“I like to think of preparing for target shooting like breathing for yoga,” my guide tells me as I line the sight on my revolver up with the moving Texas Star Target. “So inhale now, relax, and then when you aren’t thinking about it as you exhale pull the trigger.”
I do as I’m told and shoot the point off of the star, then repeat his advice to knock off another three points.
“Wow, I would never have tried that breathing method on my own but it really works,” I say, exuberant at my newfound skills.
Target shooting with pistols, like I’m doing, as well as shotguns and rifles is just one of about 40 activities offered every day at The Ranch at Rock Creek just outside of Philipsburg, Montana.
A working cattle ranch on a 19th-century homestead about 1.5 hours southeast of Missoul , the 6,600-acre property is at once luxurious and down to earth. The first guest ranch in the world to earn Forbes Travel’s Guides Five-Star Award in 2013, it seamlessly blends award-winning service, rustic elegant period Western decor and lodging, gourmet food and premium spirits with real life ranch activities like cattle drives to create an authentic, all-inclusive Montana experience.
A True All Inclusive Experience
With the exception of the spa (which is well worth paying extra to experience, I had one of the best massages of my life here), transport to and from the airport and some of the finer bottles of wine, pretty much everything is included in your stay at The Ranch at Rock Creek. This makes the daily rate a better deal than similar properties if you were to pay per meal and activity. All food, alcohol and individually guided activities are covered.
And with a max capacity of 75 guests, the experience also feels very exclusive. There are just 29 one-of-a-kind accommodation options ranging in size from one-bedroom suites to five-bedroom homes. These come in four distinct styles and are spread across the sprawling landscape (guests are given fit-to-them mountain bikes to get around the property). The suites in the Granite Lodge are perfect for couples looking for the best price point and feature the same custom furniture and Western heritage style decor showcased around the resort.
The Granite Lodge also hosts the cozy lounge and bar area where daily social hours are held, the front desk and one of the dining rooms. It is adjacent to the spa and the Silver Dollar Saloon, where many night activities from bowling on three private lanes to live music performances take place. Other accommodations are in a converted historic barn, luxury homes and canvas cabins perfect for the most posh Glamping you’ve ever encountered.
Personalized Itineraries and Individually Guided Activities
Offering fully customizable itineraries, including world-class private, guided experiences, are what truly set an escape to The Ranch at Rock Creek apart. I grew up riding horses and I wanted to spend as much time on horseback as possible on my trip.
As such, I was thrilled when matched with a horse that had more spunk than your typical dude ranch ride as well as a guide ready to let me lope as much as I wanted (as long as it was safe for the horse). I went for long daily rides up and down mountains that included some glorious stretches of galloping across wildflower strewn meadows.
Riding is just one of around 45 activities offered. Besides the aforementioned pistol shooting, guests can sign up for everything from archery to fly fishing, sport clay shooting and fat tire biking. There are also more specialized activities including sapphire mining, frontier skills workshops and something as relaxing as having breakfast served creekside while you chill in hammocks.
Gourmet Ranch Cooking
The food at The Ranch at Rock Creek is superlative. Executive Chef Josh Drage has created a ranch to table menu that tells a story about Montana — you’ll get a subtle hint of alfalfa in the grass-fed beef, a taste of wildflowers in a honey vinaigrette. Changing daily, the menu focuses on regionally and locally sourced organic ingredients that mirror the state’s seasonal bounty.
Preparation is as diverse as the dishes themselves, sometimes involving a wood fire grill or Dutch oven and at other times making full use of a modern, state-of-the-art kitchen. Dinners are multi-course, highly curated affairs and there is always more than one choice. All dietary restrictions and preferences are accounted for.
When to Visit
The Ranch at Rock Creek is open year-round. The property often books out months in advance, especially for its specialty weekends. If you don’t want to visit during peak periods consider early May. The days are usually sunny and warm enough to ditch the jacket before dark. Rates are also lower than in the peak summer season. For the best deals, pay a visit in winter. You’ll be presented with a slightly different set of activities and get to experience the magic of Montana in a wild season.