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Category: In the press


Sustaining Five-Stars & the Future by Eliminating Single-Use Plastics

As we approach 10 years as a property, sustainability is on our minds. We occupy a remote corner of the world, and keeping consistently high standards in the sticks, so to speak, is a challenge. This is why we’re especially pleased that we’ve earned the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award for the sixth consecutive year! 

A rainbow arches over the Rock Creek valley, home to The Ranch at Rock Creek

Sustaining our Forbes Travel Guide Five Stars

We’re in such exceptional company with other Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star winners like The Broadmoor who has sustained their Five-Star designation for 59 years.

“We’re honored to be recognized once again with the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award. The team at The Ranch at Rock Creek sets out each day to ensure our guests are treated to memorable, luxury experiences. We are so glad to be affiliated with Forbes Travel Guide which shares our passion for genuine luxury hospitality.

Being out here where we are, there’s a certain responsibility and it just feels wrong having plastic out here. We’re at the headwaters of Rock Creek. Being at the headwaters, I think there’s a mental but real responsibility that anything we do, it affects everyone who’s downstream of us.”

~ General Manager Jon Martin, Quote from interview with the Missoula Current

Sustaining Our Environment

Every year that we’ve garnered this incredible award, we’ve taken a moment on the blog to look back at one of the things that is a cornerstone of who we are and how our incredible staff goes above and beyond to maintain this high quality of service. This year, we are looking toward the future and how we can sustain our FTG stars and our natural environment in the long term.

A springtime scene in the Rock Creek Valley with green grass, mountains and stormy skies

It’s no secret that we value our environment. We employ Master Naturalists, we keep bees and Chef Drage is committed to an always farm-to-table dining experience. Since we joined the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World (as the only US charter member) in 2015, we’ve created new sustainability initiatives every year, like river clean-ups, reducing plastic waste and supporting local vendors in the Mercantile.

Now, we are doubling down on sustainability. In 2019, we will eliminate single-use plastics.

Eliminating Single-Use Plastics

Eliminating single-use plastics isn’t a decision we made lightly. It presents an operational challenge to our organization and to our employees. It is difficult, but worthwhile.

“We approach our interactions with guests with a “do whatever it takes” attitude. That same mindset is required for responsible stewardship of our ranch lands. Sustainability efforts require a tremendous investment in both time and money. But everyone at The Ranch, from owner to seasonal worker, understands that the time we take with eco-conscious best practices now is an investment in the resilience of our 6,600 acres that will benefit both us and future generations.” ~ Director of Operations Justin Robbins

One of the things we love about our home state, Montana, is that it’s a little behind the times. Most of the time, this means that once we arrive home – 75 minutes from the nearest city – there is no light pollution to obscure the stars. Asking our guests to walk or ride bikes on property means there isn’t significant traffic or petroleum fumes. However, this low population density also means our state lacks a recycling industry and there are some things we just can’t buy from local vendors.

Last year, our county (like many counties across the country), responding to China’s change in recycling imports by cutting out plastic recycling. There are only a few metals that can be recycled in Granite County. While we’ve continued to recycle what we could, it was obvious that a change had to come from within in order to be sustainable to our environment and keep plastics out of landfills and our beloved Rock Creek.


Our 2019 Earth Day Initiatives

By Earth Day, we have introduced the following major initiatives, in addition to a number of smaller initiatives, in order to eliminate single-use plastics.

1. Eliminating Single-Use Plastic Bottles

Our Rod & Gun Club has been committed to providing refillable options for several years, in the form of Kleen Kanteens, but eliminating water bottles completely requires a more robust plan to ensure we are maintaining accessibility to water throughout a guests’ stay. We are at the top of the Rock Creek watershed, which means that our property receives pure, clean, mineral-rich water! We’re calling on this wonderful natural resource to provide our guests with the clean, cool water they need. In order to ensure its quality, we work with WGM Group in Missoula to ensure that all mineral and chemical levels are safe in our water with monthly tests across our property.

In addition to Kleen Kanteens for activity use, guests will receive two refillable Stanley thermoses that they can bring home or leave here. (We also rewarded our Ranch employees who helped us earn our Five-Stars with a thermos this spring). We have filling stations in our Ranch hubs, like the Granite Lodge, Buckle Barn, Blue Canteen, Buckle Barn and Rod & Gun Club.

