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Cross It Off Your Bucket List

10 Dreams Turned Reality at The Ranch

Every vacation is a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream. Here are 10 classic bucket list adventures that The Ranch at Rock Creek fulfills each year.

1. Become a Horseback Rider.

Notice, we didn’t say, “go horseback riding.” The Ranch teaches horsemanship, so you can go from being a greenhorn to a rider during a week’s vacation. The Ranch’s equestrian program is a customized, robust experience, with guests deciding how far they want to take their riding skills. When English riders arrive at The Ranch, they leave with new skills and appreciation for a different world.

Horseback riding is one bucket list adventure you can have at The Ranch at Rock Creek

You can learn how to saddle and care for a horse before your first trail ride. In the next several days, you may summit higher terrain and start roping. After the better part of a week, you might be comfortable enough in the saddle to learn pole bending or barrel racing in the rodeo arena. See a 4-day sample equestrian itinerary for a taste of this adventure.

No matter the season, horseback riding on our terrain doesn’t disappoint. In winter, when we are more restricted to a slower pace and flatter trails, you ride through a peaceful winter wonderland, spotting animal tracks along the way. There’s nothing like laying the first hoofprints in new fallen snow. 

Barn Manager Joe rides his horse to the Top of the World

In 2015, Top 50 Ranches named us the Best Robust Ranch Experience for just that reason. More than a dude ranch, our equestrian experience ensures you have twice-daily adventures, gear, ranch-to-table cuisine, drinks and accommodations included, so there’s more time to spend in Camp Roosevelt rodeo arena learning to be a rider from Montana cowboys and rodeo athletes. Our wranglers eat, sleep and breathe the chores and demands of ranch life, in addition to competing in weekly ranch rodeos. They delight in showing people the ropes of the entire horsemanship experience, so that you leave devoted to the thrill, athleticism and companionship of life between the ears.


2. Have the Ultimate Glamping Adventure.

Glamping is a dream vacation because it encompasses desire for comfort and connection with nature. If you’re going to cross glamping off your bucket list, it should be at the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star glamping destination. You can commune with nature on 6,600 acres of secluded Montana wilderness while enjoying Forbes Travel Guide vetted luxury.

An interior view of the rustic luxury glamping tent, Trapper, at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana

Glampers at The Ranch wake up in canvas cabins along the banks of Rock Creek. They are enveloped in Frette linens and the heat of a gas or wood-burning stove. They might grab breakfast from the open-air Blue Canteen tent or ride on a wagon to Piney Pond to sip cowboy coffee and eat a Dutch oven meal cooked over coals.

Glamping dining at The Blue Canteen

When they leave their cabin they can choose to start up the hiking trails, fly fish or ride to a mountain vista. Then, they might have a Saddle Sore Soak in the Granite Spa to relax before enjoying a wood fire grilled dinner and a (second) dessert of bonfire-roasted s’mores outside the Silver Dollar Saloon. Glampers can see the bunnies scurrying and deer grazing as they walk down a dirt road to their glamping tent, where a glass of wine and cozy armchair awaits.

A fireside setting at The Ranch at Rock Creek, a bucket list glamping destination

During winter, glampers appreciate a heightened experience with snow falling on their shoulders as they melt into a cedar soaking tub. The stillness of the landscape balances with the flurry of activities—snowshoeing, skiing, skating, sledding and sleigh rides to name just a few. If you dream of being a “happy glamper,” then the banks of Rock Creek are beckoning.


3. Practice Yoga on a Mountaintop.

Outdoor yoga combines the centering feeling of a yoga practice with the awe-inspiring feeling of climbing a mountain. The Granite Spa offers a variety of different fresh air yoga experiences that can bring your practice to a new level—specifically to 5,200 feet.

Outdoor yoga, including mountaintop yoga, is a yogis dream com true.

Top of the World Yoga has long been a guest favorite. You can hike or ride a Jeep to a beautiful vista during the warmer months. In the winter, the falling snow only enhances the journey. Our instructor and guests jump into a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis and trek up the hillside or into a secluded spot overlooking the creek, to peer across the pristine wilderness of the Northern Rockies. Warm tea holds off chill until you engage in an invigorating standing series.

Guests do warrior standing poses during an outdoor snowga session

Other outdoor practices include Archery Yoga, Zip Line Yoga, Falling Leaves Yoga, Cowboy Yoga and Down Hill Dog Yoga. You can make this a solo dream vacation, or we recommend including the family. Our program features family yoga—a cooperative practice that enlightens a family to new ways of thinking and moving. Family members can enjoy your bucket list adventure, or they can each choose one (or several) of the other awe-inspiring experiences on this list.


