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Dreaming of the Ranch Life Without Giving up the City?

Consider moving to Great Falls, MT, which offers the best of both worlds. But don't take our word for it. Here are two residents who share what makes this region special.

By Brittany Anas on February 3, 2022

Rural life in Great Falls, MT
Rebecca Engum/Visit Great Falls

For some Montana residents, living in a rural area and occasionally commuting into nearby Great Falls provides the best of both worlds.

This cohort of the region’s business community enjoys wide-open spaces – and, often, a ranch style of life – as well as the benefits of having bigger-city amenities and a thriving business scene in Great Falls. Just a short drive away, and folks can be in the city for client meetings, networking events and city activities.

To get the full picture of what this kind of life entails, we sat down with a couple of Montana residents who are doing just that – living in the great wide open and commuting into the city.

No Need to Give up Rural Life

Meet Erlonna Erickson, a social worker who covers a large swath of the central Montana region and makes a 1.25-hour commute from Hobson to Great Falls a few times a week.

For Erickson, Hobson is home, and relocating for a job wasn’t a possibility. She grew up in the area, and her family’s ranch is close to where she lives. Plus, she has three children in junior high and high school who compete in rodeo events through their schools. “This is my community,” Erickson says.

When she has client meetings in Great Falls, she’s able to take advantage of the bigger-city offerings, like curbside grocery store pickup.

“There’s something special about the people in Great Falls. People here have big hearts, and there’s a strong sense of community.”

Kristy Cowell|Big Timber resident

Enjoying The Best of Both Worlds

Kristy Cowell, who has been in the mortgage lending industry for more than two decades, splits her time between Great Falls and Big Timber, the gateway to Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in southern Montana. She rents an Airbnb or stays with friends when she comes to town for work.

Great Falls is where she’s built and maintained business relationships over the years. She makes the commute about two to three weeks a month, spending Monday through Thursday in town and returning home for the weekends. Over the last couple years, historically low mortgage interest rates and the pandemic have prompted many people to seek wide-open spaces, resulting in a busy real estate market for Cowell.

She describes her work-life situation as the best of both worlds. She has business ties in Great Falls and small-town living at its finest in Big Timber, complete with the picturesque Crazy Mountains as the backdrop.

When she comes to Great Falls, she appreciates the local restaurants. She usually makes a stop at Electric City Coffee for the strawberries and cream waffles that come studded with sugar pearls, a treat her kids always request, too, when they come to town with her.

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