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A Joyful Kickoff to the Season of Giving

Giving Thanks

Before thanks have even been given in the traditional American way, we’re giving thanks to our community through a local tradition. This Friday and Saturday, we will host the 4th annual Granite County Festival of Trees in our bedecked Buckle Barn. Though Santa doesn’t make his appearance for another month and a half, it’s fair to say our elves are busy as ever preparing for this charity event. Read on to garner the recipe for our Bar Manager’s wassail-worthy mulled wine. 

17 Christmas trees lit up the Buckle Barn before the Festival of Trees gala auction
“It’s a Wonderful Life” plays in the Buckle Barn before the 2015 Festival of Trees Gala Auction.

Joy in Montana, Joy to the World

The Granite County Festival of Trees is the only major fundraiser for the local non-profit organization, the Granite County Medical Foundation. Since the event’s inception, The Ranch has been a sponsor, and for the last three years we’ve served as angel sponsor and host. The first year, the event raised over $10,000 and last year’s event it raised $35,000 for local health projects.

The outside view of the Buckle Barn after the 2015 Granite County Festival of Trees
Peeking into the windows of the Buckle Barn before the 2015 Gala Auction. 

These projects have ranged from buying new beds for the long-term care and acute care patients at our local medical center to supplying AEDs to local law enforcement vehicles and to helping provide car seat checks and bike helmets to the area’s youth. When you live in a remote mountain environment, you truly appreciate emergency and preventive health services that help your staff, family, friends and neighbors.

Mercantile artisan, Pat Siler of Philipsburg’s Back Creek Pottery, created commemorative ornaments for the event. 

In addition to the Festival of Trees, The Ranch also hosts our hometown’s Granite High School prom and supports a long list of charity projects throughout the year. We believe one of the most important parts of our commitment to sustainability is giving back to local organizations and supporting local businesses and artisans.

“Our whole Ranch team truly enjoys helping to produce this community event. We are proud of our angel sponsorship and look forward to our participation every year. Our group coordinators and culinary team are very talented and create memorable family reunions, corporate retreats and weddings throughout the year. But this greatly anticipated event is extra special because it brings our community together for a wonderful cause and represents the official start to The Ranch’s holiday season celebrations.” ~Steve Shotsberger, General Manager

We are happy to be recognized for our giving and sustainability initiatives through our National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World affiliation, but these charity projects also signify a personal connection to many of our employees, who volunteer their time to serve on local non-profit boards, volunteer for projects and even work as Ski Patrol or volunteer fire fighters to ensure the safety and health of local residents. Read more…

What is Forest Bathing?

Travel & Nature Therapy: Shinrin-Yoku/Forest Bathing

“The walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise…I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”
~Henry David Thoreau, “Walking.”

Montana ranks 44th in population size, but this allows us to be leaders in another way—in our access to nature. The Ranch itself is mid-way between America’s first National Park, Yellowstone and the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park. Montanans love having a homestead and venturing out into our vast public lands. It seems the more wide open spaces you see, the more you crave them.

Photo by Caleb Lee

Conversely, the world in general is growing ever more industrialized. Eighty-two percent of North Americans live in an urban setting. With that number projected to grow, scientists are studying the unforeseen physical and mental cost of moving away from natural settings. At the same time the research mounts, we’ve spent the better part of 2017 developing programs that help guests connect with our natural setting, from Montana naturalist classes to Nat Geo narrative photography lessons to natural play environments in the Little Grizzlies Kids Club and natural movement and forest bathing Granite Spa classes.

This week we look at the role of nature in restoring mental and physical health, as well as society’s skepticism toward nature therapy and the power of vacations to get us out of our routine and try new things. Read more…

5 Luxe Ways to Celebrate and Savor the Fall Harvest

The Ranch’s New Fall Harvest Festivities

This early October, we are channeling The Ranch’s beehives and buzzing around diligently in preparation of one of our biggest celebrations of the year, Autumn Harvest Weekend. Although we celebrate most major holidays here, our fall harvest celebration is a labor of love – the love of food grown, raised and made in Montana.

