Photo: The Ranch at Rock Creek

Why The Ranch at Rock Creek, One of America's Priciest Hotels, Is More Affordable Than You Think

Montana Epic Stays
by Becca Blond Oct 18, 2021

It’s been dubbed the “most expensive hotel in America” over the years by outlets from The Los Angeles Times to Forbes, but The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana is actually more affordable than you think.

Set on 6,600 acres 1.5 hours southeast of Missoula, The Ranch was the first guest ranch in the world to be awarded Forbes Travel’s Guides Five-Star Award in 2013. A working cattle ranch that doubles as a luxury dude ranch, it also attracts its share of celebrity guests. Kate Bosworth was married here, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton have stayed and LeAnn Rimes is a regular guest for the Fall Harvest Festival, where she also often performs.

But despite its celeb clients, five-star status, and at first glance seemingly sky-high price tag, a stay at this all-inclusive property can actually feel affordable, especially if you skip the ultra-high summer season. That’s because everything is included in the nightly rate, which starts at $1800 in the low season for a lodge room and goes up to $3,300 per night for peak holiday season.

Food, alcohol and activities are all included at The Ranch at Rock Creek

When you book your stay at The Ranch at Rock Creek you will know upfront exactly what your total vacation cost will be. An all-inclusive property, literally everything with the exception of some finer bottles of wine and the spa is covered.

The Ranch is not a place you leave with an extra few thousand dollars on the credit card thanks to drinking more than budgeted or a decision to book a second horseback ride or target shooting session. This makes the daily rate a better deal than similar properties if you were to pay per meal and activity.

“We loved the all inclusive aspect,” said Ali Soule, who chose The Ranch at Rock Creek as one of her honeymoon destinations last May. “Given COVID and the travel lockdowns, we searched for a luxury, fun vacation in the US for the first leg of our honeymoon. We were so happy to have chosen The Ranch as it delivered everything we wanted. It’s an ideal trip, and they plan every day for you, including the private activities, meals and special events.”

The Ranch also offers guests personally curated itineraries that set the experience apart from other similar Montana properties like The Resort at Paws Up where you pay extra for activities — and this can add up fast. The Ranch offers around 45 activities that are included in their daily rate.

It being a ranch, horseback riding is one of the most popular things to do and rides are tailored to ability. You won’t get stuck on a group trail-ride walking in a line if know what you are doing and want to canter. Other activities include everything from archery to pistol, rifle and shotgun target shooting, blue ribbon fly fishing to fat tire biking.

There are also more specialized activities like sapphire mining, frontier skills workshops or something as relaxing as having breakfast served creekside while relaxing in hammocks. As such, it is easy to spend a week here without getting bored doing the dame activity multiple times.

Book The Ranch’s Granite Lodge rooms for best value

Accommodating no more than 75 guests at once, The Ranch at Rock Creek has an exclusive vibe throughout, so no matter which style of lodging you chose you’ll feel special. The suites in the Granite Lodge are the most affordable option and perfect for couples looking for the best price-point.

Although smaller than the private homes and cabins on property they feature the same custom furniture and Western heritage style decor seen around the resort but cost about $400 less per night than the next class up, which is a classic canvas cabin that has a glamping vibe.

If you have more to spend, the romantic Trapper Cabin is the most unique and popular accommodation choice at the ranch. It sits directly on the creek running through the property and is about a mile away from all other lodging, offering a very private retreat. However, rates for it start at $2,400 per night.

Yes, The Ranch is pricey but the food is superlative and the drinks are included

The food at The Ranch at Rock Creek is also superlative. If you like to dine out on gourmet meals this should factor into your decision when it comes to priciness — this is a Relais & Châteaux level culinary experience.

Executive Chef Josh Drage has been working with the ranch since 2009 and his ranch-to-table menu changes daily for lunch and dinner with each meal carefully curated. Dinners are a multi-course experience designed to reflect the flavors of Montana. They also feature regionally or locally sourced organic ingredients that mirror the state’s seasonal bounty.

Dinners come paired with wine choices and with the exception of some of the most expensive bottles this is included in your daily rate. Other alcoholic beverages are also included so if you feel like having top shelf margaritas before dinner and capping the night off with a fine whiskey or two you won’t be adding another couple hundred dollars to your bill.

If you don’t plan to drink on your holiday, then this might not be the destination for you, but those who like to indulge will be surprised at how much you can. And unlike all inclusive resorts in the Caribbean or Mexico with reputations for watering down beverages, this does not happen at The Ranch.

“The food and beverage offerings were a highlight of our stay. They were top notch,” said Soule, who plans to return to the Ranch again soon. “We enjoyed starting our evening with happy hour and mingling with the other guests. Each meal was our favorite until the next one we enjoyed.”

The service and sustainability are factor worth paying for

If you care about the environment and trying to leave as little of a carbon footprint as possible, you’ll appreciate the focus The Ranch puts here. The property puts a priority on sustainability and currently sources 75 percent of its ingredients from local farms and almost 100 percent of its meats, grains and dairy from the western half of Montana.

Service is another area in which The Ranch at Rock Creek excels. From the moment you step off the plane and into one of their awaiting vehicles, you are treated like a VIP, which is another factor that makes the rate here feel worthwhile — after all there is nothing worse than paying a small fortune for a hotel room only to get subpar service. At The Ranch every whim is met. And the collective memory of the staff is pretty impressive! They’ll remember your favorite drink at the bar and the reason for your journey to them.

When to experience The Ranch for best value

The Ranch at Rock Creek is open year-round. The property often books out months in advance, especially for its specialty weekends. If you don’t want to stay during peak periods consider early May. The days are usually sunny and warm enough to wear short sleeves before dark. Rates are also lower than in the peak summer season. For the absolute best deals, pay a visit in winter. You’ll be presented with a slightly different set of activities and get to experience the magic of Montana under a romantic blanket of snow in a wild season.

The Ranch at Rock Creek also runs a number of themed event weekends throughout the year. Some events, like the Autumn Harvest Festival that LeAnn Rimes regularly attends sell out years in advance, but others like Revel & Ride in May have yet to gain a fan base and rates are similar, sometimes lower than, other dates.

Overall, there’s no question The Ranch at Rock Creek is a special place deserving of a bucket list holiday. Yes, a vacation here is going to cost you, but from the number of guests who return each year, it is obvious the rate of investment is worthy. Once you’ve experienced its subtle elegance, myriad of activities and culinary scene, you’ll also want to return again and again.

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