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Memorial Day: Grand Entry to Summer Travel

Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor the soldiers who lost their lives serving our country. Though “decoration days” took place before the American Civil War, the first official Memorial Day was held on May 30, 1868. This date was chosen because Northern flowers were abundant and used to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. This year marks the 150th anniversary of that first Memorial Day.

Over the past 150 years, Memorial Day has grown to celebrate America in general. It echoes the feelings of July 4th, but often serves as more of a family-focused celebration. Families gather round to eat and toast America, the beautiful, and their family and community members who have served.

A Ranch wrangler proudly caries the stars and stripes during the Fourth of July rodeo at The Ranch at Rock Creek in southwest Montana

When we celebrate Memorial Day at The Ranch at Rock Creek, we do so with the American traditions of the legendary West. It is one of our favorite seasonal celebrations because it is a chance for families to gather and observe the holiday in an old-fashioned and spirited way.

Guests enjoy a family picnic during summer multi-generational travel to The Ranch at Rock Creek

Throughout most of the country, these celebrations are fast disappearing, but they are alive and well at The Ranch. In fact, this weekend kicks off our summer season, when barn dances and rodeos are part of our weekly events. Here are some of the events that make our celebration a bucket list trip to the American Wild West. If you’ve yet to make your Memorial Day plans, several accommodations remain. Please join us for an unparalleled American journey.



1. Cowboy Breakfast

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Sweet Life of Bees, Year Two

Our Montana Apiary Story

Winter is a time to slow down here in Montana. Since my last blog, the snow has flown and settled in our mountains and valleys. Our local ski hill, Discovery Ski Area, has had excellent snowfall. We included downhill skiing and snowboarding in our activities program this year, so our guests have enjoyed the powder and pack for over four frosty months.

Bluebird days at Discovery Ski Area mean that spring is right around the corner! Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

But as our days become longer, the sun will shine a little warmer. The snow will eventually disappear and our bees will be coming out of their winter slumber. Spring means the continuation of one of my favorite facets of our sustainability program.

Wintering the Bees

It turns out our bees are travelers at heart, just like us. Since November an apple orchardist in the Bitterroot Valley has kindly hosted our bees. The bees and I are so grateful for these connections to local farmers.

I visited our bees with my beekeeper friend a few weeks ago. We managed to find a day in March where the sun was shining at about 40 degrees, which allowed us a quick look at the hive population and the food storage weight of the hives. To our delight, the bees are all present and accounted for. They have survived the harshest of Montana winter months, with many negative digit days!


Our bees buzz amongst the apple trees. Hive numbers are great after the winter. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

This visit was reassuring because I now know that I left enough honey in the hive for the bees to survive for four months without a nectar flow! Now, and until the apple blossoms bloom, we will keep our eye on them for food stores and bring them back to the Rock Creek Valley by May.

Rolling into Spring

Now that winter is coming to a close and we are quickly rolling into spring, I am grateful for a successful first honeybee season here at The Ranch. It would not be possible without the support of The Ranch at Rock Creek team and our local farmers.

Having a winter home for the bees in the Bitterroot Valley and the support of a fellow apiarist has been greatly helpful. It has been imperative for the health of our hives, and I’ve had the opportunity to continue learning from a veteran beekeeper.


Visiting the bees in the Bitterroot Valley orchard. A proud moment to find out our hives have thrived!

So the next time you may find yourself at a local farmer’s market, shake your local farmer’s hand and say, “Thanks!” They support our local economy, and they help our communities to be healthy and happy. A heartfelt “Thank You” (and perhaps a produce purchase) will show them that their hard work is deeply appreciated.


Ranchers Myron Weirich and Apiarist Kelsey Bruns escort the bees back home. Photo by Myron Weirich.

This second year will give our honeybee sustainability program a chance to have even greater impact on the landscape, and it will give our Relais & Châteaux culinary team more chances to work their magic with this uber local crop.



Read Volume I to learn more about how our honeybees homesteaded in the Rock Creek Valley.

National Geographic Photography Workshop & Top Tips

More Than a Snapshot

Travel and photography go hand in hand like big skies and majestic mountains. (As any Ansel Adams fan can attest.) Since the advent of smart phones, almost everyone can capture the notable moments and minutia that string together a great trip.

“My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.” ~Steve McCurry

However, despite this constant digital presence, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the principles and art of photography. Learning the principles of great photography can heighten the travel experience.


Photo by Lead Shooting Instructor Myron Weirich.

National Geographic’s Narrative Approach

When we joined the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection in 2015 (as the only US charter member), we were excited to partner with other sustainability-focused lodges. But we also couldn’t wait to use this affiliation to bring the art of photography into our all-inclusive offerings. Nat Geo redefined storytelling photography in their magazine, and they always find new ways to wow us on social media.

