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Ranch Traditions: 7 Years as a Forbes Travel Guide 5-Star, 127 Years as a Homestead

The falling snow might as well be confetti today. We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve earned our 7th consecutive Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award! Forbes Travel Guide is the only independent, global rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas, and they judge properties based on 900 rigorous standards. We are so proud of our staff that continues to translate our own unique homestead hospitality into world-class service year after year. 

Horses walking in the snow at The Ranch at Rock Creek
Photo by Activities Manager Kelsey Bruns, who is also our beekeeper and a Master Naturalist who helped rescue a golden eagle near The Ranch last year.



7 Years as a Forbes Five-Star Property

Last year, we made a big announcement when we earned our 2019 Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award – we were to eliminate single-use plastics by Earth Day.

View of The Ranch at Rock Creek in the spring from a drone
The Ranch continues its sustainability pledge after eliminating single-use plastics in 2019.

We achieved our goal, but continue to work on a robust sustainability program (more about that later this year). Our brief was a difficult one – to ensure our sustainability goal didn’t compromise our service standards. This year’s award is proof that we could raise our standards for sustainability and service simultaneously.

“Since The Ranch opened its doors 10 years ago, we strived to prove that a ranch could combine inspiring activities, amazing cuisine and exceptional luxury service. My team and I are proud to have earned this award again for 2020. Our success is owed to the team of professionals that day in and day out come to work with a simple task of providing our guests with unforgettable experiences.” ~ General Manager Jon Martin

Congratulations to all the hotels, restaurants and spas that have worked so hard to earn this award.


10 Years as a Guest Ranch

This year’s announcement comes at the same time as another important announcement, 2020 marks our 10 year anniversary! We will be commemorating our first decade during a special celebration weekend this May.

An RC saddle sits atop a horse, ready for a trail ride

Though it’s not all about the numbers, we’re incredibly proud that eight of those years have been as a Relais & Chateaux property, seven have been as a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star winner and five have been as a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, with its focus on sustainability.

Holding these designations has not been easy, but it has been possible for two reasons. The Ranch at Rock Creek was founded in a historic tradition, a working ranch that is also a family ranch for Jim Manley and his family.

The second reason is the same as the basis for our Forbes Travel Guide distinction – our dedicated staff. Executive Chef Josh Drage has been with the property since it began, building a farm-to-table dining program that supports Montana and regional agriculture.

Executive Chef Josh Drage prepares for our fall harvest celebration - carrying a plate of roasted vegetables.Executive Chef Josh Drage.

Activities Director Patrick Little has also been with The Ranch since its first days as an all-inclusive property – building an activities program of over 40 year-round activities and an award-winning kids’ club that allows travelers of all ages to explore our 6,600 acres. Other 10-year employees include Maintenance Associate Mike O’Dell and Kitchen Manager Kelly Fernatt.


Activities Director Pat Little and Activities Manager Kelsey Bruns during a National Geographic photography class led by photographer Jay Dickman. Photo by Lead Shooting Instructor Myron Weirich.



127 Years as a Homestead

Buying their dream ranch also allowed the Manleys to preserve the land and the way of life associated with it. The Ranch still has its original homestead barn and house, both loving restored as accommodations. If you tour the property, you see evidence of the brands and history that have been integral in its formation.

Original homestead at The Ranch at Rock CreekOriginal Homestead at The Ranch at Rock Creek. Photo circa 1940 courtesy of Judy Staninger Guernsey.

River House is a large luxury home at the world's first Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star guest ranch.
The original homestead, now called River House, at The Ranch at Rock Creek. 

In the 1970s, while the ranch was still a family ranch, the Historic Barn was used as a functioning horse barn. Hay was kept in what we now know as Loft, and Stables was full of riding stock. We were visited recently by a gentleman who lived in River House (see above) while his family owned the ranch at that time. He fondly recalled how he would play basketball in the loft in late winter, after enough hay was tossed out to feed the herd.

Peeking through a wagon wheel to glimpse at The Ranch's treasured Historic Barn accommodations.
The Historic Barn through the spokes of our chuck wagon. 

He also remarked how happy he was that we had kept the original barn door from the Historic Barn. He knew this was the original barn door because he’d carved his initials into the door as a young man and left a tick mark for every time he was thrown from a horse that lived in this barn. The barn door has a roughly carved “GB” underscored by 15 tick marks. These grooves tell the history of a young man learning to ride, while making his mark on our history.

Initials on the HIstoric Barn door
The original Historic Barn door with initials “GB” and 15 tick marks for each time he was thrown from a horse.

“This ranch was homesteaded in 1893 and the spirit of the past 127 years is an important part of The Ranch at Rock Creek. When our guests walk back to their accommodations from dinner they admire the same stars, breathe the same mountain air, and cross the same creek that residents of the ranch have enjoyed for over a century. While we certainly go to great lengths to make each guest’s experience is a luxury one, we always strive to do so while maintaining the authenticity of the West.” ~ General Manager Jon Martin



Thank you to each of the guests and staff members who’ve helped us maintain this goal. Stay tuned for more information on how returning guests will be invited to “make their mark” at The Ranch at Rock Creek in our 10th year