Situated on a swath of 6,600 acres of remote wilderness and dotted with timber-clad cabins and bespoke glamping tents, The Ranch at Rock Creek, in Philipsburg, Montana, features all the trappings of a rugged Western getaway, but in a luxury setting. In 2010, the 19th century homestead, under the Relais & Châteaux umbrella, became a guest ranch and remains the only five-star property in Big Sky country.
When he was a boy, owner Jim Manley, a NYC-based investment banker, dreamed of owning a ranch, and was a fan of Westerns like Bonanza and The Magnificent Seven. He told his father, “I’m going to get a horse, and a gun, and a ranch.” Over time, Manley’s checklist became even more specific: a low-altitude ranch with alpine beauty, a river running through it, and a nearby Old West town and ski resort. He also wanted to make sure there were grizzly bears, paved highways nearby, and no poisonous snakes. And, in 2007, he finally found his ranch.
Today, the 29-room sprawl—from one-bedroom suites to five-bedroom log homes—claims buttery chocolate and crimson interiors, nostalgic plaids, Navajo rugs, frontier-style antiques, and freestanding bathtubs. Rustic charms beckon guests to unplug, and there’s plenty of adventure on tap. Guests gather at the reconstructed Rod & Gun Club for the property’s famed fly-fishing, magically set on the four miles of Rock Creek’s winding, trout-filled waters. You’ll also find horseback riding with well-stocked stables (a handsome brood of 75) and 6,600 acres to explore.
In winter, guests can venture to the nearby Discovery Ski Area for downhill skiing; gear, transportation, and a gourmet lunch are included. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you’ll find a slew of activities—snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowmobiles, and a horse-drawn sleigh. By summer, gentler weather ushers in idle days of bird-watching, paintball, a ropes course, 3-D archery, biking, and hiking. There’s even an authentic rodeo. And, for those who like pampering, the cozy Granite Spa lets you soak in a cedar sauna or indulge in a handcrafted sage scrub or hot stone massage.
Come mealtime, hearty multicourse, wood-fired dinners from chef Josh Drage lean on seasonal fare for cowboy-style breakfasts, Montana elk rib-eye, and grass-fed burgers. The ranch also stocks a highly touted wine list. At night, gather around a crackling fire, with hot chocolate or seasonal craft cocktails, or venture to the Silver Dollar Saloon for billiards, bowling, and karaoke. The Buckle Barn is the spot for live music and barn dances. And, while your ranch wardrobe will most likely include jeans, flannels, and fleeces, the ranch also stocks loaners from waders to cowboy boots.
“The Ranch should be a place where people can become kids again and share that experience with friends and family,” Manley says. “I think we’ve accomplished that.”
From $1,800, all inclusive; theranchatrockcreek.com
Take home the look: A well-curated mercantile lets you stock up on branded ranch gear, Patagonia fleeces, Stetson hats, and Pendleton blankets.
Getting there: For a winter sojourn, connecting flights on Delta from LAX to Salt Lake City (SLC) arrive into Missoula (MSO), followed by a 1.5-hour drive to Philipsburg. Private planes land at MSO or Anaconda, a 45-minte drive. Helicopter travel to and from The Ranch can also be arranged.