In early 2017, award-winning photographer Jay Dickman and friends from National Geographic Expeditions came to The Ranch to train our staff on narrative photography techniques— as part of a new pilot program with the Unique Lodges of the World. Dickman has an impressive resume, including a Pulitzer Prize and 25 assignments for the National Geographic Society. We couldn’t wait to see what he would make of February at The Ranch.


Photo by Lead Shooting Instructor Myron Weirich

Over the course of the next three days, the workshop taught our guides how to harness wild beauty and Western culture into pictures that tell a story about our remote corner of the world.

“I wish that all of nature’s magnificence, the emotion of the land, the living energy of place could be photographed.” ~Annie Leibovitz

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Celebrating 5 Years as a Family-Friendly Forbes Five-Star Resort

Five for Five

Five is our lucky number! We’ve just received the Forbes Five-Star award for the fifth consecutive year. Forbes Travel Guide offers the only independent global rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas. We’re truly honored to be part of this prestigious family who strives for hospitality perfection – opting to be judged on 900 objective service standards every year.


Photo by Lead Ranch Shooting Instructor Myron Weirich.

While many of our buildings are well over a century old, The Ranch at Rock Creek is a young property, and we want to thank our former and current Ranch staff for helping us earn this distinction for five of our eight years in operation.

The Ranch at Rock Creek staff gathers for a photo after the last rodeo of the season

We also want to join Forbes in welcoming two of our Montana neighbors into the Forbes Travel Guide family for the first-time. This year, Triple Creek Ranch, another Relais & Châteaux property, earned four stars and The Resort at Paws Up was given Recommended status. Congratulations friends, on these big achievements. The Treasure State is shining even brighter after this year’s award announcement.



All in the Family Travel

We are honored to be part of the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star family because families with high-standards and a love of travel are at the crux of what we do.  From our inception as an all-inclusive luxury resort in 2010, we knew that the family travel experience was an essential facet of our outdoor-focused amenities.

A multi-generational family enjoys a reunion picnic at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Southwestern Montana

Though we love welcoming corporate retreats, elopements, bachelor/bachelorette parties and other generally adult-focused affairs, the versatility of being family-friendly allows us to ensure that every traveler can find their niche at The Ranch.  (Unless, of course, they don’t enjoy the outdoors).

Last year, we covered the new trend of multi-generational trips on this blog, including tips on making the most of a family trip. This time we want to hone in on why our carefully curated and outdoor-focused style of hospitality ensures memorable, inspiring and personalized family vacations.

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Eggnog the Ranch Elf: A Travelogue

After Thanksgiving celebrations ended, a surprise guest arrived on our doorstep, direct from the North Pole. It was Eggnog, the Ranch elf. We suspect he traveled all this way to make sure the many families who celebrate at The Ranch are well taken care of, and we were happy to show him the ropes of our country Christmas. While he’s been here, he’s crossed a few things off his bucket list. In true Rancher spirit, he also pitched in to help out when possible.

As he looks to depart on Christmas Eve to head back to Santa’s workshop, we’re sharing his travelogue with our Blog at Rock Creek readers. Read more…

5 Unique Jobs at Montana’s Own Forbes Travel Guide 5-Star Ranch

Working at the world’s first Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star guest ranch requires a special type of person. Our jobs require people who are highly social, working with The Ranch team and guests day-after-day, and thriving in a secluded outdoor environment.

The Ranch at Rock Creek lies just off a dirt road 75 miles from the nearest city. The people who make our ranch thrive are mountain souls and adventurers who value living beyond the hustle and bustle of city life. At the same time, they are professionals with the capacity to meet hundreds of Forbes Travel Guide standards (we’re judged on 800) on a daily basis.

Executive Chef Josh Drage and Executive Sous Chef Ben Miller bike back to the Granite Lodge with fresh herbs from their garden
Executive Chef Josh Drage and Executive Sous Chef Ben Miller ride from the herb garden to the kitchen.

Unconventional Jobs For Adventurous Souls

Even the more well-known hospitality jobs that we fill, such as Housekeeping Manager, Bellman or Front Desk Agent, aren’t run-of-the-mill. The environment and experiential nature of The Ranch means that jobs are anything but ordinary — just ask the Front Desk Agent who had to keep tabs on a mother moose and baby when they settled down for a morning snack in front of the Granite Lodge this fall.

The people who love, live and work at The Ranch are unique, but the careers and seasonal jobs we offer also follow suit. We are featuring some of those jobs that may sound unconventional, but are essential in keeping our 6,600 acres working as an experiential travel destination and working cattle ranch. Read more…

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

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…