The Resort at Paws Up
What We Love
- The kid-centric Adventure Club program, where young ones can learn to kayak, shoot bows and arrows, and mine for sapphires
- Complimentary use of an electric car to navigate your way around the sprawling property when you book one of the resort’s Wilderness Estates
- Most of the resort’s 28 luxury homes feature natural stone-and-timber fireplaces
- Easy access to Lewis & Clark’s famous Lookout Rock
What To Know
- Dogs are allowed in specified homes, though there is a nightly pet fee.
- Round-trip airport shuttle service to and from Missoula International Airport is included in the resort’s luxury home rates.
- For the best weather, go between late May and September.
Rolling pastures, wandering elks, the majestic Blackfoot River—welcome to Lewis & Clark territory, the setting for what might just be America’s swankiest dude ranch. Here, tents come equipped with camping butlers and 300-count linens, while lodges have flat-screen LCDs, wine coolers, and six-person hot tubs. For a taste of the great outdoors, choose from a range of hosted activities like rappelling, quad biking, white-water rafting, or horseback riding through idyllic meadows studded with daisies. When your energy is spent, head to spa camp, a pine-scented cluster of relaxation tents, and indulge in an hour-long Après Adventure massage before ending your evening with a riverside barbecue, s’mores, and a ghost story or two as you marvel at the stars above Big Sky Country.
Whether you’re staying in one of the resort’s 28 vacation homes (1 to 3-bedroom lodges) or 30 luxury tents, you won’t exactly be camping out. The former category consists of five lodging options — the newest, the Wilderness Estates, are ideal for larger families with their three large suites and a second-floor loft. Cliffside Camp, which overlooks the confluence of Blackfoot River and Elk Creek, is home to a pair of “honeymoon tents” that feature eye-popping copper bathtubs.
Seasonal and local ingredients—freshly picked huckleberries, Rocky Mountain trout, foraged mushrooms—are often featured on the menu at Trough, which is open for breakfast and lunch. Come evening, the ranch’s fine-dining option, Pomp, dishes up eclectic American plates with a distinctly Western flair.
Up until 2004, Paws Up was the site of a working ranch that sold Black Angus cattle and stud horses. The resort is located in the northeastern Montana town of Greenough, wedged in the center of the verdant Blackfoot Valley, just a 45-minute ride from Missoula International Airport.
How to Get There
My family of five (2 adults and 3 children--ages 13, 11, and 9) stayed here for a week last week and, overall, really enjoyed ourselves. We did, however, have very high expectations based on the prices and there was definitely some room for improvement.
First, what we liked: We stayed in one of the tent camps--Moonlight--which we chose mainly because it was one of the "lower" cost options. I was sort of underwhelmed by the camp at first, but it really grew on me and by the end of our trip, it was probably my favorite thing about our camp experience. Our tent was rustic, but had luxe amenities like heated floors in bathroom, heated blankets on the beds (one morning it was 34 degrees when we woke up, so we needed it!). We had breakfast made to order at our camp every morning and dinner there most nights and we really enjoyed the food and the vibe--we could have cocktails and then dinner and the kids had room to roam and play in the surrounding areas. On cold mornings and nights, the fireplace was roaring and toasty. I would absolutely recommend Moonlight. We had a series of camp butlers who helped us out tremendously. We were traveling with some friends, a family of four with children a bit younger than ours, and we had dinner one night at their camp, Cliffside, and although the views were pretty, I didn't find it to be particularly kid-friendly.
Our vacation fell over the Fourth of July and the celebration was first-rate--lots of fun activities, like tomahawk throwing, shooting, archery, carnival games, a mechanical bull, a watermelon eating contest for kids, and a pie-eating contest for adults (gross, but amusing); very good food stations (a raw bar; carnitas; ribs; lots of desserts); a fanastic band; first-rate fireworks.
The scenery of Montana was gorgeous. The activities were varied, with some being just mediocre, and others being lots of fun. We enjoyed ATVing, Seeley Lake, fly fishing, rafting, and horseback riding the most.
The concierge app was helpful and I thought the spa, set up in a series of tents outside, was really great, although they do not have an esthetician on staff, so could not actually offer facials.
Secondly, some things that were disappointing to us:
I contacted the resort concierge about a month before our trip and although everything worked out in the end and I was able to schedule everything I was hoping to, the initial concierge I made contact with was not particularly responsive and took a really long time to get back to me, which was frustrating and not the level of service I had been expecting at these prices.
The staff, by and large, were young and engaging, although sometimes I felt like there needed to be more manager oversight and checking in. I felt a bit like we were at a high-end summer camp being run by 18-year-olds.
The activities, as I mentioned, were varied. On the first day, we took a guided hike at @ $70-$80/pp, with another family and two guides. I love hiking and walking tours and although our guides were nice, the hike itself was nothing particularly special and was one that we could have easily done on our own for free and the guides added very little commentary or narration.
