The Resort at Paws Up
“This upscale dude ranch with great views of the surrounding Bob Marshall Wilderness & Mission Mountain Range is the most unique experience my family & I have had in the US. We'd stayed in 'luxury tents' in Africa & recently in India but most likely this type of experience is unique to Paws Up here in our own country. With kids ranging in ages from 11 to 17 (and four of them!) it is not easy to find places to visit where all of us have a great time and can go off in pairs here or there for certain activities.
Year-round there is so much to do: horseback riding, hiking, snowmobiling, dog sledding... and there are all kinds of planned events for children to mingle and play with other kids throughout your stay. One day I took our teenagers whitewater rafting with another family while my wife enjoyed a day at the Spa Town – meanwhile our 11 year old twins joined the "Kids Corps of Discovery" day camp and explored a Ghost Town. Some of the late afternoons we'd all gather by a fire with a nice snack to play a board game or read; a great way for us all to recoup from the day's activities.
I'd say the reason I know we'll return and so highly recommend it to other families is as simple as family bonding. Outside of our annual ski trip to Whistler, we are all so busy and pulled in different directions - being at Paws Up together, figuring out the daily fun and coming together at meals is what the word 'rich' is to me and my wife. Thank you Suzanne for having told us about Paws Up a couple years ago! We'd not have known of it otherwise and now can share our great review with your readers. (By the way, flying into Missoula airport (about 35 miles away from the resort) is the way to get here - and no need to rent a car.)”
- Trusted Friend: Stephen Colder, Greenwich, CT
(Date experienced: September 2012)
A total break from city grind with your kids. The resort is on a 37,000 acre working cattle ranch in central western Montana with 10 miles of the Blackfoot River (made famous by the film “A River Runs Through It”) flowing through the property. Nature and wildlife abound here, as well as an authentic Western experience.
Great for families, or multi-generational occasions, as well as a romantic few days with your wife – I can even see having a small company retreat here. Best for kids 8 and up, although there are plenty of activities for children under 8 as well.
Fireside s'mores after dinner under the big sky completely lit up with stars followed by long, deep sleeps every night (except the very first night) of 8+ hours. It doesn't get much better than that!
Best time to go
Activities are plentiful in any season, but many fun events are scheduled in summer and early fall. Christmas is also a special time at the ranch – filled with sleigh rides and Santa and other fun holiday activities. “Glamping” (glam camping) must be enjoyed when it is warm enough so do keep that in mind.
This is not a large ‘resort’ in terms of rooms. You have the choice of luxury homes or estates – the largest of which has four bedrooms. In the summer months there are luxury tents as well that I highly recommend. *Luxury tent camps can be reserved for larger parties – reunions, weddings, corporate retreats, etc.
There are a total of 28 luxury homes – 9 two-bedroom homes, 13 three-bedroom homes, 2 four-bedroom homes, and 4 one-bedroom homes. Each home is completely private – and each home has either a four-person golf cart or five person car to take guests around the property. In addition to the luxury homes, there are 5 luxury camps, each has 6 safari-style luxury tents with en suite bathrooms (4 two-bedroom tents and 2 one-bedroom tents per camp). Every tent camp has its own particular vibe and is in its own unique place on the ranch. You’ll want to choose a different ‘home’ for your next stay to mix it up!
Service & vibe
I’d say the friendly, knowledgeable staff makes every guest feel like family, while providing quality service and care. The vibe is luxury meets down-home country - the relaxed atmosphere and capable ‘yes’ attitude certainly provides a feeling of comfort and familiarity. This was a welcome change for me from so many of the business hotels I typically stay.
With a Montana born and bred executive chef, the food centers around local Montana meat and farms, artisanal breads, and breakfast favorites like huckleberry pancakes. Good, yummy, American fare – what you feel like in such a place. Don’t let names like Pomp, Trough, and Tank fool you – the food varies from “refined rustic ranch” to casual Western flair. And of course, you cannot visit a working cattle ranch and not experience the chuck wagon. Local produce, meats, and markets are an integral part of all of the food at Paws Up.
Price per night
Nightly rates are based on two adults and include 3 meals/day, as well as transportation to and from Missoula International Airport, on-property transportation, and a menu of activities. Spa services and guided activities are an extra charge, but part of the experience. Rates range from $885 - $2995 per night, depending on the home or camp and the season.
To Do & See
We were never bored for a moment, but I personally enjoyed just the peace of it all. With 37,000 acres of mostly untouched land, there are plenty of opportunities to see animals such as elk, and of course, cattle. With ten miles of the Blackfoot River running through the property and right past some of the camps, stunning views abound in every direction!
Sport & Activity
One could start one’s day working out in the Fitness Tent (seasonal), or with a Yoga or Yogalates class. From there, depending on the season, there are almost too many activities to list. From horseback riding to skiing to fishing to dogsledding, you can spend your entire vacation outside and never do the same activity twice. (See the website for full descriptions). With friendly, capable staff, beginners and pros alike can try their hand at snowshoeing, skeet shooting, riding snowmobiles or ATV’s, archery, hot air ballooning, and everything in between. Choose a guided tour or go off on your own.
Spa & Grooming
Head on over to Spa Town – an assortment of tents connected by a wooden boardwalk, set amongst the trees by a brook. There you can get anything from a river rock hot stone massage to a shaman treatment to a huckleberry body scrub.
Fly into Missoula International Airport (connects from many major airports including Chicago & Atlanta) and get picked up by a Paws Up driver, price included in your stay – the ride is a mere 30 minutes to the ranch. Website has flights listed from many major cities, along with fares.