Barn (accompanied by line-dancing and a live band), his delicious meals consist of almost entirely local ingredients from Montana ranches and farms.
I wish I could take home…
The Ranch is just as much about the people, as it is about the gorgeous property. To take home, we would definitely choose…. Chef Drage to cook his Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes every morning, John to teach us more about fly-fishing on the weekends, Matt (and one of the ranch’s many Escalades) to take us about town every day with his friendly smile, and Brittany to help us find a good line-dancing place in New York City and teach us more moves!
If you’re like us and fill your days on the ranch with outdoor adventure, then a good afternoon or evening spa session is a must. Our deep tissue massage at the Granite Spa was one of the best we’ve ever had. As an expert in reflexology, Amanda, our massage therapist, customised the treatment to fit our needs. Other enticing treatments included the couple’s foot soak and the wild-harvested sagebrush scrub. With a focus on mind and body wellness, the spa is also well known for its yoga experiences in the warmer months and ‘snowga’ experiences in the colder months.
Nearby, you can ski the slopes of Montana’s Discovery Mountain or check out the historic old mining town of Philipsburg.
- The World’s Only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Guest Ranch (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
- National Geographic Society’s Unique Lodges of the World, Founding Member (2015, 2016, 2017)
- Wellness Travel Awards: Best for Couples, Best for Outdoor Adventure & Activities (2016)
- American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts: Most Fun for the Whole Family (2016)
- Top50Ranches.com: Premier Ranch 2017 Best Robust Experience Award, (2015, 2016, 2017)
- World Travel Awards: United States Leading Ranch (2014, 2015, 2016)
- TripAdvisor: Certificate of Excellence (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
- Pure Awards Nominee: Transformational Travel (2015)
- Town & Country Travel: The T&C Travel 100 (2015)
- Robb Report: Top 100 Resorts (2014)
- Virtuoso: World’s Best Hotel Experiences (2013)
Not a single one comes to mind.
Really searching here, but in the winter the options for dining locations are narrowed to essentially the Granite Lodge only. It would be great to have one more casual dining area available to mix up the setting for one of the meals of the day.
Don’t miss the fly-fishing. Rock Creek is a renowned Blue Ribbon trout stream; to have it all to yourself on private land is an experience that should not be missed!
Where to find it
The Ranch at Rock Creek is located in southwest Montana, about a 1.5-hour drive from Missoula Airport.
Sarah Driggs and Lindsay Ridenour are the storytellers behind the NYC-based luxury travel blog, Compass + Twine. Follow along on Instagram @compassandtwine as they unearth some of the best hotels and travel experiences around the globe. From scenic landscapes to local cafés, they reveal the true character of a destination, always highlighting the best place to stay!