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Pieces of Paradise

by Katie Thomas

Above: Featured Luxury Listing No.1: Tolman Canyon Ranch Madison Valley

Montana is one of the world’s most sought-after destinations for mountain homes and ranches. Featured in this issue are two such properties, one a working cattle ranch in the lush Madison River Valley and the other a contemporary home in the spectacular Spanish Peaks of Big Sky. Both properties boast incredible luxury while offering modern amenities for those who love the mountains, rivers, and majesty of Montana.


Above: Featured Luxury Listing No.2: Mountain Living & Modern Indulgence Spanish Peaks

Featured Luxury Listing No.1

TOLMAN CANYON RANCH: A treasure in the heart of the Madison Valley

At the base of Tolman Creek Canyon sits a mid-sized working cattle ranch. The main house and accompanying outbuildings have been strategically sited out over 1,000 acres, with the imposing Sphinx Mountain towering over the property from the east. On summer evenings, eagles and hawks can be spotted overhead and elk and antelope herds graze across the property and in the surrounding mountain meadows.

Situated just outside Ennis, Montana, Tolman Canyon Ranch lies at the foot of the Madison Mountains and extends from the limestone cliffs in Tolman Creek Canyon to irrigated hay fields at the south end. The property encompasses 1,416 acres and includes the main home, the ranch manager’s residence, a barn and an arena, and corrals. Bordered by the lofty summits of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and overlooking Madison Valley and the Gravelly Mountains to the west, Tolman Creek Ranch offers a slice of heaven in one of the most desirable river valleys in the Rockies.


The property encompasses 1,416 acres and includes the main home, the ranch manager’s residence, a barn and an arena, and corrals.

Designed by Gary Saling and built in 1995 by Richard “Pokey” Armitage, the stunning 3,100-square-foot house holds three bedrooms, four bathrooms, and one half-bath. The single-story home blends into the incredible surroundings and maximizes the beauty of the area, rather than distracting with overly opulent qualities. Large windows in nearly every room offer unimpeded views of the mesmerizing Madison Valley and are accentuated by a warm cedar and cherry wood interior. The walls of the home feature fossilized limestone, lending a historic yet cozy feeling to the space. In addition to the open kitchen with wet bar and custom cabinetry, the main house also holds a travertine marble fireplace with a copper chimney in between the living and dining areas, a media/theater room, a wrap-around deck, and an attached two-car garage with ample room for vehicles, outdoor gear, and equipment.

Tolman Canyon Ranch possesses all the necessities to run a small-scale cattle operation. The current owners produce alfalfa hay and raise a small herd of cattle on the ranch, the capacity of which is 80 head. Additional outbuildings on-site include a hay storage shed, an equipment shop, loafing shed, and equipment sheds. The barn and arena, however, are the ranch’s true gems. “It’s really a superior horse ranch and training facility,” says Chris Murphy, the property’s listing agent with Benchmark Brokers. “The arena is 100 by 50 feet, and this place is perfect for someone with high-end horses who is interested in reining and cutting competitions.” The 5,000-square-foot barn contains seven horse stalls, a tack room, and a large indoor arena for training.


As far as tranquility goes, Tolman Canyon Ranch is a rare find. Sage and juniper bushes braid themselves through the cottonwood and aspen trees lining the small babbling brooks that are Tolman and Mill Creeks. Between the two creeks, the ranch has three miles of streams with Tolman Creek running right by the house and can be heard from the master bedroom. More than two miles of U.S. Forest Service wilderness area border the east side of the ranch, giving way to dramatic limestone and flowstone peaks of the Madison range. Explains Murphy, “The house is perched up against mountains, which is a national forest and wilderness designation. So that means only horse and foot traffic are allowed—no mechanized vehicles. Backcountry and cross-country skiing can originate right from the house with easy access to the backcountry. This protected land will never be developed, making it forever undisturbed and ideal for hunting.”

The small, steep game trail that winds up Tolman Canyon from the ranch is not only a wildlife corridor but can also be a hike for those not afraid of a precipitous but short trek. “It’s definitely rustic up there, with heavy timber and steep trails,” Murphy allows, “but that leads up into a wide-open area. There’s just tons of beautiful, rugged wilderness back there.” And as the helicopter flies, the Big Sky area is surprisingly close—only about ten air miles over the mountains.

Speaking of helicopters, nearby is the Ennis-Big Sky Airport (KEKS), with a recently expanded runway that is 7,600 feet long by 100 feet wide, enabling aircraft of any size to land, from a large corporate jet to a small Cessna. The Bozeman area and its airport are nearby as well, just over a one-hour drive away. Across Highway 287 is the blue-ribbon Madison River, with fishing access only a seven-mile drive from the ranch.


