No one stays indoors in Montana. The state’s outdoor recreation industry, despite bitterly cold winters, generates $5.8 billion annually, nearly a tenth of America's, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. As a huge advocate of the Big Sky state, I usually make a trip once a year, if not more, to hike, fish, horseback ride, shoot and otherwise frolic amid Montana's bucolic beauty. The Ranch at Rock Creek also knows guests love to enjoy the outdoors. "Pretty much [every] guests just wants to be outside. And we just make that as easy as possible,” said Patrick Little, the Activity's Director of The Ranch at Rock Creek.
This spring, I made my second trip to The Ranch at Rock Creek, an incredible luxury ranch property that encompasses 6,600 acres of prime country land. Owner Jim Manley spent nearly two decades surveying ranches across America and Canada that would meet his strict criteria and fulfill his boyhood vision of the ideal ranch. The property had to have no poisonous snakes, no grizzlies, a pristine river running completely through it, no visible paved roadways, low elevation but a high alpine mining town and a ski resort nearby.
In addition, there had to be adequate rainfall and snowfall so it could be a year-round resort. Finally, Manley insisted that the ranch nestle in its own valley, so guests would be secluded from any nearby development. In short, a cowboy chimera. Thus, when Manley toured The Ranch at Rock Creek, he bought it the same day.
The result of Manley's lifelong quest is one unbelievable ranch, the literal embodiment of the idolized cowboy experience (but in utter luxury). The resort has garnered every affluent accolade the world over in just a few years, showcasing an unmatched blend of genuine Montana hospitality and five-star amenities. The Ranch at Rock Creek became one of National Geographic’s inaugural Unique Lodges of the World, a prestigious short list of outstanding properties that make the outdoors a welcoming wonderland.
There's no need to pack your cowboy hat, down jackets, designer cowboy boots, rifles, state-of-the-art paintball goggles, snow shoes or other such attire or gear at The Ranch at Rock Creek either. The resort’s activity barn brims like a cowboy version of Nordstrom, sans price tags. All gear can be borrowed as one wishes, another great aspect of the ranch's all-inclusive pricing.
From fly fishing in the Blue Ribbon-rated creek to shooting sporting clays with top of the line shotguns, the resort’s activity options are unmatched. One of the newest additions to the property is an impressive ropes course, an ideal option for groups and families up to 12 at a time. The course features 13 high-rope challenges, two zip lines, six low-rope challenges, and the ultimate "Leap-of-Faith" test. Guests can play for hours on end (as younger guests do), and the course also entices the shy to venture 35 feet above ground.
I personally loved the quick zip lines, which never cease to be less than thrilling, particularly as gorgeous Montana scenery streaks by. The Leap of Faith was daunting, difficult, and equally fun. It requires you to jump from a 35-foot tall wooden beam and then to ideally to catch a suspended monkey bar seven feet away. Seven feet is especially far when perched stories above the ground, but guests sometimes make it after a few attempts (I can't claim that I'm in that group).
One of the most welcoming aspects of the ranch during or after a long day of ropes, rifles, and riding is Chef Josh Drage’s ranch cuisine. Raised in Alaska in a small cabin, Chef Drage started cooking around the age of 12 and has brought pure country-fare flavors to the ranch for the past six years. Every resort nowadays claims local sourcing or farm-to-table ingredients, but Drage’s dishes burst with such an exquisite essence, that you can envision the creek the salmon actually swam in, the field the cattle grazed in, and the vines the strawberries grew on.
Chef Drage’s dishes are purposely simple and allow the quality of the ingredients to make mouthwatering melodies. I never fathomed that a lamb meatball, a raspberry scone, or humble meatloaf could be so divine. Menus change often to reflect the seasons, but one thing is certain: if the ranch added "eating" to their roster of activities, then no one would probably leave.
The Ranch at Rock Creek is definitely the place to go to make your cowboy fantasies come true with the backdrop of Montana’s beautiful countryside.