Wall Street banker Jim Manley pictured a big ‘ol western sky, the thunder of horses, and the way the hot sun might feel beating down on the brim of a cowboy hat. He saw a wide open mountain vista with camp fires and wagon rides and ghost towns—all with a river running right through it—just like the TV show Bonanza , and every western movie he ever saw growing up.
So when Manley came across a 6,600-acre working cattle ranch at the foothills of the Pintler Mountains, the Montana property had everything he dreamed of.
Today, The Ranch at Rock Creek gives guests of all ages the chance to experience the beauty and splendor of the Old West while being pampered with some of the finest cuisine and luxury amenities.
In addition to the distinction of being the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star guest ranch, The Ranch at Rock Creek is the United States’s only founding member of the National Geographic Society’s Unique Lodges of the World.
It’s not just the stunning mountain views or the charming cowboy manners of the staff (yes, ma’am; thank you, ma’am) that make this place special. From the moment you enter the rustic elegance of the Granite Lodge lobby area, something changes. And as days of trail rides and barn dances and sipping mint-soaked cocktails at the Silver Dollar Saloon pass, something might change inside you too.
One thing’s for sure, no detail was spared to make this all-inclusive guest ranch deserving of every one of its 5-stars.
Sourcing produce and beef from local farms for gourmet creations that rotate daily, Chef Josh Drage could hold his own in any cosmopolitan dining scene.
The Granite Spa (and adjacent cedar sauna and pool) offers customized treatments that range from a Raindrop Therapy massage (which is blissful) to a Saddle Sore Soak that combines essential oils and bodywork. And the lodging options (especially the Indiana Jones-style “glamping” cabins) are something out of a Hollywood film. No two rooms are alike. Every object tells a story.
Still, it’s more than that. There is a spirit here and an authenticity that all the money in the world can’t buy.
There are campfire tales to be told, and not just the ones about how much Gwyneth Paltrow and Gwen Stefani rave over this place but ones about the people who work there—Montana natives who grew up herding cattle and riding horses.
The only way to know is to experience it. Come along for a tour, then. Extra cowboy boots (along with any other gear you might need) are in the Rod and Gun Club for the borrowing.
OLD WEST HISTORY
One of the “musts” Manley had on his ranch wish list (he toured more than 200 on his search) was that it had a close proximity to an old mining or gold rush town.
The Ranch Creek property more than met those criteria. Philipsburg, Montana came to life during the silver mining boom in the late 1800s and the nearby Granite Mill was the greatest silver producer in the state. And where there’s silver, there are gems, hence the discovery of sapphires in the Rock Creek drainage in 1892. (More than a century later, ranch guests can opt for an adventure out to mine for some of those old gems).
After the mining boom went bust came the next chapter for the property (which also happened to be on Manley’s wish list)—the age of cattle ranching and wrangling and homesteading. The property changed hands through the years but remained a working cattle ranch up until the time Manley purchased it in 2007, several years before a multimillion dollar renovation turned it into the posh resort visitors see today. But while Manley’s design team was careful to make the lodge and accommodations luxurious and up to 5-star standards, they were also under strict orders to preserve as much as possible. As such, the original 19th century barn and several other structures still stand, and were used as inspiration for other new structures.
In a nod to the property’s frontier history, the ranch’s preeminent interior designer Jet Zarkadas located and reprinted rare photographs of Philipsburg and the surrounding area from the Montana Historical Society.
And according to local staff, Zarkadas also spends quite a bit of time shopping local estates and antique stores to give every room or cabin a one-of-a-kind look that’s as authentic as it is opulent.
ROD AND GUN CLUB
There is a saying at the ranch that “the best souvenir is a great story.” The Rod and Gun Club is where many of those great stories are written—especially for “boys’ weekend” guests wanting to relive their cowboy childhoods like Manley. Feel like shooting a rifle out on the range or some target practice with pistols? They can make it happen with concierge-like staff trained to cater to your every need. Gun collectors and connoisseurs can even bring their own and have a special target range custom built based on their specifications.
But that’s just the beginning. The club is the de facto activity center for the ranch, where customized itineraries are built that will include everything from a trip to the Granite Spa to fly fishing in the creek to Blue Ribbon trout fishing. Off-ranch excursions such as sapphire mining and ghost town tours can also be arranged from this location.
HOME ON THE RANGE
In keeping with its reputation as an intimate, exclusive resort, The Ranch at Rock Creek offers 29 accommodations in four different styles—each offering a stylish interpretation of old West glam.
Let’s start with the Granite Lodge—the hub of dining and positioned adjacent to the Silver Dollar Saloon and The Mercantile (filled with irresistible boots and other Western gear). With names like Winchester, Remington, Mustang, and Derringer, the nine rooms within the Granite Lodge feature iconic western themes and décor, ranging from 315 to 375 square feet. They are cozy and convenient to all-inclusive dining and the great lodge.
Three additional accommodations are housed within the original 19th century barn with a shared lower porch that looks out over a lawn of wildflowers. For large groups or families, the entire barn can be reserved as a three bedroom suite.
One of the most elegant and unique ways to sleep at the ranch is a “glamping” cabin—a cross between a rustic cabin and a glamorous canvas tent of the vintage age of travel, complete with hanging chandeliers. Some have full kitchens and multiple bedrooms, with private decks and cooking areas.
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE
As a luxury all-inclusive, everything is included in your ranch experience from morning coffee and cocktails to the comfort food made ranch-style on Saturday nights.
Even the most discerning foodie would agree the culinary offerings are beyond exquisite. In addition to the chef’s tasting menu in the Granite Lodge, there are special offerings throughout the week.
Sunday is the Dutch oven dinner with a style of rustic cuisine. There is also the option to join in on the Tuesday summer rodeo barbecue or enjoy the chef’s grill outside on the flagstone terrace.
But as wonderful as all of that is, it’s the mere experience of being present in this magical world that refreshes the mind and spirit. It’s no wonder Manley keeps a house here, and is never too proud to mingle with his guests at a barbecue or a Buckle Barn dance. In some ways, it really does feel like you are his own personal guest here—not in a world-famous resort but at an old friend’s ranch hideaway. You will leave having a little bit more Montana-bred respect for how the finer things in life can go hand in hand with mud from a sunset trail ride, or the smell of gunpowder from the range. And yes, wherever you call home is going to look a little bit different too when you get back. That’s what transformation is all about.
The Ranch at Rock Creek is located at 79 Carriage House Lane in Philipsburg, Montana. All-inclusive rates (which include a pick up and escort from the airport) start at $800 per person, per night, with packages that can be customized to your group or family needs.
For more information, call 877-786-1545 or visit theranchatrockcreek.com