3rd Day at the Ranch at Rock Creek

When I woke up on Wednesday at the Ranch at Rock Creek, it was clear that old man winter wanted to make an appearance– not really a surprise in March– and there was light snow. We once again skipped the full breakfast because we didn’t want to overindulge before heading out to our trail ride. Instead we took advantage of the coffee service and muffins served in the bar at the Granite Lodge. Then I decided to try out the claw foot bath tub and found there was ample hot water to fill it. I very much enjoyed finishing my coffee while soaking in the tub.

We headed out to the stables where cowboy Joe, a former rodeo rider and Emily the cowgirl got us on our horses and made sure we were properly attired and got us situated on our horses. We were in capable hands with Joe and Emily. Zan hadn’t ridden a horse in years and Joe and Emily made sure she was comfortable and in command. Zan’s previous riding experience was English but she was riding western style in no time. Emily told us that my horse, Yukon, and Kemosabe, the horse Zan would be riding, were best friends which made us giggle.

Granite Lodge & Last morning breakfast photos-4V1C9959

Since it was just the three of us, once Joe and Emily got us situated, we got to ride and trot a bit as we rode along Rock Creek and up towards Trapper Cabin. I’ve never gone horseback riding during the winter and it was far more pleasant than I imagined. The dusting of snow wasn’t daunting to a group of horses who just spent the winter in Montana. Joe pointed out that the horses still had their shaggy winter coats and mentioned they’ll be more attractive in a few months after they’ve shed their winter coats.

I always enjoy cowboys and find they have some interesting stories. Cowboy Joe was no exception. He had some fun stories about life on the rodeo circuit and his sons. One of his sons is now a rodeo coach, and his youngest two are named Rodee Owen and Bronc Rider. Talk about committed to the cause! We had a great time on the 90 minute ride and the overall experience was very pleasant. The weather turned out to be was more atmospheric than annoying, and we had dressed in layers so it wasn’t really an issue.

Granite Lodge & Last morning breakfast photos-4V1C9995

Lunch back at the dining room and I was a creature of habit and ordered the Pintler Range Steak Salad with organic red kale. The chef had told us that Kale is something that grows well in Montana he was enjoying seeing the leafy green being embraced by the masses, it since it had once been primarily used as a garnish. I really enjoyed the sweet potatoes on the salad. They were lightly cooked and added a nice touch of earthiness to the dish.

After lunch we cleaned up and got ready for our afternoon’s adventure – a trip into downtown Philipsburg. John, our driver, picked us up at Cattail Cabin to drive us into downtown P-burg. The sun had come out a bit and it was starting to feel more like spring again.

Philipsburg & Ranch at Rock Creek Photos-4V1C0015

Philipsburg, Montana is an old mining town has a population of around 820. There is one stoplight in town. But there is also an incredible candy store, The Sweet Palace, which is located in a former hardware store. I was absolutely blown away by the selection of homemade fudge and artisanal chocolate goodness! After sampling a few different varieties, we decided on a brick of Salty Dog– hand made peanut butter fudge with caramel and peanuts. We also brought quite the assortment of candy. Seriously yum.

Philipsburg & Ranch at Rock Creek Photos-4V1C0051

Next we headed to The Philipsburg Brewing Company a few doors down. Located in an historic building that used to be a bank in a former life, the craft brewery opened in 2012 and has friendly staff and dogs are welcome. We got to sample several styles of beers which were kept nicely chilled because of the refrigerated cold copper rail that runs down the top of the bar. The locals were nice to chat with and the whole atmosphere was relaxed and inviting. John, our driver, thought we should also check out the White Front Bar across the street. The White Front Bar has a long history and an an epic jukebox (selections range from Roy Orbison to Naughty by Nature). One wall is covered with photographs of the locals. Gwen, who works behind the bar, let us pose with the bar’s jackalope. It was great visiting this local hole in the wall.Philipsburg & Ranch at Rock Creek Photos-4V1C0086

