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Category: Holidays

Top 9 Ranch Captures of 2019

The Ranch’s Instagram community is now 17 times our Montana county’s population. Every December, it’s fun to look back at the pictures that originated in the wilderness of Granite County but resonated worldwide. Read the stories behind our top 9 of 2019.

Click on the photo to see the full-sized photo or watch the video.

1. “Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile”
by Eric Bunting @elbunt


It’s no surprise that our number one photo is equine. Our 75-horse herd inspires us daily and shows up regularly on our feed. Though it’s hard to choose a season we love most, autumn holds a special place in our hearts. The pace of life slows down, the harvest begins and we celebrate the “last, loveliest smile” with Labor Day, Whiskey & Water, Autumn Harvest and Thanksgiving weekends. Former Rancher Eric Bunting captured this beautiful scene when he worked at The Ranch as a photography and activities guide.

2. Dashing into Christmas
by Caleb Jordan Lee @calebjordanlee


The Friday before Christmas many of our guests were setting off for The Ranch from places around the country and the world. No one was immune to the feeling of holiday excitement. Our running of the horses is always breathtaking, but in the snow it is truly awe-inspiring. A few years ago, Filmmaker Caleb Jordan Lee visited The Ranch on a shoot for Relais & Châteaux and his video of the herd heading in from pasture was poetry in motion. The running of the horses happens year-round and being close to an entire herd running free has been known to inspire racing hearts and tears of joy.

3. June Bug
by Mindy Avila @mindyavila


Mindy Avila took over our account for a Ranch Life Takeover and shared the story of a calf named June Bug. Ranchers from around the area will confess that although you rarely name each and every calf born, it’s not unusual to form a special attachment. Stay tuned for our first Thursday Ranch Life Takeover of the year with Barn Manager Hailey Laird, where she’ll talk about one of her favorite cows, Sweet Pea.
Read more…

Category: Holidays

Christmas in Montana: A Few of Our Favorite Things…

Cream-colored ponies, crisp apple strudels and sleighbells may be a few of Maria Von Trapp’s favorite things, but they are also some of ours. While the first snowflakes fly at The Ranch, and we gear up for another season of all-inclusive skiing, we’re dreaming of our homestead for the holidays. In the spirit of the season, our Ranchers have shared a few of their favorite things about Christmas in Montana.

The fire roars in Granite Lodge’s Great Room during our Country Christmas holiday celebrations
Our Montana Christmas traditions include plenty of time by the fire in the Granite Lodge’s Great Room.

1.Montana is Christmas in a Snow Globe

“I love Christmastime in Montana, because aside from all the pines being dusted with snow and all the horses starting to look like teddy bears with their winter coats, it’s the time of the year my family all comes to town. My mom has a gift of making Christmas (no matter where we are) warm and cozy. It’s my favorite time of the year!” ~ Barn Manager Hailey Laird

Draft horse team Bob and Buster will start training to pull our sleigh soon
New draft horse team Bob and Buster will start training to pull our sleigh soon. Photo by Hailey Laird

I love Christmas in Montana because it is always a truly white Christmas. Growing up I didn’t have snowy Christmases, and living here I have one every year! Montana in her best winter white really gets you in the Christmas spirit! It’s a wonderful reason to warm up by a fire and drink hot cocoa with your friends and family.” ~ Recruitment & Training Manager Cat Johnson

Feet of snow creates heart shapes on top of the fences around The Ranch
Another reason we love The Ranch’s traditional jackleg fences – they turn to hearts when it snows.

I love Christmas in Montana because this whole valley truly feels like the inside of a snow globe. The trees are dusted with snow, there is a peaceful quiet that settles over everything, and the air always smells of wood fires and crisp air.” ~ Ranch Ambassador Supervisor Katie Acheson

winter and Christmas glamping at The Ranch at Rock Creek
Christmas glamping is available in our Sweet Grass and Trapper hybrid canvas cabins.


2. Montana is Rockwellian at Christmastime

“Juliette’s second Christmas was the snowiest Christmas I can remember, snow piled up on the 24th and it continued to fall all day on the 25th. The whole family went for the most beautiful cross country ski in the new snow towing Juliette in the Chariot. It seems the forests are the most peaceful on Christmas because it’s such a busy holiday that folks are not venturing out.  Juliette was bundled up in probably 12 layers so she slept the entire time, but we stopped for a quick fire and hot cider & aquavit by the frozen lake.  The snow was magical and Chef’s love peaceful holidays. We cross country ski every Christmas now; it’s our favorite.” ~ Executive Chef Josh Drage

Executive Chef Drage with daughter Juliette during Christmas
Executive Chef Josh Drage and his daughter Juliette Christmas tree hunting in Montana.

