I am not a vain person, but there’s one picture of myself that I look at again and again. I’m smiling broadly and one arm is wrapped easily under the irresistible chin of King, the charmingly neurotic, Chivas-colored gelding I’d spent the morning riding up and down the silent, sloping hills of the Montana Rockies. To me, this picture is far more than a lovely vacation memory. It’s an image of how I’d like to look and feel every single day. And it all happened at Triple Creek Ranch.
My first hint that this all-inclusive luxury ranch in Darby, Montana was going to re-define the concepts of “all-inclusive” and ”luxury ranch” was the herd of elk I was greeted by as I drove up the winding driveway toward the main lodge. Shiny and fat, the wild animals were so at home that they were actually grazing while lying down in the rolling, lush, grassy lawn that flanks the ranch’s driveway.
After a casual but comprehensive check in process—which felt more like the welcome you get when you arrive at a friend’s house for the weekend than the standard five star hello—I was taken to the Bitterroot, my own private luxury log cabin. And, no, that’s not an oxymoron.
Of course the Bitteroot was fully loaded with all the extras we’ve come to expect in rustic luxury: a fireplace, leather furniture, huge windows, a porch. But all accommodations at Triple Creek Ranch also feature above-and-beyond touches like a two head shower that converts into a steam room at the flip of a switch, a wealth of eclectic paintings and sculptures by some of the best Western artists in the world, an un-mini bar with full-size bottles of vodka, gin and whiskey (in addition to chilled mixers) and freshly roasted coffee beans with a grinder (but, oddly, no fresh milk) in the kitchen.
Cabins also have DVD and CD players (a few selections are placed in your room pre-check in and there’s a full DVD and CD library in the main lodge to raid at will) and the hot tub on my porch that was so private that clothes really were optional. This was just one of many ways Triple Creek Ranch surprised me with it’s romantic side. The ranch’s no-kids-under-age-16 policy, in-room massage and a maximum capacity of 48 guests at a time adds to what manager Wayne Kilpatrick calls “camping for adults.” Very, very lucky adults.
Just when I’d decided to never leave my stunning cabin I remembered that a whole host of outdoor activities were included in the all-inclusive rate at Triple Creek Ranch, including horseback riding, skiing, fly casting, putting, tennis and more. So I hopped into the electric cart that guests are issued at check-in (no noisy private cars are allowed on the narrow paved paths connecting the secluded cabins to the lodge, pool and other activity areas), and headed for the stable to explore some of the ranch’s 600 acres from the saddle.
With so much to do, it’s not hard to get your favorite jeans or best fly-fishing vest dirty while enjoying the ranch’s trails, rivers or poolside lounge chairs. But Triple Creek Ranch has thought of that too and includes laundry in your rate. Within 24 hours of pickup, clean clothes are delivered back to your cabin wrapped in tissue paper packages which look so elegant that, for a moment, I thought there were presents in my room. And there were: free bundles of clean laundry!
After a blissful day of horseback riding, I drove my cart up to the lodge for dinner where the food and service demonstrated yet more reasons why Triple Creek Ranch gained Relais & Chateaux status in 1996.
In addition to all snacks and meals (served anywhere, anytime), there are a number of wonderful house wines included in your rate (try the Zenaida Chardonnay from Paso Robles, California in particular) and the impressive full wine list has both ends of the price tag spectrum well covered. Sure, you can splurge on a bottle of 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild for $1,650, but when I was there the list also featured almost 50 wonderful options for under $40 including an addictive Austrian sparkler called Domaine Schlumberger Cuvee Klimt Brut for just $34.
No wonder Triple Creek Ranch received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in both 2005 and 2006. And it’s sure to win more culinary accolades with Food and Wine Director Maximilian Kast at the helm. His enthusiasm and knowledge about food, wine and Triple Creek Ranch itself would be impressive in somebody twice his age and (bonus!) he brings zero snob-factor to his work—or to your table.
Though every meal is expertly prepared and impeccably served (there’s one waiter for every two guests at the table so everyone gets their food at the same moment), do not leave Triple Creek Ranch without enjoying a dinner at the Chef’s Table.
For an additional charge of $85 per person, guests are treated to a three hour dining experience that includes expert wine pairings. Chef’s Table guests are seated in a private glass-enclosed room directly off the kitchen where you can watch chef Jacob Leatherman and his staff prepare your meal. It’s impossible to say whether the experience or the food and wine was more memorable.
Oh, and that picture of myself that I love so much? It was a gift. All guests at Triple Creek Ranch receive a complimentary photo of themselves enjoying their first ranch activity. After all, it’s their job to think of (and handle) all the details. It’s your job to have the kind of good time you will never forget—whatever that means to you.
Triple Creek Ranch
5551 West Fork Road
Darby, Montana 59829
Phone: (406) 821-4600 or (800)654-2943
Our review of this luxury ranch was originally published by iTraveliShop
Here’s more about travel in the USA