Roughing it in style at The Resort at Paws Up

By Matt Trainor

Our teeth chattered as we pulled up to a sandy bank on the Blackfoot River to disembark after a three-hour run down some mild rapids. It was, after all, no more than 40 degrees and overcast, but we quickly stripped off our wetsuits, hopped into warm fleeces, and ran to a roaring fire, a cooler of beer and wine (no ice needed), and a gourmet spread of cheeses and fruits. Now, this, I thought, is “roughing it.” I was at the Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana: a place that was made and revels in the spirit of Lewis and Clark, but also ensures you needn’t live like they did. It’s a place where you can experience the natural wonder of Montana, steep yourself in its history, get out into nature, and know that when you get back you’ll be pampered to the extreme. It didn’t even feel indulgent to do so after a day like the one I just had; it was deserved. And, as my teeth stopped chattering and the wine warmed up my toes, I took a look around and realized how truly unique this place is.

The resort is situated amidst wild Montana terrain; a cozy interior perfect for chilly nights; view of the boundless acres of beautiful land; outdoor dining on a cabin deck.

The taxidermy at baggage claim should have tipped me off when I arrived in Missoula the day before. The fact that it wasn’t some vaguely ironic stuffed deer head on the restaurant wall should have told me something. This was a full woodland diorama, with a mountain lion stalking a buck over by the carousel and a black bear skulking menacingly over by the exit sign. Montana is a place where the pioneer spirit still burns bright. A place where Manifest Destiny was once an actual, executive order more than simply an attitude. Where hunting and fishing and rugged individualism are a part of daily life. But it’s also a place that recognizes what it has, celebrates it, and rolls out a lush and inviting welcome mat to anyone who comes to experience it.

And so it was that a driver from Paws Up picked me up and drove through the cold, rainy weather and delivered me to the resort, just 40 minutes from the airport. “We go through all four seasons in an afternoon here,” my driver told the group as we pulled in. “It was 80 degrees all week last week.” (Quick note: Packing for a trip out here requires layers—lots and lots of layers.) Besides the dramatic weather, the key takeaway from our drive was the relatively unspoiled beauty of Montana’s landscape. It’s the type of rough-hewn, wild country that can usually only be experienced in our largest of national parks, but out here it’s just, well, the backyard. There are pine groves; stunningly large, open plains; wide, rocky rivers; and sheer cliffs. This is the type of country that had Lewis and Clark writing effusive letters back to President Thomas Jefferson in Washington (I resorted to e-mail, but it was still pretty effusive).

Montana Magic
Activities include horseback riding, fly-fishing, and hot air ballooning in Montana’s majestic Blackfoot Valley.

There are horses in paddocks for riding, ATVs for revving, and rafts for rowing, among countless other activities for the modern adventurer.

Consisting of more than 37,000 acres, the beautiful grounds of Paws Up certainly possess every amenity a five-star resort could hold, but it’s the exploration of that acreage that visitors really delight in. There are horses in paddocks for riding, ATVs for revving, and rafts for rowing, among countless other activities for the modern adventurer. Guests can even “camp” in a canvas tent down by the Blackfoot River (room service still on call). This is what Paws Up calls “glamping®” or “glam camping.” And it is, too. Just picture yourself wrapped in Beacon print blankets by a fireplace, waiting for a chef to come down and prepare an en-suite meal, and you’ll get the idea. For those who prefer a bit more modernity, however, you can book yourself and the whole family into one of the perfectly appointed luxury homes spaced throughout the grounds (Low-speed hybrid Kias are assigned to some of the houses to get you from your home or “glampground” to the dining rooms and activity centers).

Regardless of which lodgings and activities you choose, the unabashedly cheerful staff will help customize your ideal exploration experience. The only difficulty is with the sheer grandeur of the whole place; it’s impossible to do everything in one trip. Maybe that’s why Lewis and Clark chose this corner of the world as part of their journey West and their return trip East—they couldn’t get enough of it. Or maybe it was just the quickest route—I can’t be sure. But I do know that if they had had a place as perfect as the Resort at Paws Up to visit, they might never have made it back at all.

Happy National S’mores Day!

On behalf of everyone here at Paws Up, we’d like to wish you a very happy National S’mores Day.  Here’s our special take on this delicious outdoor treat: the S’mores Doughnut.