Guests at The Ranch at Rock Creek receive a Stanley Thermos to use during their stay and take home to eliminate single-use plastics

Accommodations are stocked with sanitized glass bottles that have been filled with pure Ranch water and sealed with a 100% cellulose seal. A sparkling filling station in our kitchen will allows us to replace bottles of pre-packaged sparkling water throughout The Ranch. Guests who want a more traditionally sealed bottle of water to take with them on adventures will also have access to refillable aluminum water bottles provided by Montana Silver Springs, a Philipsburg-based company.

Co-owner of Philipsburg Brewing Company, Nolan Smith, also purchased Granite Water Works, a bottling plant with access to a freshwater springs, that they could use in their beer, but which they could also use to bottle water. This year, they launched Montana Silver Springs, one of only two companies using Alumi-tek bottles to bottle water in the United States.

“Montana has a really hard time recycling plastic. 10% of our plastic is recycled. 90% of our aluminum is recycled. If you put one of these aluminum bottles in our recycling chain, within 40 days it could be a bottle again.” ~ Nolan Smith.

These practices will reduce our plastic consumption, but also ensure that guests’ hiking, horseback riding, skiing or fly fishing adventures are happy and healthy – with plenty of water to make up for lost sweat.

2. Eliminating Single-Use Toiletry Bottles

Like most hotels, we’ve used single use amenity bottles in our accommodations, replacing them with each guest. Now, we will be using glass etched and reusable plastic, specially chosen to remain sanitary for guests.

We’ve always wanted our toiletries to evoke Montana’s intoxicating aromas in accommodations and bathrooms. Our signature scents include mountain juniper and mountain sage, two plants that are part of the experience of The Ranch, whether you are horseback riding through sagebrush flats, or trekking through juniper bushes on our 3-D archery course.

Our exclusive skin care line was developed by Body Bliss, a Sedona, Arizona-based line. Body Bliss uses no artificial fragrances and their products contain no paraben preservatives, no mineral oils, no harsh laureth and lauryl sulfate cleansers, no phthalates and no formaldehyde donors. They rely on the finest natural and sustainable botanical raw materials to ensure a therapeutic benefit. 

3. Eliminating Small Plastic Items.

Plastic straws are among the top 10 debris items in our oceans, and 90% of all trash floating in the ocean’s is comprised of plastic. Around 44% of all seabirds and mammals have ingested plastic.

For over a year, plastic straws have only been available upon request, but before Earth Day, we replaced them with hay straws, which are made from wheat. Hay Straws are natural, compostable, gluten-free, and do not get soggy in hot or cold drinks! They will be available in dining locations if guests re- quest a straw.

Ranch at Rock Creek guests enjoy cowboy coffee cooked over a Montana campfire

We are also moving away from pre-packaged coffee and creamer in our accommodations. Glass bottles will contain fresh cream, milk or other guest requests. Not only will this be better for the environment, but our guests will enjoy a better quality of coffee during their stay since we will rely more on our vendors like Black Coffee Roasting Company out of Missoula, Montana.

Sometimes the devil is in the details. We’ve had to reach outside our states boundaries to source the smaller single-use plastic items in our organization. We have a team devoted to finding other single-use plastics and replacing them with alternatives. Their dedication and hard work over the past few months has turned our New Year’s resolution to a reality.

Protecting our Treasure State

As we celebrate eliminating single-use plastics this Earth Day, we look forward to establishing new partnerships and new goals that keep Montana’s future in mind.

Rivers and streams cover more than 169,829 miles in the state of Montana, of which 388 miles are designated as Wild & Scenic rivers (rivers with outstanding natural, cultural & recreational values). Rock Creek River holds the Blue Ribbon River designation which is only given to waterways with excellent water quality & quantity, great water accessibility, natural reproduction capacity for fish species, good angling pressure, and specific species of fish occurring naturally. The Ranch at Rock Creek has private access to 4 pristine miles of Rock Creek!

Travelers enjoy four miles of private access to Rock Creek during a fly fishing vacation

We believe commitment to our guests and our environment goes hand in hand. Thanks to all our guests and our community who’ve given us the opportunity to do what we do for almost 10 years.

It’s time to reduce our impact on our natural world, in gratitude for the incredible, inspiring impact it has on us.



Read about our past Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Awards:

World’s First Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Ranch

Glamping Under the Five Stars

Lasso the Stars: Inclusivity, Culture & Wild Luxury

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

Category: In the press


Virtuoso Best Family Program: Little Grizzlies

On Top of the World with Virtuoso Travel

This summer, we have a lot to celebrate. We’re just completing our new Rod & Gun Club. We’ve added yoga to our list of all-inclusive activities. We’re launching a premiere event, Whiskey & Water, in just one month! Our most recent achievement has us feeling like we’re on top of the world—we’ve just received the “Best of the Best” Virtuoso Travel award for Best Family Program!