After a round of beer John drove us back to the ranch and we stopped a few times to enjoy the Montana scenery. We snacked on goodies from the Sweet Palace on the ride back and were in full-on sugar shock by the time we arrived back at Cattail Cabin. We were so full, we decided not to have a full-on dinner, but the staff brought us a tray to the cabin. After all the sweets the salad was welcome. It was made with organic red leaf lettuce, chevre, Marcona almonds and a muddled strawberry vinaigrette. For the main course there was a choice of Pacific Steelhead salmon or Muscovy Duck Breast. I went for the duck and really enjoyed the fiddlehead ferns and Hedgehog mushrooms served with it. As much as I wanted to resist desert, the homemade apple crisp served with nutmeg ice cream was spot on delightful, served in a personal sized skillet.

We went to bed happy and extremely full.

Wild West Glamping, Storm Creek Outfitters

Drifting off to sleep in a cozy bed of quilts under a canvas roof is how each day ends at Storm Creek Outfitters – located on the Montana/Idaho border. Let’s explore what happens during the day to get a clear idea of what your vacation here will be like. The West is now just as comfortable as it used to be wild, thanks to glamping experts like Storm Creek Outfitters.

Storm Creek Outfitters brings you to the heart of the West to experience one of our nation’s largest wilderness complex’s in comfortable luxury with warm western hospitality and gourmet food. Guests access Storm Creek by way of Darby, Montana, a small western town that is the gateway to the Selway-Bitterroot Wildnerness. Darby also plays host to national events such as Logger Days,  the EBR sanctioned Bull-O-Rama Rodeo, and  “Cowboy Mounted Shooting” competition during the summer months. We’ll discuss more things to do later on.

Storm-Creek-FoodImage: Storm Creek website

In the days of the Wild West when a cowboy rode into a ranch looking for work, the first question he asked was, “Who’s the Cook?” If the cook wasn’t known to be good the cowboy rode on to the next outfit. Storm Creek takes their Dutch Oven cooking seriously!  You can even join the cook for an afternoon of hands-on cooking and we aren’t talking beans-n-weenies. How about Tuscan Roasted Lamb with mint apple pesto or Beef Short Ribs en Daube with polenta? It’s safe to say that you will not go hungry during your visit.

Today, the landscape remains much the same as it was in the 1800s. You can still hike or ride horses down the same well worn trails enjoying the magnificent unspoiled scenery. On the Montana/Idaho State line lies the Southern Nez Perce Indian trail. This historic trail was once among the frequently used routes by the Nez Perce Indians traveling to and from their buffalo hunting grounds. Famous trappers like Kit Carson, miners packing their gold, traders and other early adventurers also used the trail.

The Frank Church River of No Return and the Selway –Bitterroot Wilderness combine to create the largest wilderness area in the continental US. These wilderness areas offer solitude and pristine beauty. Seldom will you cross paths with another person as you travel the trail past an old Indian grave and see the telltale marks left on trees by trappers baiting for small game. What lies before you is a mind boggling 4.2 million acres of wilderness.

Storm-Creek-BedImage: Storm Creek website

Storm Creek cabin tents are havens of comfort; set on raised platforms and thoughtfully decorated to create a charming coziness. Rugs cushion your soles and wood stoves keep you warm on colder nights. Bunk with family or friends in tents that are arranged with a queen bed or bunk beds. Privacy is paramount in these tents where rustic charm meets upscale amenities. Good-natured simplicity, our vault toilets, are meticulously kept clean and fresh. Chamber Pots are discretely placed in each tent for middle of the night necessities.

Adventures are easy to come by in the relaxing summers or peaceful winters. Hiking, fly fishing, horseback riding top the list of things to do experience the wilderness. Wintertime here is a surreal winter wonderland. Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and skiing are excellent choices to keep you busy. Storm Creek also provides learning experiences where you can learn orienteering without a GPS, learn Dutch oven cooking with the chef, or learn mountain horsemanship skills. It’s easy to connect with nature in a place where wildlife outnumbers people.

