Sponsored by The Resort at Paws Up
When I stayed at The Resort at Paws Up outside Missoula, Montana, the ranch provided everything I had hoped—37,000 acres crossed by trails to be explored on foot, horseback, and mountain bike; delicious meals of grilled steaks; and warm days and that famous big sky filled with stars each evening. There were, however, other aspects of The Resort at Paws Up that I had not expected. If you think you know what a ranch vacation in Montana consists of, read on and see how it might offer more than you would have ever guessed.
If you assume that sleeping in a tent means roughing it, The Resort at Paws Up’s camps will dispel that preconception. Located on the banks of Elk Creek, the Blackfoot River, and other spots through the resort, each camp’s site offers a chance to get up close with nature. The typical camping experience, however, ends here.
Tents come with The Last Best Bed, en suite bathrooms (some with tubs, others with slate showers), and dining pavilions serve gourmet cuisine. S’mores can be roasted and ghost stories told in a unique rugged-meets-luxury setting. If you’re organizing a family reunion or celebrating a milestone with a large group of friends, reserving a luxury camp complete with your own chef and camping butler provides a vacation experience like none other.
At some hotels and resorts, there can be a sad moment of disappointment when you first check out the spa only to discover that it’s deep in the basement, perhaps tucked behind a room of treadmills that they call a gym. The Resort at Paws Up offers an entirely different spa experience at its Spa Town. The line of private white tents, each with their own shower and bathroom, sit at the edge of a meadow. When you lie down for a treatment, you’ll enjoy air scented by real pines and birdsong rather than a New Age soundtrack. The extensive menu has familiar treatments but there are also some “only at Paws Up” choices like the Montana Gold Rush, using Gold Flake Oil, and our favorite for our four-legged friends, the 15-minute pet massage (complimentary with any 60-minute massage).
Many ranches in the West offer kids’ programs, but what sets the Resort at Paws Up apart is the remarkable diversity of activities, all tailored for different ages. From pony rides for Little Discoverers (ages 4 to 5) to paintball wars and an acrobatic school for teens, the Kids Corps of Discovery understands that not all kids are created the same.
Dining, from Simple to Haute
While the chefs at The Resort at Paws Up can (and do) make some mean baked beans and you can count on excellent steaks and authentic cobblers, the menus go far beyond typical Western fare. Pomp, the resort’s fine dining option, serves culinary masterpieces that make the most of local and seasonal ingredients: bison tenderloin served with a Flathead cherry demi glace and chicken accompanied by grilled peaches and crispy leeks.
A highlight of the culinary calendar at Paws Up is the Montana Master Chefs at the end of September (this year it falls from September 24 to 27). The 10th anniversary of the Montana Master Chefs celebrates Chicago, with leading chefs and sommeliers escaping the Windy City for Big Sky Country. It promises to be a satisfying combination of delicious Chicago cuisine and the resort’s unique mountain setting.
Poetry Under the Stars
Few resorts have poets on their staff, but The Resort at Paws Up does. Steve Fraker, the cowboy poet, joins the chuck wagons (along with banjo players), and will sometimes perform at campfires as well. Cowboy poetry is not merely the preservation of a 19th century genre, but a living art. Scholars of literature can explain how these verses reflect the lifestyle and attitudes of the West, with a certain nostalgia for simpler times and descriptions of landscapes of canyons and mountains. Hearing Steve recite his poems in front of a raging campfire under the night sky is an experience, however, that can’t be captured on paper. He manages to opens the eyes and hearts of Paws Up guests to the perspective of the cowboy.