General Manager Jon Martin accepts our “Best Family Program” award at Virtuoso Travel Week.

This an elite award is from an elite group of travel advisors who strive to elevate luxury travel for each client. Here at The Ranch, we see hundreds of little ones and their families come through our doors every year. Family programming is not an afterthought; it’s part of the foundation of our activities program. Our Little Grizzlies Kids Club provides an ever-evolving wealth of experiences, each one aimed at heightening kids’ love of outdoor exploration.

On behalf of the team at The Ranch at Rock Creek, we are honored to accept the Virtuoso best family program award and look forward to continuing to provide amazing, memorable experiences for the family clients of our Virtuoso partners. ~ General Manager Jon Martin

Behind-the-Scenes at the Little Grizzlies Club

Guests aged four to 12 enjoy an authentic Montana experience with themed days focusing on anything from honing horsemanship skills to gaining an appreciation of Montana’s ecosystem and the beautiful Rock Creek running through our property. Our Little Grizzlies Guides are trained to impart their knowledge about adventure in the great outdoors.

While most children are well-suited to free play, they may not immediately understand how to play safely and creatively in the forest or mountains. One themed day focuses specifically on outdoor skills and safety, so that kids have the tools to navigate their place in a still-wild world. We hope by inspiring our younger generations in our unique valley, each family can head home as responsible stewards and seasoned adventurers.

“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” – Thomas Berry

In addition to the Little Grizzlies program, kids are welcomed to join in our Ranch-wide events like our weekly summer rodeos. Between rough-stock rides and barrel races, they join in some fun rodeo-themed games. These events allow our Ranch guests to join in and be a part of our Ranch family.

A New Den for Little Grizzlies

The newest addition to our family programming is in construction at this very moment! Though our outdoor world is the greatest asset to our guests’ experience, we are adding a children’s specific indoor play space.

Our Little Grizzlies Den will cater to our youngest guests on those days that are less conducive to outdoor play. It will have ample area for indoor games and crafting. We not only pride ourselves on maintaining a wide array of high luxury amenities for our guests, but we’re always striving for improvements, like this new den. Thank you to Virtuoso Travel agents for this prestigious acknowledgement! This Best Family Program award inspirits our work to innovate experiential travel for guests of all ages.

A multi-generational family spends a day skiing at Discovery Ski Area during their trip to The Ranch at Rock Creek
This winter, The Ranch will continue to include downhill skiing and snowboarding for all guests.

We hope to see you and your family here at The Ranch at Rock Creek soon. You are always welcome in our home.

Category: In the press


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.

Read more…

Category: In the press


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…

Category: In the press


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…

Category: In the press


Lasso the Stars: Inclusivity, Culture & Wild Luxury

The all-inclusive guest ranch, The Ranch at Rock Creek, was awarded Forbes Travel Guide's Five-Stars

The Ranch Receives Fourth Consecutive Five-Star Rating

We are thrilled to announce that we’ve just received the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award for the fourth straight year! We’ve been the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star ranch, and we are in incredible company. We want to thank all our current and former staff for their commitment in achieving this honor. As Gerard J. Inzerillo, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide explained today in a press release, the 2017 winners demonstrate “a strong culture of service,” based on 800 separate standards.

A Ranch at Rock Creek bartender serves a Pressed Cider Martini cocktail to a guest

“The Ranch at Rock Creek is honored and proud to receive the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award for the fourth consecutive year. Forbes Travel Guide is our industry’s leader in quality assurance, ensuring we consistently deliver the finest service and unforgettable Montana guest ranch experience for our valued guests. We extend our appreciation to Forbes Travel Guide for their recognition of The Ranch as the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star guest ranch again in 2017. Congratulations to the fine staff of The Ranch for their commitment to the Forbes Travel Guide standards of excellence and for their passion in delivering exceptional guest experiences every day of the year.” ~ Steve Shotsberger, General Manager

A group enjoys a snowga excursion at The Ranch at Rock Creek

Only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Ranch

We are in excellent company, with 352 hotels across the world and 77 hotels in the U.S. achieving this year’s five-star rating. As our General Manager mentioned, we remain the world’s first Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star guest ranch and one of the only glamping destinations.

