The Resort at Paws Up
This luxury Montana resort allows guests to camp like kings
How big is 37,000 acres? Bigger than the countries of Monaco, Tokelau and San Marino—or the kingdoms of Wallis and Futana. The sprawling swath of Montana ranch land that the Resort at Paws Up inhabits is so large that in places you can travel miles without so much as a sign of civilization. Yet the guest experience within this rugged real-West setting remains eminently civilized.
Named after a dog’s jovial “paws up” greeting, the Resort at Paws Up opened in 2005. “Resort” is the key word, according to Larry Lipson, who owns the property with his dad Dave and stepmother Nadine. “We aren’t a ranch, we are a luxury resort located on a 37,000-acre working cattle and buffalo ranch.”
Surrounded by state and federal land, this 60-square-mile outpost of luxury is easily accessed by a 35-minute ride from Missoula International Airport. Upon reaching the ranch boundaries, guests settle into their luxurious accommodations including 28 private vacation homes with porches, decks, hot tubs, Wi-Fi and flat-screen televisions. Thirty tented accommodations—think the 1985 film Out of Africa—allow guests to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the wilderness, but with the comforts of home (heated floors, luxurious bedding and en suite bathrooms) nearby. A camp chef and camping butler are on hand to whip up s’mores, light fires and arrange fly-fishing lessons at a moment’s notice.
For guests who prefer a hands-on experience, there’s the new Paws Up app, acting as a modern-day magic wand that connects to the resort concierge directly from your smartphone. In the summer months, the concierge receives up to 700 requests per day—at a resort that sleeps a maximum of 250 people—for transportation, activities like cattle drives and fly-fishing lessons, spa treatments, horseback riding at the Saddle Club (the largest privately owned equestrian center in the state) and dinner reservations at the resort’s two restaurants and nightly chuck wagon.
“Since the resort opened 11 years ago, we’ve seen our guests’ interest grow in experiential travel,” Lipson says. The resort offers plenty of experiential opportunities with 120 miles of trails in the nearby Bob Marshall Wilderness with designated trails for hiking, mountain biking, horses and ATVs. Ten miles of the Blackfoot River run through the wilderness (the same land in the book A River Runs Through It), offering superb fishing.
Lipson says another trend that has grown is culinary travel. To cater to those guests, Paws Up hosts several events each fall including Montana Master Chefs (Sept. 29–Oct. 2), when James Beard Award winners and finalists prepare some of their favorite dishes; and Upper Crust (Oct. 7-10), a “sophisticated pizza, pie and cookie camp,” Lipson explains. “Culinary events have become so popular that many of our guests plan their trips around them.”
Whether it’s a guest who wants to curl up on the porch with a novel or someone set on fishing in a Blue Ribbon trout stream, the Resort at Paws Up is sure to provide an experience to suit even the most discerning traveler.
THE LAY OF THE LAND
Navigating the myriad amenities offered at the Resort at Paws Up:
Lodging: The resort offers 28 vacation homes and 30 tents located in five different camps.Six of the 28 homes include a private tent outside that combines luxury camping with a private home experience. Tents are available late May through October.
Service: One butler is dedicated to each luxury camp to assist with guests’ requests including arranging transportation, building campfires and cooking s’mores. In addition, guests can connect with the resort concierge using the Paws Up app.
Play: Cattle drives, fly-fishing lessons, hikes and horseback riding are some of the activities awaiting guests. Children will find their own special age-appropriate fun at the Kids Corps of Discovery that offers everything from pizza making to kayaking.
IF YOU GO:
The Resort at Paws Up
Nightly rates include three meals per day per person, round-trip transportation from Missoula International Airport, complimentary on-property use of a compact car for each cabin and on-demand transportation services for luxury camping guests, high-speed Wi-Fi, and a menu of recreational activities. Guided excursions and spa services are available at a la carte rates. Early fall (Aug. 25-Oct.31) private home nightly rates start at $1,445; one-bedroom tented camps in early fall (Aug. 28-Sept. 30) start at $1,295.