4. Stargaze in Big Sky Country.

Due to our location between several mountain ranges and wilderness areas, The Ranch is free of light pollution. On a dark, clear night, the sky is immense and amazing. For some urban-dwellers, an evening walk from the Granite Lodge to their accommodation is the first time they have ever seen “a jillion stars”—to borrow a gleeful comment from a young stargazer in our Little Grizzlies Club.

Horses graze beneath a starry night sky in Montana

The National Park Service uses the term “natural lightscape” to describe the resources that exist when human-caused light is absent or does not affect the ability to see the Milky Way stretching across the sky. Wild creatures, many of which call The Ranch’s expanse their home, need the natural patterns of light and dark to navigate, hide from predators or find food.

Seeing the moonlight bathing the glistening snow or a never-ending sea of stars after the fire goes out will remind you of the natural beauty that surrounds us if we take the time to look.

Watching the Northern Lights (pictured) is a common item on a bucket list.
Photo from the Rock Creek bridge by Michael Chilcoat Photography

Our galaxy is best seen in the summer and fall evening skies and prior to dawn in the spring months. While unpredictable, sometimes we get a glimpse of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in Western Montana. Our new photography program, created by National Geographic photographers, teaches guests narrative photography skills that allow them to capture unbelievable moments and starscapes. Guests also learn the tips and tricks that will help you capture once-in-a-lifetime moments like witnessing the Aurora Borealis.


5. Mine Your Own Family Heirloom.

Diamonds get top billing in the jewelry world, but we are partial to another special stone—the sapphire. The Ranch is located between the Sapphire, Pintler and John Long Mountain ranges. The Sapphires get their name from the rich deposits that were discovered during the 1890s.  Few mines remain in the world where you can sift through gravel to find your own stones. One of those, Gem Mountain, is located just six miles from the Granite Lodge.

The sights, sounds and smells of Montana at The Ranch at Rock Creek can inspire you to travel and enjoy life
The Ranch’s rocky ranges include the lofty Sapphire Mountains. 

Buying a piece of jewelry can’t compare to the feeling you get when you wash a pile of muddy gravel in a pool of water and turn it over to uncover your very own colorful gems on the surface. Rock Creek sapphires are multi-colored, usually in shades of blue, green, pink, yellow and the occasional purple or orange. Guests enjoy the mountain sunshine, the thrill of the hunt and the camaraderie involved in this family-friendly activity. In the winter, guests don’t miss out—they can visit the Sapphire Gallery’s Miner’s Room on a tour of Historic Philipsburg.

One to add to the bucket list-hunting for sapphires in Montana.

The gems  you mine can be heat treated, faceted and placed in a setting of your choice by local artisans. We have a feeling that the story you tell your children and grandchildren of finding a sparkling stone will endure longer than any diamond.


6. Be the Star of Your Own Western.

If you grew up watching Westerns, you’ll know that despite the dirt and danger, there is something captivating about the Wild West. Our area of Montana remains steeped in Western agricultural tradition. The Ranch’s Western experience is multi-faceted, encompassing the accommodations, food, activities, staff and landscape that come from being an authentic ranch.

The historic barn features three beautiful, authentic luxury accommodations.

The Ranch’s original horse barn has been expertly converted into three rustic, yet elegant accommodations. Couples or small families can sleep in a converted hay loft, a wrangler’s nook or in Stables, filled with horse stalls turned bunk beds.

The loft in the Historic Barn features high ceilings and a clawfoot tub. During every season, we offer wagon, sleigh or stagecoach rides—the latter in a restored Wells Fargo Stagecoach. Modern pursuits echo those of yesteryear, such as horseback riding, roping and shooting. Our shooting activities include a rifle range and a pistol shooting range, where you can aim for metal targets and have (friendly) six-shooter competitions. 

During the late spring and summer and many of our seasonal celebrations, we hold ranch rodeos in the Camp Roosevelt arena, followed by a barbeque and outdoor dining in the Blue Canteen. Rounding out our weekly events, we host a Saturday evening barn dance, where guests can learn line dancing and enjoy some live country or honky tonk. Occasionally, cowboy poets join us to recount life on the range or you might find an impromptu campfire sing-a-long session keeps you up a little later.

Guests and staff enjoy a Western line dance during a Buckle Barn celebration

Whether it’s campfire cooked Dutch oven cuisine, cowboy coffee, whiskey served by a bonfire or a picnic lunch, there’s always a taste of wild harvest and mountain tradition in Chef Drage’s fresh, seasonal cuisine. Cap off the evening with a card game and whiskey in the Silver Dollar Saloon, and you’ll feel the cowboy spirit is alive and well.