Photo by Lynn Donaldson

Everything about this celebration is inspired by Western Montana and its purveyors, pioneers and culture. If you’re looking for an unparalleled culinary journey through the legendary West, we have a few select accommodations remaining, like Bear House below. Contact our Reservations Specialists today for last-minute availability.

Bear House is a one-of-a-kind luxury home, perfect for groups of friends or families. 

Click here to see the full Autumn Harvest itinerary, or stay on this page to see five ways we’re celebrating Montana’s bountiful fall harvest this October. Read more…

Announcing Exclusive, Inclusive Downhill Skiing at The Ranch

As summer winds down, now is the time to dream of the next blissful getaway that takes advantage of all a season can offer. We’re thrilled to announce that a winter stay at The Ranch will now include virtually every way to delight in Montana’s snowy splendor. We’ve just added downhill skiing and snowboarding excursions to our list of over a dozen fully inclusive winter activities!

Skiers ride the lifts at Discovery Ski Area. The hill is known for beautiful slopes and no lift lines.
The Anaconda-Pintler mountain range provides an epic backdrop for skiing at 8,158 feet. 

Downhill Skiing, Complimentary Nights & More

Winter guests will now enjoy reduced all-inclusive rates, airport transfers from three local airports, all meals and premium beverages, twice-daily on-Ranch activities, plus excursions to our local ski mountain, Discovery Ski Area.

What’s more, winter guests staying three nights at The Ranch will receive a complimentary fourth night! Winter travelers can also take advantage of one of three winter special offers that includes over $800 in added value and allows them to discover new curated adventures, like a romantic winter getaway, a frontier-inspired legendary adventure or a luxury spa and nature retreat.

Effortless Winter Planning

We offer curated adventures to channel inspiring, even transformative, experiences within our long list of experiential travel options. However, a stay at The Ranch is the anti-thesis of a pre-packaged holiday or a crowded ski vacation. These additions are incorporated into individual customized itineraries that reflect a guest’s desires for relaxation or adventure.

A snowboarder enjoys a sunny day on the slopes at Discovery Ski Area
Discovery boasts an annual snowfall of approx. 215 inches. There are eight lifts, runs for all skill levels and a terrain park. 

Guests will find themselves savoring a relaxed setting where their chosen daily activities seamlessly combine with exceptional dining experiences on thousands of acres of unspoiled snowy terrain.

General Manager Steve Shotsberger noted, “The aim of our all-inclusive rates and these curated winter offers is to provide an expertly planned, enriching winter getaway that is unequaled in the luxury world. We encourage our guests to have higher expectations of what they can experience on their next winter vacation. They are invited to soak up the beauty of our pristine natural setting through new and inspiring winter sports while experiencing warm hospitality and excellent service.”

Eagle’s Perch is a two-story luxury log home in a pristine winter setting along Rock Creek.  Read more…

Sweet Life of Bees: A Montana Apiary Story

Join us as we follow our new colleagues—the bees—as they homestead in the Rock Creek Valley. Chapters are in reverse order so that followers can read the latest updates first. To read from the beginning scroll to Chapter 1 near the end of the page. 

Chapter 4, Winter: Dining with Local Honey

by Kelsey Bruns, Beekeeper, Master Naturalist and Little Grizzlies Kids Club Coordinator

Honey is an amazingly diverse food that can enhance a dish or soothe symptoms of the common cold. It has been harvested and used for thousands of years, thus, working its way into cultural and medicinal practices worldwide. This year at The Ranch, we have been able to harvest 10 gallons of our very own honey that reflects our local ecosystem, and it’s going to make the farm-to-table culinary experience just a touch sweeter as we move into the winter months.

Photo of winter glamping on Rock Creek by Joey Wong of Kava Studios.