Whether it’s for the fly fishing, hiking, skiing, hunting, horseback riding, or simple love of pristine mountain wildlands, the setting of Tolman Canyon Ranch and its surroundings offer the most exceptional locale for those who want to stay close to the natural world while still having access to the amenities of town.


$13,750,000 |
Chris Murphy |

Featured Luxury Listing No.2

SPANISH PEAKS: Mountain Living & Modern Indulgence


While making the stunning drive through Gallatin Canyon to Big Sky, one is reminded of why so many now take this exigent journey. Immense andesite cliffs, dense conifer forests, abundant wildlife, and the incomparable Gallatin River frame the winding roadway and set the scene for the final approach to Spanish Peaks Mountain Club in Big Sky. An increasingly rare place where one can still connect with the natural world, the remote enclave is a destination that provides this connection along with all the comforts of home – and beyond.

Nestled at the end of Wildridge Fork in Spanish Peaks Mountain Club sits just such a home: a dramatic 5,610-square-foot mountain retreat, situated on 1.06 acres at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. The structure blends into the surrounding lodgepoles, white bark pines, subalpine and Douglas fir, and Engelmann spruce, with shades of its reclaimed Montana corral board and local Prairie Ash limestone siding peeking through. Boasting five bedrooms, five full bathrooms, two powder rooms, a three-car garage, and two decks with private entrances, this treasure was created in 2023 by husband-wife team Brooke Adams, the owner of Adams Construction Services, his wife Justa Adams, the property’s real estate agent, and their team of skilled workers.

Featuring an expansive open floor plan with modern design, the home evokes a private ski lodge with its great room book-ended by a sprawling fireplace on one end and an open kitchen with a shiny metallic backsplash at the other. Rich reclaimed redwood accents and Venetian plastered ceilings lend the home a warm, lived-in feeling, mingling with the contemporary touches of the steel and custom wire-brushed beams. “I added the stair-stringer design, the curbless showers, and I had a custom rail done on the deck where the gates open either in or out,” Brooke says. The house is located alongside the new par-3 golf course, so this last feature enables its owners to literally chip from the deck if so inclined.

The home’s most distinct feature, however, is its windows – copious, massive windows, affording arresting mountain views from nearly every angle. The glass begins at the front door, where visitors are hit with the sight of mountains and more mountains, completely unobstructed by anything and framed by the continuous sea of snow-capped pine trees. “The original design had the porches in front, against the windows, but I ended up having those pushed to the sides, so nothing is blocking the view,” Brooke says. “We wanted to invite the outside in,” Justa adds. “Even though it’s just a couple of minutes from the clubhouse, you feel like you’re miles away from anything; it’s nothing but trees and the Spanish Peaks. The beauty speaks for itself.”



“We wanted to invite the outside in. Even though it’s just a couple of minutes from the clubhouse, you feel like you’re miles away from anything; it’s nothing but trees and the Spanish Peaks. The beauty speaks for itself.”

–Justa Adams, Sothebys Realty

Despite the surrounding forests providing a private, “we’re-the-last-people-on-this-winter-wonderland-earth” feel, full amenities are at hand. The ski-in/ski-out clubhouse is a two-minute drive away and offers two restaurants, a pool and hot tub, a spa, a fitness center with locker rooms, weekly live music on Fridays, children’s activities, the 7,200-yard Tom Weiskopf golf course in summer, and access to over 5,800 acres of world-class terrain at Big Sky Resort in the winter. For those who may want to venture out a little farther, the lavish Montage Hotel Big Sky is just minutes away.


The Adams family has called Big Sky home for ten years now. After a stint of working at Chico Hot Springs in Paradise Valley, Brooke went to school for building construction and began his career in Florida, working in commercial construction. One fine day, he and Justa decided to “go on an adventure,” as Justa puts it, which had to include a four-year university, because she wanted to get another degree. So, they took a chance and moved to Big Sky, a place both of them had visited and loved. Brooke went to work as a project manager and superintendent for Continental Construction, while Justa earned her post-baccalaureate degree at Montana State University-Bozeman in Fish and Wildlife Ecology and Management. In 2017 Brooke started his own construction company, which inspired Justa to go to real estate school so she could sell his product.

Having the opportunity to create this work of art is a dream achieved by the Adams duo. It has brought them full circle, contributing to the community where they live and work. “I never thought I’d have my name attached to something like this,” Justa says, “such an incredibly gorgeous home that’s just a tiny piece of the extraordinary landscape where we get to live and work. We’re so grateful to live and raise our children here and look forward to sharing with the new homeowners this piece of paradise in Big Sky.”


$12,500,000 |
Justa Adams |