- - Thursday, September 4, 2014

PHILIPSBURG, Montana — Pampering and prairie dust do not always go well together, but at the Ranch at Rock Creek, the horses are frisky, the bass are biting and the homes on this range could serve as a John Wayne movie set.

The 6,600-acre ranch spreads out some 10 square miles, bordered by the Sapphire, Anaconda and Flint Creek mountain ranges. And it piles on the privileges, knowing that those who stay usually have come a long way and want to spend time where cell service is not a given and where most of the food has never seen the inside of a package.

Only 95 beds here, probably some of the most expensive in America, but they come in luxurious cabins worthy of oil barons, and fancy tents that would befit a wealthy madam — all decked out with a melange of finery.

Cabins contain multiple “villas” that sport comfortable verandas, ornate bathrooms, deep soaking tubs and Texas-sized brass beds with plenty of soft cottons, down quilts and woolen wraps. There’s also a living room with large leather furnishings by the fireplace, plus an open kitchen and a large screened-in porch.

While the cabins are great for family, it’s romantics who benefit most from the glamorous camping, or “glamping,” in creekside tents. Warmed by big potbelly stoves, these offer overstuffed chairs for reading and a wide wooden porch for lazing. Campers also will find a big bed and spacious bathroom — but no tub. That is given to the private Jacuzzis steps away from the tents overlooking the creek. Sleep comes easily with the sound of the rushing water.

But this is a Montana ranch, and there’s work to be done.

There is horseback riding to try amid the ranch’s endless trails. And riding here, unlike many other ranch resorts, is on demand according to what and when the guest wants — not when ranch hands have time to spare. All riders are welcome — walk ‘em, trot ‘em, even canter and run. Boots and chaps can be provided at no charge.

Fly-fishing, too, happens on demand in the creek, in rivers or in secret spots known to the staff. Or leave the tackle on the banks and take a family-sized inner tube for a float down Rock Creek on a hot summer day.

In the foothills beyond the ranch, you can head up to the shooting range (guns and instructors provided), or take to the ropes and obstacle courses that are in permanent placement beyond the bend.

The less adventurous can pass the time in a mountain-style “new age” spa or swimming in the crystal waters of the ranch pool. Quiet walks up mountain paths can become addictive, and it is easy to put in 5 to 8 miles on a trouble-free trek to some of the summit spots for magnificent views of the purple ranges in the distance.

Weekly rodeos and evening stagecoach rides have their place in this family-friendly ranch. A kids’ camp is at the ready to teach young ones about nature and mountain life.

But the Ranch at Rock Creek is also about satisfying active appetites with farm-to-table menus that include elk and bison, mountain river catch, and wild northern salmon and halibut fresh enough to serve as sushi. Old-fashioned burgers are always on the menu, and there is the meatloaf and super steak cuts from grass-fed, range-happy cattle. Chips are baked anew every lunch, served with freshly mixed salsa. Beer at the Blue Canteen usually pours local craft brews.

Evenings are more of a gourmet affair in The Dining Room. Three-course meals, which come with wine pairings, blend French savvy with grandma-style secrets that the resort’s chefs whip up. That means meatloaf is not just meatloaf: It might be bison served with fresh mashed potatoes, broccolini and house-made tomato-horseradish ketchup, with Madison River Beer on the side. Dessert? A warm brownie sundae with home-crafted vanilla bean ice cream.

When their food coma subsides, guests take it over to the Silver Dollar Saloon for a night of bowling, bar banter, games, or movie watching on the big screen. Stars are in full glory for night walks.

WHAT: Ranch at Rock Creek, 79 Carriage House Lane, Philipsburg, Montana 59858

CONTACT: 406-859-6232; www.theranchatrockcreek.com.

RATES: $1,700 per night for two in the Lodge; $7,200 per night for six in the Ponderosa Cabin

Rates are all-inclusive, save the 20 percent fee tacked on for gratuities, phone calls, Wi-Fi and stocked goodies. Spa services are extra, as are helicopter transfers from airports and fishing/shooting licenses. The ranch runs year-round, except for a few weeks for restocking. Winter visitors can ski at Discovery Ski Area nearby.

GETTING THERE: Fly into Missoula and rent a car (or pay $225 each way for private SUV transfers).

Lark Gould lives in Los Angeles and blogs on Larkslist.com.

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