Ranch-to-Table Honey

At The Ranch, Executive Chef Josh Drage and his culinary team use an average of 25 gallons of honey per year!  Though honey is often only thought of as a sweetener, this product is far more dynamic. Our culinary team uses honey as a seasoning and flavoring agent in everything from soups and sauces to marinades for our local meat products. Its floral and earthy flavor components can accent savory dishes in addition to sweet treats.

A Ranch server pours tea to drink during a fireside event

Pairing Power

Just like wine, honey takes on the flavors of its ecosystem. Honey can be sweet, musky, and malty — to name just a few tasting points. Those flavors can be emboldened by pairing them with certain ingredients. We look forward to using this flavor enhancer multiple ways in our ever changing seasonal Montana menus.

As part of our winter seasonal offerings, our Bar Manager Ned Derosier is also incorporating our honey into the drink menus. As the days are getting colder and the snow flies onto our valley floor, there is no better way to warm up than with our simple, but very special, Honey Harvest Hot Toddy!

Honey Harvest Hot Toddy Recipe


  • 1.5 oz. Local Whiskey or Bulleit Bourbon
  • 1 oz. Ranch at Rock Creek Honey (or your own local honey)
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 4 oz. piping hot water


  1. Pour in 1.5 oz. of whiskey into a toddy mug.
  2. Add in 1 oz. each of local honey and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
  3. Top with 4 oz. of piping hot water.
  4. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
  5. Serve immediately and enjoy.

This drink will most definitely get you buzzing in a feel good way, especially with our Ranch at Rock Creek honey and Montana made whiskey! Cheers to the bees and to the festive season!

Chapter 3, Fall: Autumn Harvest is Here!

by Kelsey Bruns, Beekeeper, Master Naturalist and Little Grizzlies Kids Club Coordinator

It’s autumn in Montana and change is inevitable. We are all preparing for winter. Here at the Rod and Gun Club our hiking boots are soon to be traded in for cross country skis and snowshoes.

Rancher Zach Jones captured a moose calling at The Ranch at Rock Creek in early fall
Photo of a Rock Creek Moose by Housekeeping Manager Zach Jones.

The local megafauna are on the move. Once again a mama and baby moose are back on Ranch property to seek shelter and feed from Rock Creek. The honeybees have also been preparing for winter.  I recently harvested our first honey crop, and soon the hives will be prepped for winter.

Harvest Time

We love harvest time at The Ranch, and even host a yearly celebration taking place this weekend, called Autumn Harvest Weekend. For the apiarist, it is a time to collect over a year’s worth of hard work. Our hives have come a long way since I first started to detail their journey to The Ranch on this blog. They have successfully built up their brood chamber to grow their ranks and the population has surged enough that they have enough honey to store for winter and there’s still plenty for us to collect for The Ranch.

Honey being extracted from the frames. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

Honey is extracted from the frames with a centrifuge action machine. The frames are placed in the extractor, honey is forced out of the framed onto the side of the cylinder through the circular motion.

Our first batch of Ranch honey! Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

Our single batch this year is a lovely mix of clover and wildflowers that is light in color but full of flavor.  This honey is completely unprocessed.  It is raw, organic, and as local as you can get. As part of our dining experience, our Ranch honey will be used in many of our ranch-inspired recipes and creations.

Winter is Coming

Montana winters are beautiful but they are also long and cold, especially for creatures such as the honeybee. The bees work with the seasons. As the days get shorter and cooler, the queen lays fewer and fewer eggs. This is incredibly intelligent. When the queen lays fewer eggs, the hive gets smaller in bee numbers and thus the hive consumes less honey. As a result, when the winter is longer than expected, the hive won’t have to ration their food stores.

In addition to the queen’s work on winterizing the hive, I am taking additional steps to ensure the hive survives winter. The hives will be moved to the Bitterroot Valley, which is just west of us here in the Rock Creek Valley. Though only 60 miles as the crow flies, this valley has a much lower elevation, and thus, their winters are milder. Their spring arrives a little earlier than ours and will provide the hives with early spring food such as apple and cherry tree blossoms.

