On Top of the World in Montana

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Ranch at Rock Creek, cabin
My beloved cabin at the Ranch at Rock Creek. My front yard was the bubbling creek while deer roamed through the backyard.

I felt fairly pleased with my success. I had stripped on my pole, and then spent some time nymphing in my rather unusual outfit. Hey, it’s not what you’re thinking — I was standing in the cool, rushing waters of Rock Creek near Philipsburg, Montana, being instructed in my first-ever fly-fishing class. And my outfit? I was rubbered up in waders to keep me warm and dry. Maybe not my best look, but it worked well enough for me to cast my nymphs (wet flies) and catch two cutthroat trout, which I giggled over like a girl and promptly released.

Ranch at Rock Creek, Cabin
The interior of my cabin, which had a full-size bathroom and a wood-burning stove to keep me warm during the chilly October nights.

It was my first time in Montana, and while I didn’t catch the fishing bug, I did fall in love with the all-inclusive Ranch at Rock Creek in Southwestern Montana, the only five-star ranch in the world. The realization of a dream for Jim Manley, the owner who lives in Connecticut and perused more than 500 ranches before purchasing the property in 2007, the ranch is set at the base of the John Long Mountains on 6,600 acres bordering the Deer Lodge National Forest.

Ranch at Rock Creek
Bicycles are provided for guests to tool around the ranch. It was so chilly at night that mine often had frost on it in the morning.

During warm months, guests swim, fish, horseback ride, play paintball, and mountain bike. They can go on a stagecoach ride, try their hand at the archery course, or go hiking on one of many trails of all levels. One takes you to a beautiful spot called the Top of the World, a great setting for a picnic. During the winter, guests ski at a nearby mountain, snowmobile, cross-country ski and ice skate at Bikini Beach, a small pond that freezes in the winter.

All activities are booked at the Rod & Gun Club, where you can purchase items for activities or borrow them, as I did for my fly-fishing adventure. The super nice staff there will also let you borrow a pair of kick-ass cowboy boots to wear during your stay. I loved my turquoise-and-brown ones, with fringe of course, and reluctantly turned them back in when I left.

 cowboy boots, Ranch at Rock Creek
My awesome cowboy boots, which I was able to borrow during my stay. Guests enjoy nightly cocktails and appetizers in front of the fireplace in the Granite Lodge.

The ranch offers guests the choice of four shooting ranges — for sporting clays, pistols, trap and skeet and rifles. New this year are geocaching, heli adventures, seasonal wing shooting (bird hunting) and the ropes course, which we tried one morning. Despite my initial inclination to climb back down after taking the rickety bridge up to the 40-foot-high platform, I went for it and carefully creeped across the log to another equally high platform, primarily for the thrill of ziplining down.

I was equally thrilled by the quality of the food and the accommodations.

 fly-fishing adventure, Ranch at Rock Creek
We had a most excellent guide for our fly-fishing adventure, John, who was patient with my casting attempts.

The kitchen, run by talented Chef Josh Drage, turns out delicious items, using local produce and products, like lemon ricotta blueberry pancakes, organic cheeseburgers, kale salad and a sweet potato sandwich. One night we enjoyed a tasting menu with elk and salmon, paired with wines.

Fortunately, my accommodations were about a 10-minute walk away, as I needed it after the large meals. I was in one of eight “glamping” tents, and fell in love immediately with my cozy hideaway with the front porch facing Rock Creek. Other accommodations include homes and rooms in Granite Lodge, located on the other side of the creek. At the Ranch at Rock Creek, the river really does run through it.

Ranch at Rock Creek
He may look like an ordinary fish, but it is one that I caught, which made him special to me. We bonded for about 8 seconds before releasing him back into the water.

And if you’ll looking for total privacy, you’ll find it here — even if you are an A-list celeb. A few months after my return the news broke that Scarlett Johansson had gotten married at the ranch two weeks before my visit. Not a word was mentioned. Those folks can really keep a secret, just one of the many reasons that a getaway to the Ranch at Rock Creek is a wonderful experience.

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