After a 6.5-hour drive from Jackson, through Idaho, and into western Montana, we were happy to arrive at The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough on a Friday afternoon. Passing through the magnificent gates with the words, “Paws Up” etched on one side and “The Last Best Place” on the other, I couldn’t wait to experience what I had watched on videos for months before we got there.
Sometimes there are no words for such a place, but if I had to decide, some of the words I would choose are: inspiring, stunning, sprawling, rugged, grand…special. There are few places that will touch you the way that a resort like this will. With 37,000 acres to build on, the property is sprawling, yet still has an intimate feel as only 500 acres are used for the village. Each home or campsite consists of 6–10 cabins or tents and is completely secluded from the other sites, so you really feel like you’re out in the wilderness with only a handful of other people.
Built in 2005, The Resort at Paws Up offers 27 luxury homes, including six Meadow Homes, ten Big Timber Homes, and ten Wilderness Estates, as well as six tents at each of their Luxury Camping Sites: Moonlight Camp, North Bank Camp, River Camp, Creekside Camp, Pinnacle Camp, and my favorite, Cliffside Camp, which is perched on a dramatic overlook of the Blackfoot River. The campsites are eight miles from the main Paws Up village, so they really give you the feel of camping out in the backcountry. River Camp is great for kids, as it’s right on the water with a small beach. All of the sites come with complimentary bikes to use during your stay.
Upon check-in, in one of the most beautiful reception areas I’ve seen, we were handed our itinerary, keys to our home, and best of all, our own personal car for use on the property. Yes—they give you the use of a car for your stay, as well as a private butler and chef if you happen to be staying in one of the luxury campsites. Our home for the weekend was a Meadow Home, which is a 1300-square-foot log cabin with two bedrooms, two baths, a full kitchen and living area, a laundry room, and a back deck with, of course, your own hot tub.
Activities abound at Paws Up, including hot air ballooning, horseback riding and equestrian lessons, ATV touring, white water rafting, jet ski and boat rentals, archery and other shooting sports, cattle herding, wagon driving, hiking, fly-fishing adventures, and you can even rent your own private helicopter to take you to view Glacier National Park. There is a 76,000-square-foot stable and equestrian center where you can hone your horsemanship.
Don’t feel like being active? Relax at Spa Town and indulge in a multitude of treatments. Spa Town is a colony of pristine white tents stitched together by a wooden boardwalk, situated just past a babbling brook and nestled among towering pines. The welcome tents feature full baths and showers, while individual treatment tents are fashioned with a lovely sink, a heated massage table, and a view of the meadows. What’s really amazing is that there is no need for the stereotypical soundtracks you hear in average spas because the brook, chirping birds, and the rustling of the wind in the trees above are played daily by Mother Nature herself. Paws Up gives new meaning to the phrase “getting lost in the woods.” You can choose from a plethora of massages, body treatments, and even a shamanic healing session.
The Fitness Cabin at Spa Town offers a unique and tranquil environment for your workout. They offer a nice variety of equipment for you to use while you’re a guest at Paws Up, including a treadmill, BowFlex machine, stationary bike, free weights, weight bench, yoga mats, yoga balls, medicine balls, stair master, and complimentary water and towels. There are also complimentary yoga sessions.
They also offer creative opportunities via a variety of workshops including watercolors lessons, photography sessions, and Montana Majesty painting workshop, as well as instruction on survival techniques and outdoor skills such as knot tying, shelter building, tracking, and edible plant identification.
Workshops and activities vary by season, so there’s always something new to discover, no matter what time of year you visit. Their Thanksgiving Weekend feast, for example, includes hayrides, wine tasting, backcountry tours, and of course, pro football on the big screen. The menus will be created by Chef Sunny Jin and special guest Chef Jason French, with music by Missoula singer/songwriter John Floridis.