Our Rock Creek autumns are filled with colorful changes in leaves and often snowy mornings. The bees will seek milder weather while we play in the powder! Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

Once the hives are moved to the Bitterroot Valley, it won’t be until March that they will be opened for assessment of food stores, disease, and queen presence.  In the coming months the bees will cluster together to stay warm in the hive, and partially hibernate like many for us here in Montana.

Their placement in their temporary home will be strategically guarded from the elements. To help the bees conserve energy and heat, I have already made their entrance to the hive smaller. This will decrease the cold wind from coming into the hive and also save the hive from using extra energy and bees to guard the hive entrance from any intruder. I will then wrap the hives with thick black roofing paper. This paper will act like a thermal layer to keep out the cold but also absorb warmth from the sun. Hay bales will be place around the apiary to block cold winds and snow.

Fascinating & Always in Flux

Being an apiarist means learning by experience as well as study. This is why I find beekeeping so enjoyable. The hive is different every day because it reacts to our ever-changing environment. Opening the hive each time is thrilling; it’s a chance to learn from an amazing super organism that is, to me, sheer perfection.

Ranch apiarist Kelsey Bruns. Photo by Lynn Donaldson

Until next time! I’m looking forward to it.

Chapter 2, Summer: The Buzz on Honey

by Kelsey Bruns, Beekeeper, Master Naturalist and Little Grizzlies Kids Club Coordinator

Summer Flow

Montana summers are glorious. For me, this time of year is defined by when the sunrise beckons you to get out and enjoy the long lighted days of the Northern Rocky Mountains. When that sun rises over the Rock Creek Valley, the bees also awaken and instinctively know it’s time to get out and collect nectar.

The sun rises in the Rock Creek Valley. Photo by Rancher Lindsay Roberts. 

In June and July, the nectar flow has been strong. Rain in the evenings combined with warm summer days allows flowering plants to produce nectar. Without moisture or warmth, plants may flower but will not produce nectar. Lucky for us, Montana summer has treated us well and the bees have been collecting.

A worker bee enjoys flying local on Ranch property. Our landscaped areas also provide opportunities to gather nectar and pollen. Photo by Kelsey Bruns. 

Montana’s Honey Industry

For Montana, honey is a multi-million dollar industry. According to the Department of Agriculture, Montana is the second largest producer of honey in the United States. In 2013 our Treasure State alone brought in 15 million lbs. of honey!

The hives are full and the bees are busy.  A typical hive in the summer can have up to 80,000 bees! Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

Nectar to Honey

The process of making honey begins when the bees ingest nectar on a foraging flight.  It is not uncommon for foraging bees to fly up to three miles to find nectar, but the real work in processing nectar starts at the hive.

Wildflowers galore in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. Bees fly up to three miles to enjoy the beautiful array of wildflowers along with us hikers. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

Once in the hive, female worker bees pass the nectar mouth-to-mouth. This process is a way to dehydrate the nectar to decrease moisture content. Nectar only becomes honey once the moisture content is below 20%. Once this is achieved the honey is capped with honeycomb wax, and then it is used to feed baby bees (larvae) or it is saved for winter food stores.

Worker bees attend to the frames of honey by passing nectar mouth to mouth to dehydrate the nectar into honey before it is capped with wax. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

Our Local Blend

At the moment our hives on Rock Creek have produced one full box of honey, which will in turn yield about 60 lbs. of honey per box once extracted.

From the recent nectar flow, much of the honey in the hive now consists of a lovely blend of white clover and a few wildflowers. If we get more rainfall in the next month, there will be another round of nectar flow before the days become shorter and cooler. In that case, I will likely have a bumper crop of honey.

You don’t get more fresh and local than this! The first taste of our honey resembles a balanced mix of white clover and local wildflowers. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

As a lover of honey, I can never resist tasting honey as I work a hive. A single honeybee produces less than a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, knowing this makes honey taste even sweeter.

