Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in western Montana, you’ll find the cozy sanctuary known as Rocking Z Guest Ranch, a working dude ranch that offers relaxation and an authentic western experience. The ranch was purchased by Zack and Patty Wirth in 1993. For the next seven years the Wirth’s raised both their children and cattle on the ranch before pursuing their dream of turning their cattle ranch into a guest ranch.
Two hour drive from both Missoula and Bozeman airports, Rocking Z is a beautiful ride into the vast valleys and hills of Montana. We rented a Hertz SUV to take the trip over and appreciated having a car for the duration of the stay, as it allowed us to go into town and explore the area.
In 2000, the Rocking Z Guest Ranch opened and welcomed its first guests in July. Over the years, the ranch has continued to grow into a thriving guest ranch based on horsemanship and an authentic frontier experience. Rocking Z Guest Ranch is still a working ranch as well and maintains a herd of 75 horses and 45 head of cattle.
Rocking Z Guest Ranch consists of a central lodge and duplex-style cabins for guests. The lodge is centrally located and offers 24 hour access to coffee, tea, and snacks. The lodge also provides a place for people to gather and enjoy each other’s company while they share a meal.
If you are looking for some fun, check out the onsight saloon. The saloon has a pool table and card table available to guests to let loose a little bit. Complimentary wine and beer are also provided. Just outside the saloon, you will find volleyball nets. Guests are welcome to take a dip in the creek when the weather is hot or enjoy a campfire in the evenings.
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Each duplex-style cabin offers en suite accommodations for guests. The rooms maintain the rustic theme of Montana and the Rocking Z Guest Ranch. Equipped with extra-long beds and natural gas fireplaces, the rooms are cozy and welcoming. The suites are in two buildings known on the range as the Upper Building and Lower Building. The Upper Building has views of the picturesque surrounding mountains and is attached to the laundry facilities and outdoor hot tub area. Guests are always invited to take a dip in the outdoor hot tub which was built by owner Zack Wirth and contains seating for up to twenty people The Lower Building is equipped with air conditioning and overlooks several of the horse corrals allowing you to leisurely watch the horses. To add to the charm of the cozy rooms at Rocking Z Guest Ranch, each room is named after a local historical figure.
Horses and horsemanship are what Rocking Z Guest Ranch was founded on. The horses are the soul of the ranch and guests are welcome to ride them as much as they want. With 75 horses on the farm, the staff will hand-select a horse for each rider to match both experience and personalities. It is important for the riding experience to be enjoyable for both the rider and the horse and the staff does everything possible to ensure that.
The horses have been trained through a system known as Pat Parelli’s Seven Games of Natural Horsemanship. This revolutionary program and way of thinking helps the rider learn to communicate with horses naturally. The system is focused more on teaching people to speak the language of horses rather than teaching a horse to obey a person. It creates intuned riders and mature, well-trained horses.
The staff of Rocking Z Guest Ranch use this system to understand and communicate with the horses and it is the basis of how they know each horse well enough to pair it with a compatible rider. This careful selection allows for magic to happen between a rider and a horse as they get to know and understand each other. A true bond is often formed between guests and their assigned horses by the end of their stay.
Horseback riding is the main attraction at the ranch and the staff members are eager to assist you even if you have never ridden a horse before. Regardless of your experience level, you will be able to experience riding a horse safely. The ranch offers horseback riding lessons for those that have never ridden before and riding activities such as barrel racing and a grasshopper cross-country course for those that are more experienced.
Guests can choose to venture out on horseback for small trail rides lasting only an hour or can join in on extended eight-hour rides. The amount of time you spend with the horses is truly up to you. The ranch also offers a number of different types of rides including trail rides into the mountains or smoother rides that stay on flat areas of the land.
A Wirth family member or staff members stay with the riders for each rider and are able to judge the terrains and assist the most inexperienced riders. Whether you are looking for a fast ride or a slow and easy rider, there is something for everyone and every experience level.
Guests are also encouraged to join in with chores on the ranch to get an authentic experience of what ranch life is really like. Hop on your horse and help the staff herd the cattle from one field to another. Riders are encouraged to try their hand at a team drive as well. Large Belgian horse teams are used to move hay for feeding every winter. The team is often used to pull a wagon to provide camp-out-style meals and rides for the guests.
Roping is another horse-related activity that you can try your hand at. You’ll begin learning to rope on the ground and move to horseback as your skill progresses. In roping, the horse is your teammate so it is important that the staff can match you with a mature and compatible horse.
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With Little Prickly Pear Creek running right through the middle of Rocking Z Guest Ranch, it is the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon of fishing. Fly fishing is particularly popular in this area however, you will have to obtain a fishing license in one of the nearby towns. The dude ranch is also located in close proximity to the Missouri River which is another wonderful fishing option.
Archery and shooting lessons are available on the ranch as well. One-on-one instruction will help you learn safety and appropriate handling of these weapons even if you have never helped one before. Equipment is provided and if you wish to just observe, there is ear protection available. The staff of Rocking Z Guest Ranch takes this activity seriously and does everything possible to make sure that guests have the opportunity to learn a new skill in a safe environment.
Rocking Z Guest Ranch has several trails located on the property and surrounding it. These trails offer guests the opportunity to get some hiking or leisurely walks in during their stay at the dude ranch. The hikers are often able to spot an abundance of wildlife along the trails, including muskrats, coyotes, foxes, bears, mountain lions, wolves, and eagles. There are multiple spots along the trails that provide superb views for people wanting to practice their photography skills.
Owner Patty Wirth serves as the head chef of Rocking Z Guest Ranch and prepares all of the meals. Three meals a day are served in the lodge. Breakfast consists of choices such as pancakes, bacon, eggs, yogurt, and fresh fruit. The menu for lunch varies daily. Sometimes lunch is as simple as a sandwich and fresh fruit while other days it is a full home-cooked meal with warm cookies.
Dinner menus also vary day to day. Ranch guests are likely to find anything from brisket to lasagna in the lodge for dinner. Some nights are even themed such as a Mexican night that come complete with margaritas. If you have special dietary needs such as vegetarian or gluten-free options, the Rocking Z Guest Ranch is happy to accommodate those needs.
Drinks are included with every package at the ranch. Whether you are a tea aficionado or craving an ice cold soda, you’re sure to find it on the ranch. Beer and wine are kept on tap in the saloon and the lodge. Guests are also welcome to bring their own alcohol as well.
The Rocking Z Guest Ranch was purchased by the Wirth family in 1993. Zack and Patty dreamed of creating a working ranch that would also serve as a guest ranch. Working alongside their children on the ranch, they were able to do just that. The Wirth’s children still work and teach on the ranch every day creating a legacy that Zack and Patty hope will continue for generations.
In addition to the Wirth family working on the farm, there are also a number of hand-selected employees that are just as knowledgeable as the Wirth’s. These employees are not only valuable members of the team running the ranch but have become part of the ranch family. Incredibly hospitable and welcoming, guests love the Wirth family and their employees.
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The Rocking Z Guest Ranch has so much to offer its guests. Whether you are in desperate need of some fresh mountain air and relaxation or are looking to spend a week on horseback, Rocking Z Guest Ranch has something for everyone. With beautiful views, hiking trails, and outstanding fishing opportunities, it is sure to become one of your favorite vacations.
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