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
If you love the outdoors, friendly employees, the Montana vibe and being spoiled, then Paws Up is for you. So much to do on this vast resort-- the ATV tour was beautiful, the spa treatment one of my best ever! Great hiking, fishing, horseback riding and kids club. There is something for everyone. Most of all, the Paws Up people are among the kindest hospitality employees I've met.
Paws Up aspires to be a five star resort. It certainly charges like one - we spent $16k for three nights for six people, including activities. The land around it and the variety of activities are truly impressive, almost breathtaking. But overall very uneven and falls far short of the quality of experience typical at that price point.
The food at Trough, the casual restaurant, was pretty bad, particularly the buffet items. The restaurant was chronically understaffed and people felt undertrained. Service was incredibly slow. Whole thing felt like being on a low end cruise ship.
The service at Pomp, the fancy restaurant, was excellent. Waiters were as friendly and efficient as they could be. But the food seemed stuck in the 1980s. A lot of fried food, heavy sauces and soups, and misuse of good ingredients. We expected more sophisticated, lighter options. The executive chef seemed MIA.
Our Wilderness Estate was worn and somewhat dirty. Clearly the housekeeping and maintenance are lagging. Drawers were beaten up, old rugs, overlaundered sheets, etc. No one vacuumed the dirty rugs when we arrived until we demanded it on day 3 of our stay. Housekeeping didn’t show up one day until 6:30pm after multiple phone calls. At these prices, Paws Up needs to invest more in keeping things in great shape and much better staff training.
We had a lot of difficulties getting our initial concierge to plan everything with very slow response. A different concierge cleared things up and was much better.
The activities are priced too high for what they deliver. Some like our fly fishing guide and our shooting instructor were exceptional. Others like our horse riding guide was rude to our kids and didn’t even bother to bring water for a two hour ride. Same happened with our hike. Need better training and more consistency when charging $200-300 per person per activity, which feels extortionate. The variety of activities are excellent and it is the best reason to come, if you are ok paying up.
Paws Up has the potential to create an amazing resort. But currently it is inconsistent and doesn’t deliver what it promises. Hope the ownership renews its commitment to be a top destination. It could be really great.
Spent 5 days, 4 nights at Paw’s Up recently and it met my very high expectations. (High because of the very high price-tag...). The trip was a family vacation — two adults and two kids, ages 12 and 15. Weather was perfect for us — one day of cool rain, three days of warm sun, one day of snow and cold.
Accommodations: We stayed in a 3 bedroom Wilderness Estate and it was truly first-rate. Very well appointed, stocked well with wood/kindling for our morning and evening fireplace time. Nice outdoor space, jacuzzi was great, etc. Bathrooms had heated floors and lots of space. In short, perfect for family or for couples traveling together. The estates are pretty spread out, but the one we had was still within a reasonable walk to the main resort buildings.
Activities: We did the following: 22 rifles, sporting clays, horseback trail ride, ATVs, aerial ropes course, rappelling, archery. All were super fun and lead by really talented and good-natured young people. Highlights were: (1) the Sporting Clays — guide was excellent at instructing us (especially the kids), taking it slow at first but then ratcheting up the level of difficulty. We spent about an hour at the stands and then another hour on the course. (2) Rappelling — my son and I did this and it was incredibly scary and thus, when completed, very rewarding. Neither of us had ever rappelled before, and this is quite a place to do it for the first time. I have a minor fear for heights that seems to have gotten worse with age, and I admit that I tried to back-out of the experience a few times...but I am glad I didn’t. VERY thrilling....and if you go down multiple times (as we did), you will learn to hate the trail back to the top. Other activities were great as well. My only criticism would be to create a more varied experience at the 22 rifle activity. It definitely got pretty boring — I would suggest adding different targets, moving targets, different sitting, standing, positions. That said, it was a good warm-up for my kids before doing shotguns a few days later. Finally, on activities: yes, they are expensive and, yes, it can start to annoy you to pay for them since you are already paying a high nightly rate that is “all-inclusive.” It is key that you don’t think about money and how much things cost while on a Paws Up vacation.
Food: Food was very good, and at times, excellent. It was a little awkward to figure out which menus we could order off where/when, but overall the food experience was solid. Daily variation of the “Buffet” at breakfast and lunch, with menu options as well. Same thing at dinner, with a tasting menu + bar menu option. Included wine was good, and bottled wine selection was very strong.
Overall ambiance/experience: Since we were coming during the lull between summer and winter, it felt like we had the place to ourselves. We often ate alone or with one or two other patrons; activities were almost always only our family. As a result, we probably have a skewed view of the place, but our skewed version supports the statement that the service is excellent and personalized, the place feels very private and exclusive, and there is never any sort of wait for anything. The property is beautiful and expansive and if you love the outdoors, there is always something to do and plenty to explore. I would say it is perfect for families and groups, and for couples assuming that they are not looking for an adults-only experience (though I saw that Paws Up is building out a portion of the resort for just that adults-only experience...)
Negatives: Just nit-picking here... (1) Tipping. Sigh. I so appreciate the fact that it is a “Gratuity-free resort” but, at least right now, this is not working at 100%. Some of the guides were excellent and I wanted to tip them, but at first I didn’t because I thought I wasn’t supposed to (and also because, in theory, that is baked into the very high price for the resort and the activities). But, then one day I did have cash on me and I tipped someone and they took the tip easily and thanked me. At that point I realized that I probably should have been tipping the guides all along — despite the “no tipping” policy — at least for exceptional service. Should I also have tipped the bartender (who was awesome, by the way)? I have no idea. So, in my opinion, here is what is needed — make the no-tipping policy very explicit and non-negotiable in the welcome materials...like it’s own one-pager explicit. And, tell people that basic tipping is included in the fees, but that if they want to give additional gratuity for above/beyond service, they can do so with one lump amount (with ability to shout-out individuals) at the end of their stay. And, train the guides, etc. to say that to people who try to tip — “I can’t accept this, but you can do an additional gratuity when you check out and ‘shout me out’ when you do so. (2) I have no #2...everything else was great!
Overall, an awesome family trip that was super expensive and super worth it.