Editors' Picks

The Ranch at Rock Creek

Dude ranch, luxurious, Wild West adventure

79 Carriage House Lane, ., Philipsburg 59858


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At a Glance

The 6,600 acres that surround The Ranch at Rock Creek are pure Big Sky country: soaring mountains, pine forests, rolling meadows and, of course, a river that runs through it all—that also happens to be one of the premier sporting streams in the region. The vast property has been a working ranch since the 1800s, and in 2010 it was reimagined as a soulful and gorgeous interpretation of a Wild West adventure (particularly evident in the Old West history-laden décor). While the barn, its 70-horse herd and sprawling system of trails are the main attraction, in the warmer months, especially in summer, other activities include 50 miles of hiking paths, mountain biking, shooting clays, paintball, archery and fly fishing (here is one of the finest trout runs in the United States). When the temperature drops and the snow arrives (all 215 inches of it, on average!), there’s an abundance of winter activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, skating and horse-drawn sleigh rides.

**The Standout:** The riding program, which caters to all levels with personable wranglers and spectacular trails **Don’t Miss:** An evening at the fabulous Silver Dollar Saloon, complete with a bowling alley, movie theater, billiard tables and games, and some seriously chic saddles-turned- bar-stools

Indagare Loves

  • The stylish accommodations: from comfortable suites in the main lodge to gorgeous freestanding multi-bedroom cabins—and “glamping” tents
  • The local farm-to-table cuisine and communal ethos that encourages guests to mingle at barbecues, rodeos and bonfires
  • The staff who become friends during a stay


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 have 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.

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, we recommend contacting the Indagare Bookings Team for more information.

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 with five-star amenities. The Ranch at Rock Creek is also a fabulous place to take over as a larger group for a special occasion, anniversary or party.

Getting There

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

Written by Lizzie Eberhart

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