It’s exciting to see that they’re implementing many sustainable practices at Paws Up, including using earth-friendly cleaning products, energy-efficient lights, organic bath products, and the option for guests to reuse linens. They also have made some significant environmental commitments including catch-and-release fishing and sustainable farming practices. Listed below are some of the green initiatives:
- Farm and Ranch to Table dining at Pomp Restaurant and Trough Restaurant
- Members of Blackfoot Challenge—a local organization dedicated to land conservation and stewardship of the Blackfoot River corridor
- Development of 30 safari-style tented guest accommodations that provide a minimal carbon footprint. Implementation of leave-no-trace construction at camps
- All guests receive a refillable/reusable Paws Up water bottle to reduce the consumption of plastics
- Employee transportation program including a shuttle bus service and carpool reimbursement
- On-property and nearby staff housing to reduce commuting times
- Development of the Bad Beetle brand, a company that converts deadfall trees killed by the North American Mountain Pine Beetle into sustainable wooden Apple accessories: www.badbeetle.com
- Development of the Greeno brand, a company that converts deadfall trees killed by the North American Mountain Pine Beetle into sustainable flooring: www.greenobuilt.co
- Development of the Paws Up gravel pit to provide material for ranch roads
And Oh, My…The Food!
After gaping in awe at the accommodations, we headed down to Tank, the on-site cocktail bar, and Trough Restaurant, one of the eateries on the property, for a late lunch. Oh, did I mention that all of your meals are included as well? I had one of the best margaritas I’d had in ages, made with tequila, ginger, and fresh lime juice. For lunch, I had a Bison rice bowl with pickled mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, onions, scallions, and pickled peppers in a lovely garlic sweet soy sauce.
Trough offers casual fine dining with a Western flair. Home-cooked flavors mingle with traditional offerings for a rustic yet refined palette. The chef uses hand-cut meats combined with locally sourced vegetables, among many options, such as rice and grain bowls and paninis. For breakfast, you don’t want to miss the huckleberry pancakes – I had never had huckleberries until I went to Montana and they are absolutely delicious, similar to blueberries with a little more tartness.
The next day we headed out to the Farmer’s Market in Missoula, which is held every Saturday. We toured the market with Chef Dale Levitski (a former Bravo TV Top Chef) who picked out a wide assortment of fruits and veggies that he would be cooking for an event we were attending that night called The Last Best Supper. This farmer’s market was by far the largest I had ever seen and the produce was unbelievable. Vibrant, in all colors of the rainbow, and enormous! We couldn’t wait for dinner! At the market, we were able to sample some delicious strawberries and huckleberries. There was just about every kind of product available: homemade jams, pie on a stick, fresh squeezed lemonades, kombucha, cheeses, and great organic body care products. I would live in Missoula just to go to this market every week!
We wrapped up the day at The Last Best Supper event held at the longest dinner table I’ve ever seen outside overlooking the rolling green pastures of the ranch. Chef Dale totally outdid himself with a 4-course meal paired with amazing Schug wines. We started with truffle gnocchi Parisienne with cauliflower, broccoli, golden zucchini, and huckleberry. The gnocchi was light and creamy with a delicious truffle flavoring enhanced by the fresh, crisp veggies. Next came a mountain chowder with crab, shrimp, bacon, white beans, corn, sun gold tomatoes, and kale. Again, the flavors were spectacular and it was the perfect combination of seafood and veggies. The main dish was New York strip steak au poivre with chanterelle and melted leek stovetop stuffing and morel mustard butter. The steak was as tender as a filet and the melding of the stuffing with the mustard butter was mouthwatering. Last we were served the torn-apart pie with Tana’s plums, strawberries, poppyseed pie crust, cream cheese frosting, and ginger anglaise. It sounds incredibly sweet, but the plum had just enough tartness to completely balance this dessert. Scrumptious! Top all of this off with an incredibly attentive and friendly staff and you’ve got the makings for the meal of a lifetime.
A Vacation Experience You’ll Never Forget
Paws Up has accommodations and activities for everyone—kids’ activities, romantic couples offerings, and large group gatherings such as family reunions and corporate retreats. Whether you’re looking to relax and soak in the rugged Montana beauty or fill your stay with adventure after adventure, this resort has you covered from beginning to end.
Sad to say, after a brief two nights we had to leave Paws Up, but this is a place we will surely return to…it won’t be our last visit to the Last Best Place!
Visit www.pawsup.com to learn more and book your own adventure.
Dr. Diane Hayden, PhD, is an entrepreneur, mindset warrior, perspective shifter, and unshakable optimist. She started a health and wellness publishing business (Natural Nutmeg and Essential Naples Magazines, ELM Media Group) with nothing more than passion, a laptop, and a dream, and has created a socially conscious print and digital platform that has touched thousands of people over the past 13 years. She holds a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Connecticut, a PhD in Exercise Physiology from the University of Maryland, and is an Empowerment Life Coach.