Read more…

Mixology Hour: Bringing Home the Art of Craft Cocktails

While whiskey straight up may be the stereotypical cowboy drink, it’s certainly not the only option for wetting your whistle in the West. The Ranch at Rock Creek is an experiential oasis, perfectly suited to a martini before the Homestead Supper Club, a Negroni as a fireside aperitif, or a margarita by the pool.

The Motherlode Cocktail sits ready to be enjoyed after mixology hour in the Great Room
Read on to find the recipe for this cocktail, The Motherlode. 

Cocktails are a cultural experience, steeped in centuries of creative pairings. The beauty of mixology is that you can adapt recipes to the setting, the season and the individual.

Bar Manager Ned Derosier’s cocktail menus in the Silver Dollar Saloon and the Great Room change frequently to highlight local spirits and seasonal abundance. For example, summer cocktails might feature foraged sage, huckleberries and Flathead cherries. You’re sure to get a taste of wild Montana when you saddle up to the bar.

Artisan cocktails in the Silver Dollar Saloon at The Ranch at Rock Creek luxury guest ranch
In fact, you can literally saddle up to the bar in the Silver Dollar Saloon. 

Read more…

What is Experiential Travel?

Since The Ranch at Rock Creek opened in 2010, we’ve centered our guest experience around the Montana traditions of outdoor adventure and family ranching. Guests discover a still-pristine natural world through a spirit of play.

What is Experiential Travel?

As a dedicated experiential travel destination, we want to share our hard won expertise. Immersion is a passion that reaches every Ranch staff member and department. Some of us grew up here and carry on the traditions of ranching through our work. Others of us came for a season and found such a deep connection to Southwest Montana that it changed how we wanted to live our lives.

Over the past seven years, we’ve also spoken to our guests about what they take away from their visits. So often we hear about a life-changing moment, an unforgettable vacation or a once-in-a-lifetime event. Here, we’ve distilled the criteria that we believe are essential in making a vacation a life-changing experience. We hope you’ll take time to ensure these elements are included before you journey to a culinary class in Italy, the hot springs near Machu Picchu or a ranch vacation in Montana.

Read more…

National Geographic & An Inspiring Year of Sustainable Tourism

Unique Lodges of the World: Sustainability In Action

The National Geographic Society was not content to simply change the face of travel reporting and photography. In 2015, they set out to make “tourism a catalyst for positive change.” They created the Unique Lodges of the World Collection, in order to seek, recognize and promote hotels that made sustainability paramount in their mission. The Ranch at Rock Creek has been part of this incredible collection since its inception—the only US charter member.

A Ranch wrangler proudly caries the stars and stripes during the Fourth of July rodeo at The Ranch at Rock Creek in southwest MontanaPreserving The Rodeo Tradition:  The Ranch’s summer and celebration rodeos involve local rodeo athletes and Ranch staff.

In order to showcase efforts made in the first full year of the collection, National Geographic just released their 2016 Unique Lodges of the World Impact Report. The efforts that our sister lodges are involved in are truly inspiring, and today, we’re even more honored to be a part of this esteemed group. As a group, Unique Lodge members have helped conserve 3.7 million acres of terrestrial and marine habitat, and contributed a collective US $76 million to cultural heritage preservation, in addition to US $4.3 million for community development initiatives. The investment of time, money and manpower across 50 contributing lodges shows their formidable passion for making sustainable tourism the norm, not the outlier in the travel industry. Read more…

A Treasure State: 4 Emerging Artisans in “the Merc”

Mercantile Style: Local Luxuries

One of the reasons we’re committed to expanding the frontiers of experiential travel is that a story really is the best souvenir. But often, our guests want a memento to commemorate their bucket list adventure, family reunion or corporate getaway. This might be a cowboy hat that they wore on their first trail ride, a copper Moscow Mule mug from Butte (Montana) Copper Company reminiscent of nights in the Silver Dollar Saloon, or custom Sage & Cedar bath products formulated to evoke the scents of hiking through our pine forests or sagebrush flats.

