Well-heeled wannabe cowboys flock to The Ranch at Rock Creek hotel in the wild, big-sky country of Montana. It’s a working ranch surrounded by mountains and set blissfully in the middle of nowhere. The property’s 6,000 acres have a lot to offer – a spa, ice rink, movie theatre, bowling alley, stables, shooting range, heated outdoor pool, swimming hole, fishing ponds and a rushing creek. Oh, and stagecoach or sleigh rides, skiing and snow-shoe tours, biking and hiking – all included in your room rate, naturally – so a return trip could be on the cards.
Get this when you book through us:
One $100 Ranch Credit per room to be used at the Mercantile, the Granite Spa, or the reserve
Twenty-nine, including seven log cabins and 10 luxury 'canvas cabin' tents
11am, but flexible if there’s availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from $1800.00, excluding tax at 20 per cent.
Rates include all activities, meals and drinks; the 20 per cent ranch fee includes taxes, snacks, phone calls and WiFi.
There’s a spa in the Granite Lodge, with luxury pedicure stations and framed flowers on the walls; treatments include the aptly named Saddle Sore Soak, guaranteed to bathe away the day’s aches. There's also an ice rink for skating and games of ice hockey.
At the hotel
Rodeo grounds (for the weekly rodeo), cinema, the Buckle Barn event space, library, spa, bowling alley, hot tub, billiards table, stables, fishing ponds, WiFi throughout and 6,600 acres. In rooms, iPod dock, minibar and free bottled water. Some rooms have TVs.
Our favourite rooms
Camping fans won’t know what’s hit them in a Luxury Canvas Cabin, where the toilet is inside the tent, and a private bath house is nearby. They line the banks of Rock Creek, and come with a rocking chair and porch out front. For sturdier lodgings, head inside to the Appaloosa Suite, with a four-poster white birch bed and wooden walls, or the masculine Loft, which has rafter ceilings and an elegant freestanding bath tub.
The thousands of acres have room for a heated outdoor pool. Brave sorts can jump in the creek.
Checked shirts, jeans and cowboy hats – and if you don’t normally dress like you’re in a Western, stock up at the Mercantile, where you can buy genuine cowboy articles. The ranch has a whole storage room of sports equipment, so don’t worry about lugging your own.
One bedroom in the Granite Lodge is suitable for wheelchair users.
Very welcome; just remember that the area is remote and that a babysitter will need a fortnight’s notice. Cribs must be ordered in, so let the hotel know well in advance. Some rooms have pull-out beds for children.
Six plus, who are steady on their feet and like to run around.
Springfield, Colt, Sharps and Derringer, along with the log homes, are family-friendly thanks to the space they offer.
Kids will be entertained for days: toy boat building down on the creek, tie-dying, face-painting, making sock puppets, scrapbooks, dream catchers, ice-cream and Cheerio necklaces, flower trails, teepee-based picnics, cooking class, bowling, treasure hunts, pony rides…
There’s a shallow end in the pool, and arm-bands and floats available to borrow.
Dinner is served at 7.30pm and children are welcome to dine with grown-ups. They’ll have their own menu to pick from, and the restaurant has high chairs. Packed lunches can be ordered, too.
A local nanny can call in but be sure to give at least two weeks’ notice in these remote rural parts.
No need to pack
Monitoring equipment, play pens, prams and even car seats can be loaned out from the hotel.
Warm and snug by the fire in the cosy dining room.
Anything goes, but for footwear, cowboy boots to fit in with the not-so-lone rangers.
The restaurant in the Granite Lodge serves hearty ranch fare, such as beer-braised pork with figs and melted leeks, and Montana elk rib-eye with cherry, watermelon and fennel salad. With checkered curtains, Native American-influenced upholstery and a granite fireplace, the decor has been lifted straight out of Little House on the Prairie.
The Silver Dollar Saloon is as close to the real deal as you’ll get, and this one has its own billiards table, four-lane bowling alley and 14-ft flatscreen. All drinks are included in the rate.
Meals are flexible (breakfast, 8am–11am; lunch, noon–2pm), except dinner, when cocktails are at 6.30pm and the main event at 7.30pm.
The Ranch at Rock Creek is in middle-of-nowhere Montana, surrounded by Granite County’s big skies and mountains, and close to old mining town, Philipsburg.
The nearest airports are Butte (BTM) and Missoula (MSO), both under an hour and a half away by car. Delta (www.delta.com) flies direct to Butte from Salt Lake City; United (www.united.com) has flights linking Missoula with Denver and San Francisco. There are also Helena Regional (HLN, two hours), and Bozeman Yellowstone (BZN, two and a half hours). Private planes can land at any of the above, plus Bowman Field in Anaconda (3U3, an hour's drive) and Riddick Field in Philipsburg (U05, a 35-minute drive). Delta and United put on extra direct flights from major cities to Missoula and Bozeman and over the summer.
From Philipsburg, the drive will take around half an hour, and it’s roughly an hour from Anaconda. Yellowstone is a four-hour drive away.
Tours and transfers by helicopter can be arranged on request.
Worth getting out of bed for
You won’t need to travel far for adventure here: clay-pigeon shooting, fly-fishing, horse riding, sleigh rides, archery, hockey, ice-skating, hiking and mountain biking are all included in the rate. The hotel can also arrange tours of Philipsburg and a local ghost town.
In Philipsburg, don’t miss a trip to Doe Brothers Old Fashioned Soda Fountain & Restaurant (+1 406 859 7677; www.doebrothers.net) on East Broadway Street for amazing sandwiches on pretzel bread, washed down with a huckleberry milkshake. It’s restored and run by a couple dedicated to showcasing Americana at its very finest. Be sure to call for opening hours in colder months (October to April).
Mr & Mrs Smith have just returned from a stay at this Granite County boutique hotel, and as soon as they've unpacked their cowboy boots and holsters, a full account of their USA luxury country break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana…
Ever fancied running off to the Montana wilderness and pretending to be Clint Eastwood or Paul Newman? At the Ranch at Rock Creek, any cowboy fantasy can come true. Classic Hollywood stars might not be guaranteed, but every other detail will be at this working ranch – fly-fish down by the creek, hop on a horse at the stables, get a strike at the bowling alley, buy a cowboy kit at the Mercantile or be soothed at the spa.
The owner spent his childhood unwittingly researching his future grand design by watching Westerns on repeat. Years passed staking out the perfect pitch, until he struck gold at Carriage House Lane and got building, paying close attention to the existing local architecture to make this ranch authentic. Take your pick from staying in a luxury tent along the creek, or in the Granite Lodge, kitted out with colourful Native American prints, heavy leather sofas and lots of wooden panels.
The vision is complete, and though the price tag may be hefty, it’s not every day you can walk onto a place worthy of a film set. Welcome to Big Sky Country.
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