As the suburban rumbles along the Montana highway, we leave Missoula Airport behind us and head for the creek. Fly fishermen world-wide know this blue-ribbon stream of water as Rock Creek, home to native trout. Like a fish heading upstream to spawn, we turn the car off the pavement and crunch up the gravel road to The Ranch at Rock Creek. Mule and white tail deer graze the grasslands, while a mother moose watches her baby from the protective cover of reeds by the water’s edge.
Weekday banker vs weekend cowboy
We have stepped back in time. I half expected to see Little Joe and Hoss from the Bonanza television western series as we pulled into The Ranch At Rock Creek. Instead, I met owner Jim Manley saddled up in boots, jeans, flannel shirt, down vest, leather gloves and a cowboy hat, ready to ride. His infectious smile and kid-in-a-candy-store attitude conflicted with my image of a stiff, buttoned up, East Coast investment banker. In fact, I’m embarrassed to say that I mistook Manley for one of the wranglers at the ranch. Fortunately for me, he laughed when I asked him if he worked at Rock Creek Ranch.
Investing in a western dream
As we rode on horseback into the rolling hills of Western Montana, Manley shared his childhood dream of owning his own ranch one day. That day came in 2007 after looking at over 500 ranches in 20 years. This low elevation property, with a high alpine feel, and river running through it, met Manley’s expectations and launched his dream of what would become The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana.
Luxurious Ranch at Rock Creek
With nine rooms in the Relaix Chateau Granite Lodge, eight private log houses and numerous canvas tent cabins, there is lodging to fit every guest’s desires. This year round luxury dude ranch offers a children’s program and is also pet-friendly.
The all inclusive Ranch at Rock Creek features gourmet meals in the dining room, western casual at Silver Dollar Saloon and more dining options at the Blue Canteen. Picnic lunches may be arranged for longer day rides and hikes and don’t forget the fresh baked cookies in the Granite Lodge great room.
Happy horses at The Ranch at Rock Creek
If I were a horse, I’d want to live at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana. Barn Manager Val Darlington clearly cares about her horses and wants them to be as comfortable as the ranch guests. Well, maybe that’s going a bit too far, but Darlington does believe that a horse fitted with the proper saddle pad, saddle and bridle, is a happy horse. Happy horses help to make happy horseback riding vacation memories.
Relaix and Chateau Ranch
As the ranch is a Relaix and Chateau property, it follows that the equestrian program is top notch. The Ranch at Rock Creek offers horseback riding vacations for both English and Western riders, as well as well-trained horses for all riding levels.
When I was visiting the ranch, we had English and Western equestrians in attendance. General Managers Maja and Thomas Kilgore took the advanced riders up into the mountains where they spotted a wolf. Of course, the wolf wanted nothing to do with the horses and riders and vanished into the trees.
For the beginning riders, there are wide, flat trails leading to Rock Creek. The ranch is open year-round and offers wagon rides, with sleigh rides available in the winter. My visit was in April, but another guest had stayed here in the winter and said it was a magical experience.
Year round ranch activities
A typical day at The Ranch at Rock Creek involves a briefing with the staff the night prior to discuss your interest level in a wide array of activities. With over 20 activities on tap, and excellent staff instruction, there is something for everyone at the ranch.
Options range from fly-fishing on the blue ribbon Rock Creek to sporting clays, pistol and rifle shooting or 3-d archery. After a day of hiking, biking, kayaking or bowling, there is always the option of lounging by the pool, or having a treatment at Granite Spa. I highly recommend the deep tissue massage with custom blended essential oils, after a morning of horseback riding. Pure bliss!
If You Go:
The Ranch at Rock Creek (877 ) 786-1545 or (406) 859-6027
79 Carriage House Lane, Philipsburg, Montana 59858
Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of The Ranch at Rock Creek