I’m Not a Camper, but I am a Glamper

JustLuxe | Affluent Lifestyle Guide

Katherine Bond

I don’t like to camp, but I love to glamp. That is, I don’t want to sleep in a soggy sleeping bag or spend 3 hours propping up a dingy tent while doused in bug spray. But put me in a King size bed called the “Last Best Bed,” pre-heat my tent’s bathrooms’ tile floors, and throw in a camp butler and then yes, I am a glamper or “Glamorous” camper. “Glamping®” allegedly originated in the 1900s as well-heeled Brits desired to see the savannahs of Africa without missing afternoon tea and hot British cuisine, cooked nightly but a private chef. Nowadays, glamping has swept the luxury travel market most aggressively in the last five years, offering discerning luxury travelers a way to connect with nature without forgoing plush amenities, such as five course meals and copper hot tubs.

My most recent glamping experience was at The Resort at Paws Up, one of Montana’s very best luxury ranches, self-dubbed “the Last Best Place.” It is. I covered the property last year, from the view of a cabin guest. Leaving the property for the first time last summer, I felt like that kid at summer camp in a fit of tears on the last day of camp. There I was, being dragged away, frantically waving, “I’ll be back! I’ll be back!” Paws Up has that effect on its adult guests. This second visit was my first time at a “Paws Up” camp, and I was certainly sad to depart. Here are a few reasons why:

The Tent: Paws Up offers four campgrounds, each distinctly snuggled into nooks within the 37,000 acres of Paws Up forest. Our camp, Creekside Camp, lines the idyllic Elk Creek, heard faintly from the deck of our 830 square foot tent. A Paws Up “tent” is hardly a few flaps of canvas. Each tent is the mansion Mother Nature would stay in, complete with hardwood and carpeted floors, a stunning heated tile bathroom with Kolher fixtures, seating areas of plush leather chairs, and rustic décor. If it weren’t for the chirps of birds or rustles of pines, I would have never guessed I was “outside.” That’s the best part, too. One night, a thunder and lightening shower rumbled around our tent, filling the cool mountain air with the light hiss of rain while I read a good book under the ultra cozy pile of my pine King-size bed.

The Cuisine: One of my favorite aspects of our camp was the welcoming dining pavilion, a half-outdoor, half-indoor plaza for daily meals. A roaring fire usually welcomed us in the morning, flanked by a wall of stonework and imbedded standard refrigerator, always stocked with refreshments. Leather couches, a bar area, and sturdy coffee table made this a great gathering area. This, in turn, led to the dining tables and an outdoor fire pit rimmed with timber seating. Our on-site chef, a sweet Montanan, could whip up anything in his full-size kitchen. My favorite dishes were the grilled elk loin salad with local mushrooms, thepan roasted quail legs with black truffle sauce, and the country buttermilk panna cotta. It dawned on me that I don’t eat this well even at “indoor” resorts, let alone ones next to a sleepy creek and a carpet of pinecones.

The Fun: A friend of mine asked me, once I returned, “So what do you do all day in the forest?” Ah, this friend is not a glamper, nor a guest of Paws Up. The resort has a list of rustic activities so exhaustive that guests sometimes stay over a week just to cover a significant chunk. Yoga classes, horseshoes, croquet, disc golf, gym access, and pony rides are a few of the included activities with any stay. I particularly like the “geocaching” adventure, a little nature scavenger hunt rewarded with resort goodies for successful uncoverings. For those desiring a body bounce, the new “Bone Rattler Raceway” is now open. Learn the off-road skills needed to sail, swerve, and crush along a challenging off-roading course, while in the resort’s custom built Jeep.  Personally, I’ll be back for the Spa Town’s new services, including a huckleberry body scrub and barbed wire body wrap. Also new for next year:  Blackfoot Camp, which Paws Up claims will be its largest and most luxurious campsite yet. I suppose the sweet owners of Paws Up, a nice husband and wife in love with Montana, just like the fun of making the Last Best Place even better every passing year.

Yarn Tagging!

Suzanne Tidwell has been making her way around the Resort “tagging” certain areas with her beautiful work. Check out some of her creations.

Yarn Antics and Bombing

The lovely Suzanne Tidwell is at Paws Up this week performing her unique and incredibly fun art of yarn bombing.  Here are a few photos of her “installations” outside of the Cook Shack and inside Paws Up General Store.