Does The Resort at Paws Up sound familiar? Conceived, owned and operated by the Lipson family, this luxury guest ranch in Montana is a truly extraordinary venue for independent and extended families alike to connect and have fun together.
Paws Up pioneered the brilliant term and product “glamping” — tented camping with glamorous creature comforts — and over the past decade has attracted a huge following of guests who want to experience firsthand what their friends are raving about. Although glamping is the option that has received the most buzz in the press, Paws Up offers much more than just tented camps. Its 37,000 acres of spectacular open space have been transformed into an all-age playground with a vast array of truly memorable activities and services, making this property one of the best for luxury multigenerational travel in North America.
Paws Up has a very different format than most of their guest ranch and dude ranch cousins. Although activities are established and follow a specified format, every guest has an individually customized itinerary; the idea is that guests define the experience they want to have at a resort where practically anything is possible. Although there are group activities, there’s also a plethora of private experiences.
Planning what to do is seamless, as the process starts well before arrival through the skilled concierge team. Once guests are onsite, they use the Paws Up app to view their itinerary and make requests. It’s very cool and creates an outstanding level of service from the far corners of the ranch. No small feat!
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The Resort at Paws Up accommodation options include luxury one- to three-bedroom homes and one- to two-bedroom tents. We had the chance to try a few nights in a luxury home and the tented camp — a pairing I loved and recommend for other families who want to try a bit of everything
We stayed in a Wilderness Estates home. Aptly named, these aren’t just cookie-cutter rental homes, but custom luxury estates with fine rustic-elegant finishes and Western art. The dramatic great rooms each include a wood-burning fireplace, a large dining table and a full kitchen. Multiple master suites mean that families sharing homes don’t have to flip coins for the “bad room” — there are no bad rooms! And kids love the loft spaces with their own TV room and lounge.
These estates have decadent bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs and large showers. A wraparound deck with seating provides all-day relaxation zones, and finally, there’s a hot tub for morning and evening downtime. The homes are true retreats and feel very private, as they are spread throughout Paws Up. In fact, they are so spread out that it’s a few minutes’ drive to key areas at the ranch, so homes come with electric cars.
Paws Up offers five different tented camps; each one is in a unique, spectacular setting and offers a pampered wilderness experience. Two-bedroom tents have a wonderful bathroom with a heated floor, cozy beds, wood furnishings and a heater. Glampers will attest to the fact that this is really nothing like traditional camping, but relish feeling like they are experiencing something unique.
Every camp has an intimate tented dining and lounge area with a private chef cooking up fantastic breakfasts and dinner on the grill. The experience is not unlike a luxury tented camp in Africa. Bikes of all sizes are available for tooling around and every family has a camp butler who can do things for them … like deliver hot coffee in bed in the morning. Heaven!
TIP: The tented camps are in very different settings. Be sure and understand all the available options. They are all wonderful!
The dining at Paws Up is truly exceptional and well beyond standard dude ranch fare. Two restaurants offer indoor and outdoor dining. The Tank & Trough Bar and Grill is a cozy space with elements of glamping, like a canvas top. But the camping element stops there … buffet stations, as well as an a la carte menu for breakfast and lunch, offer a wonderful array of options (too many!). From fresh fruit, a huge variety of salads and egg dishes to grilled meat and fish, everything we ate at Trough tasted fresh and wonderful. The dessert bar is downright dangerous! The fine dining restaurant, Pomp, is a more elegant room with big windows overlooking the deck and ranch. Although the food options here are more sophisticated, the overall atmosphere is still “come as you are,” warm and friendly.
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Our visit coincided with celebrity BBQ chefs who had ongoing cooking demonstrations throughout the weekend. There always seems to be something special from a culinary perspective going on at Paws Up. The resort offers kids’ menus for picky eaters, though the attitude here is definitely one where kids can order practically anything their hearts desire and the staff will make it appear.
The family activity options at Paws Up are vast. While horseback riding is THE activity at many ranches, the riding program at Paws Up is just one of many different on-property things to do. Paintball, shooting ranges, archery, ATV adventures, guided fly fishing, whitewater river rafting, waterskiing and much more are all readily accessible. New amenities this year include a go-cart course (a blast!) and an aerial adventure course.
I must point out that Paws Up isn’t about checking the boxes with any old activities — they truly go the extra mile to offer a best-in-class version of those activities. The investment made in the property infrastructure is amazing. Even the Outpost, the main area where activities begin, is an incredibly well-constructed place to meet, shop and feel pampered Paws Up-style.
We opted to join the daily cattle drive where guests help wranglers move the property’s head of cattle to their targeted field for the night. It’s a riding lesson and entertaining adventure wrapped into one package. We also did a guided fly fishing float down the Blackfoot River one afternoon. Let’s just say that I’m not good at casting, but still caught a beautiful 17-inch trout. That’s how good these rivers are!
TIP: Take the time to book activities in advance. Although the resort is so big it never feels crowded, Paws Up is popular and activities do book up.
I fell instantly in love with the spa and fitness room setup at Paws Up. The spa is comprised of tents overlooking an idyllic meadow with pint-size bunnies, deer and ground squirrels — it’s perfectly integrated into the setting. Offering an array of delightful treatments using organic products (including homemade salt scrubs), the spa is a thoughtful, well-conceived part of the experience. And the fitness room is an all-window wood building overlooking the property. It takes the sting out of going to an indoor gym in such a beautiful place.
Families are an integral part of the Paws Up experience and they’ve built incredible infrastructure for kids. The daily Kids Core of Discovery, an extensive activities-based program, is housed in a beautiful camp complex with a playground, a petting zoo and a dining/play yurt. Little Discoverers is for ages 3 to 5 and Adventure Club is for ages 6 to 12. Private nannies can be booked for kids under 3. And kids older than 12 can do all the activities the adults can do for the most part, and tend to stick with their families.
At events kids have their own special activities. We went to the Longtable Dinner where guests all eat at one long table, and the kids had the chance try their hand at archery, crafts, axe throwing (!) and working a lasso with a wrangler.
The only thing not here is a pool. But there’s a river … and with so many other activities, you don’t miss it. A Paws Up experience for a family of four starts at $2,000 per night, including accommodations and meals.
Editor’s Note: Amie received a media package at Paws Up. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy and The Resort at Paws Up.
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