Full disclosure: I love Montana. Every road post is quaint country. Every turn of the two-way highway is another photo opportunity of bucolic beauty. It’s no wonder the French and Brits flock to this "Last Best Place."
It’s the 4th largest state by area, but the 44th least populated, steeped in a culture devoted to ranching and preservation of the outdoors. When I had the chance to visit Montana again, this time at Triple Creek Ranch, I couldn’t have packed my cowboy boots faster. Here are my favorite aspects of this luxury ranch.
All your own: One of the best things a luxury resort can offer is full access to anything and everything. Triple Creek Ranch is certainly top-notch in this department. I loved that the ponds on the ranch can be fished from, and the chefs will cook your catch. I didn’t bring my cowhide chaps, binoculars, leather wrangling gloves, or snow jacket (alright I admit, I don’t actually own these items). No matter, Triple Creek provides the entire getup for optimal cowboy and cowgirl adventures.
The ranch is all-inclusive, meaning guests never see a bill for breakfast, horseback riding, tennis, or alcohol. In fact, Triple Creek had the most extensive open bar options I’ve ever seen at a resort. On our property tour, we were encouraged to hop behind the bar to make any creative drink desired, just in case the bartender wasn’t in yet. My guest and I do not drink, but we daily inhaled the freshly made granola left in cute packages in our handsome cabin.
This is why Triple Creek Ranch doesn’t feel like a resort. It’s an experience at a homestead with generous hosts, like grandparents, who delight in spoiling you. My guest and I even left with a stack of framed photos, taken by the staff during our adventures, showcasing us on our horses, at dinner, and whatnot. "See?" I told my travel companion. "They are just like grandparents."
All in the family: An experience as warm as what you enjoy at Triple Creek cannot be manufactured. Another aspect of why Montana endears me is its authentic people, just happy to be with the land they play on. In the case of Triple Creek, they are true "grandparents" of the property, which nestles next to Bitterroot National Forest. Craig Barrett, a former CEO of Intel, and his wife, Barbara, own the ranch and stay on property many times during the year. Barbara, fondly described by the staff as radiant and unstoppable (she was a trained astronaut, as it turns out) will again ride in the annual "Klicks for Chicks" event, a 62-mile horseback ride, exclusively for women.
Barbara’s brother, Bill, manages Triple Creek and he and his wife live year round on site. Bill, a connoisseur of all feathered friends, took us on a stunning "photo safari" on the nearby CB Ranch, a 40,000-acre property also owned by the Barretts. Bill must have the eyes of an eagle because he frequently pointed out with endearing enthusiasm, bald eagles perched deep in the brush or an impressive herd of elk tucked far up the mountains. We adored Bill, such a real advocate of his surrounding wilderness. We also loved the professional Canon camera we were allowed to use, and Bill downloaded all of our images on a thumb drive after our four-hour excursion.
Later, Kristen, a wrangler at Triple Creek, led us on a horse trail, exchanging stories and insights about life, our journeys, and meanderings. We both admired her for leaving her 9-to-5 city life as an insurance agent for a dream: life outdoors with horses, her first true love. When I watched the ranch’s beige stallion gallop up to her like a puppy after our ride, I felt a satisfied contentment for Kristen’s happiness, as well as my own.
All the time: Unlike other regions of Montana, which get chilled to below zero degrees in the depths of winter, Triple Creek is in the "banana boat" of the state, where temperatures are much more moderate. Triple Creek stays open year round, hosting an array of rustic events. During my stay, the Artist’s Workshop Weekend was taking place, a popular event where the West’s most prestigious artists stay at the ranch to lead workshops for guests.
I enjoyed the progressive dinner that was hosted one evening, whereby guests and artists dined together, fetching their courses directly from the kitchen with the help of the attentive culinary team. Later this year, Alpine Skiing will commence. Lift tickets, transportation, and rentals to the nearby Lost Trail Powder Mountain are included in guests’ stays. I’ll be returning for the ice fishing and snowmobiling, followed by apple cider served next to the ranch’s fireplace in the upstairs den. To learn more, visit TripleCreekRanch.com.