Christmas in Montana feels like a Norman Rockwell Christmas to me. Between celebrating the Granite County Festival of Trees with our community in the Buckle Barn to Yule Night in town, Philipsburg and The Ranch become magical. My first Christmas here we had light snow trickling down continuously all day creating a snow-globe like feel. In town every street lamp has beautiful bows. Montana creates the perfect Christmas.” ~ Guest Services Manager Linda Walser

17 Christmas trees lit up the Buckle Barn before the Festival of Trees gala auction
The annual Granite County Festival of Trees takes place in our Buckle Barn to benefit our local healthcare services.

“There’s no shortage of trees for the taking. For a $5.00 fee to the local Ranger District office, my partner Amy (AM Lead Line Cook) and I can venture out into the National Forests that surround the Ranch to find the perfect Charlie Brown tree and haul it back home for some real Yuletide cheer. It’s our favorite Christmas-time tradition in Montana.” ~ Dining Room Manager Leigh Dollard 

A couple harvest their perfect Christmas tree in Montana’s National Forests for a $5.00 fee
Amy and Leigh carry their harvested Christmas tree back home. 


3. Montana is a Winter Playground

“My favorite Christmas memories growing up in Montana have been centered around family and snow. I have one special memory of my sister and I waking up at 5 AM to find Red Flyer Runner sleds and sledding from sunrise to sunset on Christmas day. We would unwrap presents and be out the door to ice fish on Moose lake or Georgetown Lake. Now that I have a family of my own and a husband that lives to ski we have a new tradition of taking the kids skiing at Discovery. ” ~ Housekeeping Manager Stephanie Boutry

Young boy skiing on The Ranch’s local ski mountain on Christmas Day
Stephanie Boutry’s 2.5 year old son skiing at Discovery Ski Area.

We always seem to get a good snowfall in the weeks leading up to Christmas and the look on my girls’ faces when they wake up excited to make snow angels and a snowman is guaranteed to put the whole family in the Christmas spirit. ” ~ General Manager Jon Martin

The Ranch’s General Manager’s yard covered in snow
The view out General Manager Jon Martin’s backdoor. Photo by Brenda Martin.


4. Montana is Full of Mother Nature’s Gifts

“I think my favorite thing about the winter time in Montana is the way the world around you forces you to SLOW DOWN. You can’t do anything faster than mother nature will allow.  During those shorter days you are forced to slow down in so many ways; as you drive slowly you notice the world around you, there is no hustle and bustle. You have to take coffee breaks at the shop to warm up and chat with the guys, and best of all you slow down to spend time with all the best people that decided to call this beautiful place home year round.” ~ Lead Wrangler Ariel Roselle

Wranglers drive a team of Belgian Draft horses as they pull our sleigh our winter wonderland
Sleigh rides often take place over the holiday season at The Ranch.

“I love how quiet it gets here on the creek when it snows..” ~ Activities Manager Kelsey Bruns

Photographer Martin Battilana captures a shot of winter fly fishing on Montana's Rock Creek
Our most avid anglers find winter the most peaceful time to fish Rock Creek.

5. Montana is Full of Unique Christmas Traditions

Driving my snowmobile to get groceries with the kids while the roads in Philipsburg are covered with snow is such a great memory for the kids every year.” ~ Reservations Manager Josh Erickson

boy eating snow at a hockey game
Josh Erickson’s son eats a big snowball during a hockey game at the rink in our hometown of Philipsburg, Montana.

“My favorite Christmas time in Montana is the smell…. Cutting down the tree,  the pine filling the house with joy, freshly baked bread, turkey slowly roasting in the oven, everyone bringing together their favorite dish, family getting together after a year of hard work and normal daily living to enjoy each other’s company.” ~ Assistant Housekeeping Manager Chrissy Gursky

fresh baked pastries in the Great Room are a morning tradition at The Ranch
Eating (too many) fresh baked pastries in the Great Room is one of our favorite traditions.


We can’t wait to welcome new guests to The Ranch this Christmas and help them create festive memories and traditions of their own. See our Christmas itinerary or view our Big Sky Love celebration over President’s Day Weekend. 