A guest enjoys a signature Yule Mule cocktail during a Twilight cocktail hour
A custom-engraved copper Moscow Mule mug with RC logo on the front and recipe on the back. Engraving by local Missoula company, All American Trophy.

Our Mercantile is designed in the spirit of the original Western mercantiles. It’s full of adventure clothing and gear, sundries and handcrafted artisan goods vetted for their originality and quality. Our Retail Manager Cat Johnson tries to anticipate our guests’ seasonal needs, so that they can purchase an extra layer for sunrise yoga on a mountaintop or bring home leather baby moccasins for a new family member. The outdoor gear and ranchwear available in the Merc and Rod & Gun Club is the same Patagonia, Filson, Simms, Ariat and Lucchese that Montana ranchers and outdoorspeople use for work and play. What is our day-to-day uniform features nicely in a nature-lover’s capsule wardrobe.

Our Ranch Mercantile is filled with Western essentials, like cowboy boots, hats and seasonal ranchwear

Cat says, “We keep a balance of luxury, local, Western and RC personalized items year-round. The greatest luxuries are found in the handcrafted objects, like local leatherwork, metalsmithing or woodworking. You can see the time and detail that went into each item—making it a perfect way to remember The Ranch at Rock Creek’s distinctive balance between luxury and Montana’s raw beauty. We have a commitment to stocking as many one-of-a-kind, Montana-made luxury items as we can.”

The Ranch's Mercantile caries locally made James Behring knives
A custom-made knife from Missoula-based James Behring, and handcrafted box from Philipsburg woodworker Scott Shake.

Call To Artisans & Purveyors

Cat is constantly looking for new, original products to feature in the Mercantile, and she’s putting out a call for submissions on our website. Montana artists, makers and purveyors are invited to submit images and information to see if their goods would be a welcome addition for our discerning guests.

Mercantile Artisan & Purveyor SubmissioN FORM

Read more…

Pet-Friendly Hotels Earn Four Paws Up (& a Tail) | Zeus the Dog’s Travel Blog

A Doggone Good Time at The Ranch at Rock Creek

Zeus the dog reviews The Ranch at Rock Creek compared to other pet-friendly hotels.

Striving for Pet-Friendly Perfection

This week we welcome Zeus, an imposing and good-natured Leonberger dog, and his better (human) half, Katie Jackson. A native of rural Montana, Katie has lived in urban areas and traveled all over the world writing for U.S. News & World Report, FoxNews.com, OutsideOnline, USA Today, The Active Times and Yahoo Travel. When Katie recently visited The Ranch, she brought Zeus and they tackled the fresh powder together, researching our Indulgent Frontiersman special offer. We are proud to be a pet-friendly hotel, and accommodate adventurous canines year-round. Read Katie’s article about learning to be a Five-Star Frontiersman, or stay right here and read Zeus’ take on pet-friendly hotels and life as a Rancher.

Sunday 7 a.m.

Writer Katie Jackson at the rimfire range during her stay at The Ranch. 

Her bags are packed. Again. She’s always leaving. Even though she doesn’t kennel me when she travels, I can’t help but throw myself a puppy pity party. I have a serious case of FOMO—fear of missing out. Yes, dogs suffer from it too.

Some people argue I’m a pony. Weighing in at 150 lbs., I can’t argue with them. I’m a big boy. I tell myself my size is why she never takes me on her trips. But I’m not sure if it’s true. I heard from the gossipy golden retriever next door that pet-friendly hotels are rare. When the wise old poodle around the block confirmed it, I knew it wasn’t just hearsay.

She usually stays at fancy hotels, so I’m surprised to see her cowboy boots piled next to her bags. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but I still go over to investigate. Upon further examination I discover an even more startling find. My leash is dangling from the exterior pocket of her duffle bag and my bag of dog food peeking out of the main compartment.

My blood begins to boil. Is she seeing another dog? And letting it wear my leash and eat my food? How rude!

Read more…