WESTERN MONTANA – PART TWO
The Ranch At Rock Creek Family Travel Notes
Remember in the movie Dirty Dancing Baby and her family went on vacation to the affluent resort Kellerman’s in the Catskill Mountains? Lakeside cottages, activities for the whole family, fine dining and young good looking staff eager to meet your every need? This was the western version. I swear if I could have located the staff quarters there would have been some naughty line dancing going on and a couple of watermelons being carried…..
HOW TO GET THERE
Drive | Located in the heart of Western Montana The Ranch at Rock Creek is located halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. Not a short drive from anywhere BUT worth making it part of a road trip. We drove from LA and if you’re a road trip kind of gal/guy and have the time to spare then you’ll love it.
Fly | You can fly to a number of surrounding airports where a driver will pick you up from the Ranch. Drive time approx. two hours. If this is a little slow for you there are private plans and helicopters on offer…..Yes….That’s what I just said.
The owner Jim Manley took twenty years to find the location and we were told he had a very specific criteria for what he was looking for. No grizzly bears, no poisonous snakes, a river running through the property, a nearby ski hill, two hours from an airport, situated in a valley and a working ranch.
Not cheap but you wouldn’t expect it to be when it is listed as the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five Star guest ranch. What’s great about it is they do an all-inclusive rate structure which I hadn’t experienced anywhere else. Once you have made you’re booking that’s it. Every activity you could possibly imagine, every cocktail your heart desires(very important), the finest ranch cuisine, picnics, childcare, everything and more is included in the room rate.
The thing is with the staff, they don’t feel like staff but like friends who happen to know allot about where you’re staying. We never felt like we were on a holiday but more like we lived at the Ranch and they were our neighbours who we spent time with. Most of them multitask about the place so you look forward to seeing them everyday. PS They call you mame……..For real.
There are up to twenty guided outdoor activities all equiped with expert guides, experienced staff and top of the line gear. I have never seen an offering for families at this level. Especially this trip it was hard to find really great outdoor activities for ages three and five. The level to which The Ranch At Rock Creek cater for family experiences on a whole is unparalleled. Below are our top picks if you have small children.
Bison stew might not be your thang but in these here parts were talking organic local produce cooked the western way and its Ranch cuisine at it’s finest. Executive Chef Josh Drage and Sous Chef Ben Miller really take the traditions of the West and make them modern using Montana stock, wildlife, herb and harvest that mirror the regions seasonal crops. We chatted quite a bit to Ben about the food, where it came from, how it’s harvested. Every night the style of the menu changes as well as the venue. Comfort food in the Buckle Barn, an eight course Chef’s tasting menu in the Granite Lodge, the Chef’s Grill outside along the picnic tables……did I mention cocktails?
STYLE – The Modern West
Think Tristan from Legends of the Fall and old images of Ralph and Ricky Lauren on their private ranch in Colorado. You HAVE to dress the part. I do love a theme so I might have gotten a little carried away but if there was a place to bust out the bolo this is it. Vintage American Indian jewellery, Ralph Lauren, Double RRL, modern denim, classic white oversized mens shirts, suede fringing(strongly advise to go light in this department). If you have forgotten your fringe or feel like dressing the part there are some gems to be found at the Mercantile.
Two words. Little Grizzlies. We had been on the road now for about a month solid, no adult time if you know what I mean then low and behold there was salvation in the form of The Little Grizzlies Kids Club. I wasn’t planning on sending the kids to a club but when I saw that the program focused on outdoor educational activities where the kids learn about Montanan and ranch life it was a great breather for all of us. Captain seriously believed he was a cowboy by the time we left. Oh did I say we loved the staff?
My insane life long obsession with ranch life and western style had come together in the most distinct way. Perched on the edge of babbling Rock Creek we experienced Montana under a canvas sky in Sweet Grass, a luxury canvas cabin. In the centre is an original style cabin flanked on either side by two canvas wings that house two master bedrooms each with a clawfoot bathtub and wood burning stove. Rustic western interiors and antiques galore offset by luxurious amenities and the softest bed I had ever had the good fortune to lay on. Your backyard is a wooden outdoor hot tub which definitely calls for a nude soak and your own creek front fire place to sit around and roast marshmallows under the stars. It was a clever contradiction of being completely immersed in nature yet having all the comforts you can imagine. Thank goodness for the modern Wild West.
Incredible Service | Wonderful Staff | Stunning Landscapes | Interesting Guests | A Real Life Western Experience | Adventure | Luxury Rustic Accommodation | Privacy | Delicious Local Fare |
Minimum five nights is highly recommended (but if you can only manage three like us then do it). There is SO much to do and so much to explore amongst the 6,600 acres plus they host a weekly itinerary of events that you will hate to miss out on.
Hiking shoes and gear
Cowboy hat and boots
Warmer attire for the evening.
The Ranch offers a different experience for each season so check to see if snow, sun or autumn evenings are your thing. We were there late in the summer season and the weather was perfect. Not too hot and cooler in the evenings. The summer season also has the weekly Rodeo onsite every Tuesday, June through to August which I’m sad to say we missed. Book your first lot of activities before arriving so you have a plan and don’t waste a second figuring it all out. The staff can help you do this over the phone or via email.
HOW TO BOOK
For bookings talk to the kings of luxury and boutique holiday experiences at Mr & Mrs Smith Hotels
To visit again during autumn or at Christmas when it snows.
To see the Rodeo
To stay longer
This is the second entry in a three part travel series where we share life on the ranch at Rock Creek and how to make the most of your stay in Western Montana.
Photographer | Sammy Elsom