Imagine yourself here cozied up to the wood stove after a wonderful gourmet meal paired with just the right wine all the while surrounded by mountains and trees, and an unending clear sky. It’s difficult to think of a better use of those vacation days you worked so hard to earn.

Find out more about Storm Creek Outfitters.

Glamping (and a whole lot more) at The Ranch at Rock Creek

The Ranch at Rock Creek was purchased by Jim Manley in 2007 after his lifetime search for the perfect ranch.  Manley was looking for a location that included a waterway on the property and was far removed from any major highways to preserve the wilderness experience for guests.  Manley found this perfect location at The Ranch at Rock Creek. The ranch is situated on 6,600 acres (that’s 10 square miles), with four miles of the Rock Creek river running through it, underneath the beautiful Montana “Big Sky.” At any given time, you may see deer, elk, hawks, or eagles.  A setting like this can certainly make you want to turn off your cell phone, unplug your laptop, and just relax, and if relaxation is what you desire, The Ranch at Rock Creek has the perfect remedy.  Guests can choose to sleep in the fresh air in one of their canvas cabins (a true glamping accommodation) in a luxuriously-appointed bed.  Each canvas cabin also features a private, en suite bathroom and a fireplace.


Or for those that prefer more traditional accommodations, the ranch has private log homes with immaculate furnishings with a western flair.  The secluded Trapper Cabin is perfect for a honeymoon or the ultimate relaxation experience, with its private location away from the hustle and bustle of the Granite Lodge – it even features a soaking tub on the porch!

After a peaceful night’s rest with the sounds of nature and the flowing Rock Creek in the background, be prepared to be pampered in the Granite Spa.  The Granite Spa features private treatment rooms where guests can enjoy customized massages, body treatments, facials, and nail care.  Guests can also treat themselves to the “Rock Creek Ritual,” a full two hours of pampering, complete with a full-body scrub and a full-body massage.

But perhaps the biggest allure of The Ranch at Rock Creek isn’t the relaxation, but the adventure!  At the ranch, guests can experience activities including horseback riding, sporting clays, archery, paintball, and more.  Each activity at the The Ranch at Rock Creek is guided by an experienced instructor.  The sporting clays program is suitable for guests of all experience and skill levels and includes the classic “going away” shots to trickier simulations such as the running rabbits’ station.  The ranch also features a 3D archery course, complete with realistic foam animal targets.  And of course, what ranch experience would be complete without horseback riding?  With over fifty horses and miles of wilderness to explore, this activity is sure to be one that everyone in the family can enjoy.  In addition to all of the activities listed above, The Ranch at Rock Creek offers fly fishing.  Montana is known for its legendary fly fishing, and the four miles of Rock Creek frontage on The Ranch’s acreage boast one of the state’s highest fishing counts and the famous salmon fly hatch which starts in late May and continues into July. The Ranch also stocks five trout ponds, each with its own unique trout species and ecosystem.  Fishing at The Ranch at Rock Creek is catch and release only.


When the Montana landscape is covered in snow, it opens up a bevy of winter activities at The Ranch at Rock Creek, from cross-country and downhill skiing to sleigh rides.  Guests can also enjoy snowmobiling around the many open meadows near the ranch or ice skating.


With days full of so many varied and exhilarating activities, guests are sure to work up an appetite.  Dining at the Granite Lodge will excite the taste buds with Executive Chef Josh Drage’s regionally and seasonally-inspired cuisine.  The menu features Montana-raised beef, lamb, chicken, and dairy products and locally-grown, organic produce.  If guests prefer a more casual experience, they can dine at The Blue Canteen for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and enjoy the unique outdoor seating area with a fireplace.  All meals are included in the nightly rate, as well as all wines and drinks from the ranch’s wine list.