7. Gather for an Old-Fashioned Country Christmas.

If you’ve dreamt of a White Christmas, it may be time to pack your sweaters and head to Montana. The Ranch specializes in serving up all the classic holiday traditions in trademark luxury style. Most families stay in the cozy Granite Lodge or in a luxury home that serves as a family homebase.

Stockings hang on the chimney during a holiday celebration at The Ranch

The excitement starts with Christmas tree hunting, s’mores and fireside stockings. The Little Grizzlies Kids Club  includes gingerbread house making and cookie decorating. You might enjoy a Yule Mule with gingerbread cookies for your afternoon snack, before gathering for a festive tasting menu in the Granite Lodge dining room.

The sleigh and draft horses are decked out for a White Christmas

Guests take advantage of the snow with a full slate of winter activities, such as sledding, skating, cross-country skiing, snowga, snowmobiling and more. They can opt to downhill ski at Discovery Ski Area or go ice fishing on Georgetown Lake. Christmas Eve and Day bring grand feasts and a visit from Santa in his sleigh.


8. Fish the World-Famous Fly Hatches on Rock Creek.

Spring is a celebrated time for anglers in Montana. Fishermen flock to our waterways as flies hatch and fish feed. We frequently publish a fishing report, since the conditions are ever-changing and our staff of experienced fishing guides is never far from the stream.

Rock Creek has some of the world's best angling conditions, especially during fly hatches in the spring

Blue Ribbon Rock Creek is home to seven species of fish and its renowned for its water quality, fish population and reproduction, as well as accessibility. The spring is an excellent time to book a bucket list fishing adventure and try for the Grand Slam— catching five species of trout in a single day.

One of the pristine stocked trout ponds at The Ranch at Rock Creek

In 2016, guests who visit between April 15 and June 9 enjoy an enviable itinerary and exceptional conditions. They start by getting outfitted at the Rod & Gun Club with top-of-the-line gear, and move on to casting lessons on one of our five stocked ponds. Next, they’ll wade and walk on Rock Creek. Over the next several days, they can enjoy fly tying lessons, a full-day float trip on Rock Creek and an off-Ranch fishing excursion.

Anglers can try for a grand slam, catching five trout species in one day.

Spring (through the first week of summer) is the only time you can float on Rock Creek, before water restrictions come into effect on June 30. Fishing the salmonfly or golden stonefly hatch on a float trip down Rock Creek is truly a once in a lifetime experience, due to the short window. Those who take advantage of the spring and fall fly fishing special receive over $1,000 in additional cost excursions. This trip really is an angler’s dream. If you can’t make it in the spring, our special resumes in the fall, when fishermen cast for large trout while they bulk up for the winter.


9. Embrace Americana on a Special Holiday Break.

When embarking on a trip to an out-of-the-way haven like Montana, it’s best to take your time and spend a week enjoying the splendor; however, long weekends of three, four or five days can be surprisingly restorative. A short trip to The Ranch can afford you more opportunities to learn new hobbies and enjoy exceptional cuisine and relaxation than most resorts can offer in a week. If your bucket list dream is simply to get the most out of any vacation time you have, then a trip to the West during a classic American holiday will make you feel as if you’re traveling back in time.

A Memorial Day Dutch Oven Dinner

The best way to take advantage of a mini-break is to book a stay during one of our seasonal celebrations, such as Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Autumn Harvest Weekend. For example, during our Memorial Day celebration, guests enjoy wagon rides, a rodeo, feasts and tasting menus, as well as a barn dance and live music.

A flag ceremony during a Fourth of July ranch rodeo

If you can’t get the time away during these celebrations, we recommend booking a five-day stay just after the Fourth of July. You can experience many of the same adventures, including the Friday morning breakfast ride, rodeo, barn dance and all-inclusive amenities. A summer vacation steeped in Americana is a wonderful gift for your family.


10. Explore the Sky via Helicopter.

You can gaze at Big Sky Country from the ground, but imagine what you can see from great heights. If you want to make this dream a reality, our activities department arranges heli-tours.

Dip between the Sapphire and John Long mountains and view Southwestern Montana’s “Gold Country” sparkling below. We recommend combining a heli-tour with a fishing trip or hiking trek, allowing you to access nearly untouched wilderness and see the headwaters of our famous Rock Creek.

A heli-fishing adventure at The Ranch at Rock Creek

Whether you’re traveling solo, as a family or with friends, we hope you plan a dream vacation and take it. The knock-on effects will be profound. To quote Historian Mary Ritter Beard, “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”


What’s on your bucket list? View our latest specials for seasonal savings.