A young moose crosses Rock Creek Road near beautiful Philipsburg, Montana

We are proud of these notable and even curious facts. Our Western hospitality makes The Ranch unique and distinctive among more traditional Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotels or resorts. It’s our casually-sophisticated service culture and can-do approach to the guest experience that is referenced time and again in our reviews. We invite you to experience this generous spirit of our staff and the pristine, untamed nature that makes The Ranch so stellar.

Read more…

Category: In the press


Category: In the press


What is Glamping?

Glamping, a Global Travel Trend

Over the past 10 years, glamping has moved up the ranks of the travel world. If you haven’t tried it yet, here’s a primer on this growing trend. While it might seem like a silly word, these hybrid concepts are nothing new to the English language. (For example, “Automobile” combines the Greek word for self with Latin word for moveable.)

Glamping is the combination of the words “glamour” and “camping.” Although backpackers will scoff at the idea that camping can be upgraded, many people who have slept on the ground for a night or two might admit that they prefer some small luxuries, like a mattress, a shower or a chef cooking them a delicious, filling meal prepared after a day of hiking.

luxury-glamping
A seating area in a canvas cabin at The Ranch at Rock Creek Read more…

Category: In the press


All for the Guest! TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Before the summer season gets underway, we want to take some time to thank our guests. We greatly appreciate the extra time and effort our guest reviewers put into sharing their personal experiences with the global travel community. TripAdvisor just announced that we’ve received their Certificate of Excellence for the fourth straight year. We couldn’t be more thrilled, because this honor is derived directly from outstanding guest evaluations. We also received the Bravo Badge from TripAdvisor earlier in the year for our large proportion of excellent reviews.

The Ranch at Rock Creek received the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2015

TripAdvisor Accolades

It would be impossible to be the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star guest ranch without our guests. Their willingness to travel off the beaten path and delve far deeper than the conventional vacation keeps us striving to exceed expectations year after year. These reviews also reinforce our mission to provide exceptional experiential travel with comfort knitted into every corner of the breathtaking landscape. It we confirms we should continue to offer an authentic Montana environment based on our homestead roots. Read more…

Category: In the press


Masterful Destination Weddings

How well the words destination and wedding fit together—one describes the culmination of a journey and the other the exciting start of a new one. We were thrilled to host some of the top destination wedding experts during Laurie Arons’ Wedding Planner Masterclass in April. Laurie Arons Special Events is a San Francisco-based business that has managed over 600 events, including tailored destination weddings. Laurie and her Masterclass team (see below), challenged the idea that “nothing’s perfect” by sharing their orchestrated refinement and insider knowledge with talented colleagues and attendees. They turned the rustic beauty of The Ranch at Rock Creek into a Western story book romance. We’re pleased to share some of the Instagram highlights here, although we highly recommend you delve deeper by searching #weddingplannermasterclass for yourself.


Q & A with Laurie Arons

While she was here, we couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to pick Laurie’s brain for our 2015 brides and grooms. Laurie answered some of the pressing questions that arise when planning a Montana destination wedding.

We hope you enjoy these masters in their element: Laurie Arons, Mindy Rice Design, Casa de Perrin, Amber Moon Design, Curlicue Designs, Montana Party Rentals, Elan Event Rentals, Jose Villa Photography, Paula LeDuc, Barn Relic, Blush Roses, Joel Serrato, Style Me Pretty Weddings, Geraldine Magazine, Czar Press, Creative Candles and Fellini Salon.

Laurie Arons Masterclass included expertise from renowned wedding photographer Jose Villa and instructions on staging shotsLeft: @pitbullsposies captures master photographer Jose Villa at work. Right: @smpweddings with the results.

What wedding trends do you expect to see in 2015?

Gold has been the metallic accent color of choice for the last couple years, but for the Wedding Planner Masterclass, I wanted to focus on a metal I think will start to inspire a new trend in weddings—pewter. This metal works beautifully with more rustic weddings because of its muted tone, and is more unexpected than gold or silver.

Both the welcome dinner and the formal dinner incorporated pewter through Mindy Rice’s design and Casa de Perrin’s pewter chargers and flatware.  I also loved the pewter letterpress ink on the printed materials.

Wedding details by Mindy Rice design augmented the natural beauty of the bride, groom and Montana landscape during the Wedding MasterclassLeft:@lauriearons bridal shoot. Right: @mindyricedesign‘s inventive boutonnieres with found objects.  Read more…