Photo: Courtesy of Ranch at Rock Creek
I've always been a bit obsessed with the American West. Maybe it's the wide-open spaces and countless outdoor activities. Or maybe it's that you can wear cowboy boots there without people batting an eye. And when I recently told a bunch of friends I was headed out to visit a Montana ranch, the universal reaction was "Montana? How cool! I've always wanted to go there."
Couples who are less about beach resorts, more about camping and the great outdoors, should have Montana on their travel wish list. I bunked up at the Ranch at Rock Creek, a luxury resort set out 6,600 acres just outside of Phillipsburg, Montana (you fly into Missoula, and then it's a two-hour drive). You pull up to the Granite Lodge, walk in to the lobby, and it immediately feels like you've stepped on to the set of a (very fancy) Western—think huge leather couches, Navajo rugs, and antique photos from the late 1800s (during the area's silver mining boom). The lodge has nine plush rooms named for classic guns like Remington and Winchester. If you like rolling out of bed to breakfast (or from, conversely, from the bar up to bed), I say this is the way to go.
But for the true "glamping" experience slash cowboy fantasy, bed down in one of the six 630-square-foot canvas-tent cabins down at Rock Creek, a five-minute drive away. These are the fanciest tents I've ever seen, with screened-in front porches, fireplaces, full en-suite baths, and king-size beds. No room service, but hey, who needs it when there's piping hot coffee and fresh croissants set out for you at the Blue Canteen, a log cabin and tent just around the corner. It's beyond adorable, decorated with vintage blue plates and pots, and folks pop 'round here in the afternoon to help themselves to beer and wine, too.
Ranch life is what I like to call the honeymoon plan: lots of eating (all your meals, wine, and spirits are included) and lots of activities. The food is fantastic—five-star and mostly locally sourced from Big Sky country. One night, Chef Drage whips up lamb porterhouse, pumpkin agnolotti, or a delicate crab salad; the next it's a hearty meatloaf topped with perfectly crisped onions, or a plate of fish and hand-cut chips (best fries of my life!) paired with a local microbrew. Breakfasts are insane, with thick slabs of bacon, fresh baked bread, and fluffy pancakes.
Two guided excursions per day are part of the rate, so you can try your hand at sporting clays, archery, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, and fly-fishing—a totally relaxing, peaceful experience, and for those obsessed with A River Runs Through It, this is your chance to live the dream (sans Brad). I buckled up my waders, reeled in an 18-inch cutthroat trout...and then released him. There's also a gorgeous pool and small spa, if you're into less strenuous stuff. And for late-night fun, there's—no joke—a karaoke machine, movie room, and four-lane bowling alley at the ranch's very own Silver Dollar Saloon, which will stay open until the last cowboy (or -girl) rides out. Rooms from $1,900.