Melissa Biggs Bradley created Indagare in order to inspire transformative journeys and meaningful global connections. She says her favorite hotels are “passion projects” where the owners feel a deep connection to the purpose and design of their hotel.  In her Podcast “Passport to Everywhere” she recognizes these “Hotel Legends” who have realized their dreams and achieved something unique in hospitality.

In “Episode 50: Hotel Legends: Montana’s The Ranch at Rock Creek with Jim Manley” Melissa Biggs Bradley explores Jim’s childhood dream, creating the world’s first Forbes Five-Star ranch, and the power of offering a fully inclusive stay to guests.

Three log houses with tall yellow trees nearby

The Dream

Thanks to travelers seeking wide open spaces after the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of Yellowstone, Biggs Bradley says:

You’ll be hard pressed to find a traveler whose bucket list doesn’t include some kind of American West adventure. The American West represents notions of freedom and family as well as a sought after simplicity.

Jim Manley’s dream of the West began far before Kevin Costner looked out over Yellowstone Ranch. In the podcast, you hear how Jim grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey watching Bonanza and other Western shows. He told his dad he would own a ranch one day, and he took that dream with him throughout his career. It culminated in a 20-year search for the perfect ranch and the purchase of a 100-year-old ranch in Southwest Montana, near Philipsburg.

The Vision

Although The Ranch began as a getaway for his family, friends told him others would appreciate his version of the perfect ranch. Jim decided to turn his childhood dream into an all-inclusive resort. His passion project required planning, years of personal investment and a dedication to being fully inclusive. Jim saw how people who went on vacations were being asked to sign checks and it was taking them out of the immersive experience. He wanted to help guests disconnect from everyday troubles and roam the wide open spaces to find a deeper connection with the outdoors.

I think it’s reminding you every time you sign, ‘I’m in a resort with strangers.’ I think that’s the magic (of The Ranch), that we’re fully inclusive. That we have great food and a lot of activities. And it feels, if you will, like a step back in time.

Within that all-inclusive structure, he sought not just to provide the average meals and trail rides. Jim planned to make the food an extension of the agricultural way of life in Montana, with wine pairings and coursed meals, as well as rodeo barbecues and social hours where people could meet and develop connections with others. Executive Chef Josh Drage was at the helm of this plan from day one, bringing his vision to life with a Relais & Chateaux designation and over 90 local purveyors.

At the forefront he also had the idea of Western adventure. Instead of just having horseback riding, he wanted to have dozens of activities, including riding, fishing, shooting and archery. The Ranch has over 40 included activities, a department of guides and the Rod & Gun Club filled with gear, under the leadership of Activities Director Patrick Little.

The Future

While creating The Ranch, it was also important to Jim to protect the environment and make the footprint small. He does this by keeping occupancy low with just 29 accommodations and having a policy that all able-bodied guests bike or walk around The Ranch.

People are like, ‘5 star and I’ve got to walk and ride a bike?’ But (car travel) A. is unhealthy B. is not safe and C. ruins the ambiance of the frontier West.

Listen to the podcast here. Jim shares what he thinks the gift of travel is, shares some of his other favorite places to travel, and shines a light on some of the behind-the-scenes secrets of owning The Ranch at Rock Creek.

From Indagare | Lightning Round with Jim:

  • Favorite season in Montana? Winter
  • Favorite activity at the Ranch at Rock Creek? Hiking and horseback riding
  • Favorite spot at the Ranch? The Top of the World
  • What do you like most about the outdoors? Fresh air
  • When’s the first time you rode on a horse? At the age of 12
  • Favorite Western film? The Big Country
  • Favorite brand of cowboy boots? Lucchese

See more at

About Melissa Biggs Bradley

In 2007, Melissa Biggs Bradley launched Indagare with a powerful vision of transformative travel: “It’s not just where you go, but also how the journey shapes you.” At Indagare, they believe that today’s most impactful travel is built around personal experiences.