The Resort at Paws Up has been on my wish list for as long as I’ve known of its existence, and I finally visited recently. Forever to be known as the most fun business trip I’ve ever had, I “scouted” the ranch by doing anything and everything they had on offer—ATVs, rifle range, horseback riding, you name it. Three days was barely enough time to scratch the surface, but now I understand why we’ve had so many happy clients there. The ranch is camp for kids and adults equally, a place where you’ll forget about wifi and Netflix binges because there’s nothing as appealing as being outdoors in the vast Montana landscape. Start your day early, end it passing out on the custom beds (so good that I asked how I could buy one), eat well, breathe fresh air and have a freaking ball in between. I’ve checked this off my bucket list but now it’s top of my “must return” list. Here’s what to know for your trip. - Henley
The Resort at Paws Up sits in the heart of Montana’s Blackfoot Valley, a thirty-minute drive from the Missoula airport, and covers 37,000 acres of field and foothills, including ten miles of the Blackfoot River (moms, you may remember this as the fishing spot for Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It).
Accommodations range from luxury camping tents (Paws Up invented the term glamping) to private homes. The smallest of the homes are the two-bedroom Meadow Homes, but if you want more space and privacy (plus a newer renovation), go for a Big Timber or Wilderness Estate home. Tip: divide your stay between a tent and home to get both experiences.
Prices include your accommodations and all food and drink—yes, the booze, too, unless you’re going for something special, but the house wine and local brews are great. Activities will cost extra, and some can add up quickly, so be sure to book a package that includes a few excursions. Passported clients receive an additional $300 credit.
Paws Up has all the authenticity of a work ranch—it actually IS one, raising cattle as well as bison and beefalo—but it is blessedly free of pretension. Want to drive a go-kart? They have a track. Plus a petting zoo for the kids, a ropes course and an attitude that lets guests play cowboy at their own pace.
Families love the space of a home, but no one really wants to cook and clean on vacation. Paws Up offers the best of both worlds, with the convenience of a house but all the services of a hotel, so even if you feel like eating in your cabin one night, a chef can deliver pre-marinated meat for you to barbeque, or he’ll do it for you as well.
The ranch has year-round appeal, and prices are significantly lower off-season, so if you’re dying to do a dude ranch but can’t stomach the summer rates, plan a visit over a winter holiday. Cold weather activities include dogsledding, snowmobiling, ice skating and there’s even a huge indoor arena for horseback riding lessons. Oh yeah, and our favorite sport, cozying up in front of a fireplace with a warm mug of cocoa.
Oh yeah, and although Paws Up is an obvious choice for families, don't rule it out for a no-kids trip either. We're tempted to put together a group of cool moms for the spring Cowgirl Roundup, and the weekend I attended, the Montana Master Chefs weekend, would be a blast for a group of friends who love to eat and are looking for a fun weekend getaway.