On the second morning, we did the Garnet Ghost Town Tour, which for our family of five, came to something like $325. Basically, it was just transportation (@ 30 minutes away) to and from the ghost town (which is not how it was billed)--our "guide" drove us, got out of the van with us, and offered no tour or insight or anything. Fortunately, I was able to track down a volunteer onsite who was very knowledgable about the ghost town and told us a lot about it, but that had nothing to do with Paws Up. I did call Paws Up after this tour to tell them about our experience and to their credit, they took it off our bill without us asking.
All of the activities were very, very expensive--some seemed worth it, but others not at all.
Most of our lunches were at The Trough and I found the food there to be mediocre and not as good as at the camps.
As other reviewers have mentioned, I found the tipping policy unclear and confusing. I feel like if a place is all-inclusive and as expensive as Paws Up, tipping should be included. I did hear that they pay their employees fairly well and that tips are not expected, but that tipping is appreciated and that left me confused and wondering if I should be tipping everyone and carrying money around with me at all times. To add to the confusion, often we had different camp butlers in the mornings and the evenings and on different days.
If I was doing this trip again, I probably would spend half my time at Paws Up and the other half maybe at Glacier or another part of Montana. I might also rent a car and arrange some of the activities on my own.
One final note--this would certainly not be the reason I would go to Montana or Paws Up, but a pool for the whole resort would be nice.
We learned about the Resort at Paws Up from some friends and had to check it out! We expected an ultra luxury glamping resort, which this definitely was. But what we experienced exceeded our expectations beyond comprehension! To call this resort authentic is an understatement.... from truly genuine service the moment we were picked up at the airport, to the amazing cattle drive, fly fishing, and skeet shooting, and the restaurant servers not only remembering us by name, but also remembering our activities and asking us about them after. The guides were true experts in their area and made us feel so warm and welcome. Matt in fishing, Phoebe with the cattle drive, and Kate at skeet shooting are all class acts. Dining was exceptional, the special events (Montana Long Table in the stable!) were over the top... we cannot say enough, except that I wish we had stayed at least a week instead of 3 days! Next time this will be our annual family vacation with the kids, and we cannot wait!
While this resort may not be for everyone, if you love life, food and the outdoors it is for sure for you. The food was incredible, the staff very nice, and the activities fun. The resort isn’t cheap but if you come to have fun, you will leave with memories to last a lifetime! The homes are well appointed and very nice but we stayed in the glamming too, and the butler and chef experience was very unique and they were great with my family!
We came with high expectations and overall it was a great trip... but we were just a bit underwhelmed with our dining experiences. There just didn't seem to be anyone in charge at the restaurant in the PM and we were extremely disappointed in our service there on two occasions. One evening we waited for about 15 minutes before my husband had to find someone to ask them to wait on us! We thought it was just due to staffing or a busy night.... but the next night we had the same thing happen to us, plus we had to send our burgers back because they were next to raw. It was just unbelievable. The bartender seemed to be completely overwhelmed and kept telling us how busy she was, yet there were only about 5-10 people in the bar area at the time. Finally, another bartender approached our table and when I expressed our disappointment, she made sure to do everything she could to make things better and sent us some complimentary drinks. It sincerely seems like Paws Up is missing a maitre d or manager to keep things running smoothly in the evening.
On another note, the activities were fantastic and each and every guide was competent, smart, knowledgable and fun to be around. Our kids (13 and 11) had a fantastic time and we made a lot of great memories as a family. Just wished the dining piece hadn't been such a disappointment.
We came to Paws Up with our 12 and 14 year old children. We stayed 4 days in North Bank Camp and 2 days in a Timber Home overlooking the horses after they are turned out to pasture at night. The North Bank Camp was a huge highlight! I have to give a big shout out to Crystal, Tristan and August who were our Butlers from late afternoon through the evening throughout our whole stay. Not only did they do an amazing job but they are clearly first class people! In addition, I felt the meals at North Bank Camp were better than eating at the other restaurants even though there was less choices; the food was fantastic.
One more big shout out-to Jackie, who is the Head of the Horseback riding program. She did a fantastic job with our whole family through a couple trail rides, cattle drive, and a lesson for our 2 children. You have fantastic horses with fantastic Wranglers!
2 more shout out's to Ryan who was our guide on the Blackfoot River ride-we had a great time. Last to the Chef's from the Montana Long Table dinner; Josh, chef from Chicago for Honey Fried Chicken and Mike, chef from Chicago who made the Biscuits-both may have been the best I have ever had-and great guys to boot!
I only have 2 criticisms: first is more minor-transportation when you don't have a vehicle(if you're staying in the Tents you don't) has to improve as waiting times can be a little long.
Second, and important: either tipping has to be included or there should be guidelines. I was so confused as to how, who and what to tip that it was a little upsetting.
We thought the must do activities were horseback riding, ATV's, Clay Pigeon Shooting, Blackfoot River Trip.
Last of all, to Louis, the best, most loving, but demanding SHEEP I've ever met. I don't have a farm, but if you're ever going to move him to anywhere but a safe place, let me know and we'll make sure he has a happy home!