Category: Holidays

A Bounty of Thanks

Thanksgiving is a busy time in the hospitality world. When most people clock off for the long weekend, we ramp up festivities with the families who’ve chosen to celebrate here. It’s an honor to be a home away from home for guests on a day that means so much to so many. We understand why; it’s a holiday that indulges in kin, community and gratitude, as well as incredible food.

Our General Manager Jon Martin shared what he’s grateful for this year, and we think it’s a list that ought to be shared with our wider community. Thank you all for being a part of our extended Ranch family – for sharing your stories, for your kindred appreciation of horses and wildlife, for showing a little love and generally for just being social with us, a group of people tucked into a remote corner of Montana who share a passion for adventure, ranch culture and hospitality. We hope you enjoy Jon’s words and, most of all, we hope you have an incredible Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a day of enjoying a great meal with family and friends while reflecting on the things in our lives we are grateful for. For me this is an easy list to fill.  I am thankful for the opportunity to lead such an amazing property in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. 

Photo by Caleb Jordan Lee.

I am thankful for our owner Jim Manley who had the passion to embrace, enhance and share the magic of this late 19th century ranch

A Ranch wrangler drives a historic Wells Fargo stagecoach during Thanksgiving travel dates

I am thankful for the thousands of times I’ve gotten to watch my two daughters see a new animal, watch a rodeo, ride a horse and experience something for the first time. 

Jon’s daughters Blayne and Jules living at The Ranch.

I am thankful for my wife Brenda who believed me when I told her living 90 miles from the closest Starbucks was worth it. 

Jon Martin with wife Brenda, daughters Blayne and Jules, along with Wrangler Jamie Wines.

I am thankful for every conversation I’ve had with our guests this year who couldn’t stop sharing their experiences with me and raving about the employees who made it even better. 

Three riders gallop through the hills of Southwestern Montana during a trail ride at The Ranch at Rock Creek

I am thankful for the amazing community of Philipsburg and Granite County, whose residents are integral to our success. Go Titans!! 

A sunset view of Historic Philipsburg's Broadway Street by Michael Chilcoat
A sunset view of Historic Philipsburg’s Broadway Street by Michael Chilcoat.

I am thankful for the local purveyors who provide us with quality produce, meat and dairy products to deliver excellent cuisine to our guests.

Cast iron seared ribeye steaks from local purveyor Yellowstone grass-fed beef  

Last but not least I am thankful for the amazing team here who not only take such great care of our guests but have taught me how to fly fish, ride a horse, brand a calf, shoot a shotgun and rope a steer among many other things.

The 2018 Ranch rodeo team.

Most of them will be away from families working today to help ensure our guests have a memorable time with theirs. In every sense of the word, thank you, Ranchers!

~General Manager Jon Martin

Category: Holidays

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

Read more…

Category: Holidays

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…

Category: Holidays

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, 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…

Category: Holidays

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…

Category: Holidays

New World, Old West: Thanksgiving Travel

A Rustic-Luxe Thanksgiving at The Ranch

A grove of aspen trees lines Rock Creek, a Blue Ribbon trout stream that runs through The Ranch at Rock Creek

Welcome to fall at The Ranch at Rock Creek! This season is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque times to experience Montana’s wilderness. When the leaves start falling, we start thinking about Thanskgiving travel and put the finishing touches on our festivities. This year’s itinerary is going to be one of the most gratifying and serene seasonal celebrations we’ve ever planned. Read more…

Category: Holidays

Montana’s Multi-Generational Travel Experience

Finding a Family’s Happy Place

There’s no denying that the Internet has streamlined travel research and booking. Despite the amount of information at our fingertips, many leisure travelers desire a chance to unplug, decompress and reconnect with nature. They are eyeing a return to more meaningful experiences, slower paces and home-away-from-home style family vacations. Both Virtuoso and AARP have reported for the past three years that multi-generational travel is the biggest trend in the travel industry.

An outdoor yoga practice at The Ranch at Rock Creek

At The Ranch at Rock Creek, we’re hosting more groups of three or more generations than ever before. The term “family-friendly” doesn’t really encompass what it means to be an ideal destination for multi-generational travel. (To many people it just implies that children are welcome). But, in reality each generation must be able to find their “happy place” during these vacations. Grandparents don’t want to sacrifice a first-class tasting menu for an extensive children’s menu and an uncle may not want to sit by the pool watching the kids when he could be out fishing on a Blue Ribbon trout stream. Read more…

Category: Holidays

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.

Read more…