The Ranchlands area lay along the foothills of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. It is generally sparsely populated and rural in nature. The vast majority of land is Provincial Crown land, with a substantial portion of that Crown land contained within Rocky Mountains Forest Reserves.
A significant part of the area is identified as Provincial Wilderness Area or Wildland Park. The Ranchlands area also contains a large portion of the Stoney Indian Reserve. Although largely surrounded by the Municipal District of Bighorn, the Reserve is under the authority of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation and the Federal government. Summer Villages of Ghost Lake and Waiparous are each separate small urban municipalities, also within the MD.
The Ranchlands area consists principally of heavily forested terrain, and some is open grassland. Forestry, oil and gas development and the associated processing facilities, as well as agriculture, (primarily ranching), are the dominant industries. There are also a number of recreation and tourism developments in the Ranchlands area, ranging from small backcountry camps and retreats to larger guest ranches, camps and training facilities.
Various cultural resources and significant recreational opportunities attract a considerable number of visitors to the Ranchlands area. These recreational activities include fishing, hunting, hiking, off-highway vehicle use, climbing and water sports.
Development within the Ranchlands area is generally dispersed, with nodal communities situated along the road network. The Jamieson Road area, located to the south of the Ghost River, contains a slightly higher residential density on small holdings parcels than the remainder of the Ranchlands area. The hamlet of Benchlands and the Ghost River Country Residential Subdivision are the Municipal District's only nodes of higher residential density in the Ranchlands area.