What it’s like to go glamping at a Montana dude ranch

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Montana glamping at The Resort at Paws Up

If you’ve got dreams of channeling your inner cowboy, bunking at one of the world’s most over-the-top glamping setups and can pony up some big bucks, then grab yer hat ‘cause there’s a Montana dude ranch you’re gonna wanna hightail it to.

The Resort at Paws Up is the ultimate home on the range, where a single day can kick off with a cattle drive, followed by a wild ATV ride to a lookout point before rappelling down the cliffside, dining under the stars at a chuckwagon dinner, s’mores around a roaring campfire, then hittin’ the hay in what’s likely the most luxurious tent you’ve ever seen. The sprawling, 37-thousand acre property in Greenough, MT makes for the perfect escape, with a serene setting along the majestic Blackfoot River which makes it easy to unplug. The privacy afforded by all those wide open spaces make this a beloved celeb hideaway, luring A-listers like Leonard DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Gwyneth Paltrow for some R&R under Montana’s famous big skies.

The Blackfoot River at The Resort at Paws Up

The Blackfoot River

Over the past couple of decades, Paws Up has been built up to become one of the top Montana luxury resorts, where high-end perks like butlers, a helicopter pad and even a lodge on a private island blend seamlessly with barns, grazing cattle and dusty roads. It’s a special kind of place that most people could only dream of visiting– a far cry from its original start as a working ranch. Despite glam touches like private hot tubs, gourmet dining and open-mic nights with top talent, it’s stayed true to its western heritage while becoming the best dude ranch in Montana.

Paws Up glamping

The accommodation is what really elevates the Paws Up experience, specifically the 36 luxury tents which are spread out over six different secluded camps. While glamping is originally linked back to the swanky setups used for upscale safaris in Africa, Paws Up put its spin on the concept with ‘American Safari’-style digs: think bison wall hangings, statement chandeliers, fine linens, heated slate floors in private bathrooms, and even copper soaker tubs in the honeymoon tents.

Montana glamping at The Resort at Paws Up

Montana glamping at The Resort at Paws Up

A honeymoon glamping tent

Tents range in size from one to three bedrooms, each with its own lounge area, private balcony, ensuite with a double vanity and rain shower, and features like heating and air conditioning. Each camp has a pavilion complete with a roaring stone fireplace, games and snacks, which is serviced by a butler who can cater to your every whim and a chef to whip up breakfast in the morning.

Montana glamping at The Resort at Paws Up

Montana glamping at The Resort at Paws Up

The bathroom inside a glamping tent

There are also a few Dining Pavilions overlooking scenic spots like the Blackfoot River or Elk Creek, where multi-course meals are served throughout the day. The adjoining outdoor fire pits are the perfect place to unwind and trade stories about the day’s adventures with fellow glampers, or take your s’mores skills to the next level with the help of a S’moreologist to teach you all the tricks to making the perfect s’more (hello, candied bacon!). These Montana glamping tents are available to book from May through mid-October, and those craving a truly private experience have the option to rent out an entire camp.

Montana glamping at The Resort at Paws Up

A Dining Pavilion

Montana glamping at The Resort at Paws Up

Paws Up ranch houses

Those planning to enjoy this luxury dude ranch with a larger group have the option of staying in an estate home instead, which have plenty of space for everyone to spread out. There are 28 luxury homes scattered around the property, which are fully-loaded with features like a chef’s kitchen, private hot tubs, smart TVs and a washer and dryer. They range in size from two to four bedrooms, including some with private tents in the backyard for housing even more cowpokes.

The Resort at Paws Up in Montana

There are five different home styles to choose from, like the historic, Victorian-style Morris Ranch House that backs out into a lazy stream and wide open field, or the Big Timber homes which boast grand stone fireplaces and are surrounded by thick forests. All properties are pet-friendly (this ranch is called Paws Up for a reason!), and include the private use of a Lexus for the duration of your stay.

The Resort at Paws Up in Montana

The Morris Ranch House at The Resort at Paws Up

The Morris Ranch House

Dining at Paws Up

When it comes to dining options, there are a handful of restaurants on site besides the camp’s Dining Pavilions, and those staying in one of the homes can even request a private chef. Trough Restaurant serves up casual, buffet-style fare during breakfast and lunch, while Pomp is the spot for fine dining.

Pomp

For an elevated experience, book one of the Chuckwagon dinners where guests hop in a horse-drawn wagon and ride to the river, where they’ll dine on the likes of prime rib, organic chicken and asparagus grilled over a campfire, paired with good ol’ fashioned baked beans and fresh fruit cobbler. End the night by saddling up to the bar at Trough, to try one of Paws Up’s signature Huckleberry Moscow Mules.

The Resort at Paws Up

Trough

Activities at Paws Up

While the accommodations and dining options are reason enough to book into Paws Up, what most people really comes for are the only-in-Montana moments. There are more than 70 different excursions available, providing plenty of thrills in every season for all ages. A Go-Kart track, aerial adventure park, float trip and fly fishing are just some of the great options for youngsters, while the older crowd can try things like clay shooting, ATV tours and authentic ranch experiences like cattle drives and wagon team driving lessons.

Some signature activities include hot air balloon rides, a trip out to the resort’s private Island Lodge paired with dinner and live music, or a spa treatment in Spa Town which plays off the glamping theme with its tented treatment rooms. Be sure to book in for one of the fantastic trail rides, where riders are actually encouraged to break away from the group and explore the idyllic surroundings with their horse, instead of sticking to a long, boring line like so many outfitters insist on (though you can do that to, if it makes you more comfortable).

A treatment tent at Spa Town

Horseback riding at Paws Up

The 411 on The Resort at Paws Up

  • Pricing: Rooms rates vary depending on the season, and which glamping tent or house you book. Prices start at $1560 for two adults ($780 each) for a one-bedroom tent in Moonlight Camp, or $1540 per night for two adults ($770 each) in one of the Meadow Homes. Click here to book
  • Food and beverage: Paws Up is one of the best all-inclusive Montana resorts, and nightly rates include all of the fantastic meals, some alcoholic drinks with lunch or dinner (house beer and wine, well spirits) and one bottle of red wine upon arrival. However, you’ll have to buck up separately for premium bevys and cocktails, or if you’d like something like champagne or a bottle of wine in your room.
  • Tipping: Paws Up has a no tipping policy on the resort grounds, so you can leave your wallet in the room the entire time.
  • What to wear: Dig out ‘yer best cowboy hat and boots–this is the perfect place to show off all your best western wear, especially if you plan on heading out for a trail ride or cattle drive. For all the city slickers out there, the on-site Wilderness Outpost sells a gorgeous selection of country casual wear like shirts, dresses, hats, boots and accessories. Otherwise, the vibe around here is pretty casual, and you’ll want to pack outdoor gear for cooler nights or active activities.

The Wilderness Outpost is the perfect place to pick up a western outfit

  • How to get to Paws Up resort: Paws Up ranch is just half an hour from the Missoula airport, and round-trip transfers are included, including ‘red carpet’ pickup service for those flying privately into MSO. It’s just a two-hour drive from other great Montana vacation spots like Whitefish or stunning Glacier National Park, which makes for a great combo trip.
  • Worth noting: Despite the resort’s high price tag, the service can be a bit hit or miss (according to my observations and backed up by a number of the Resort at Paws Up reviews). In my personal experience, most staffers were lovely and accommodating, such as the friendly, chatty drivers and our butler who went above and beyond, even tying a fishing pole for us one morning and getting the line all set up for us rookie fishers. However, service in the lounge and restaurants was sometimes painfully slow, like 15-plus minutes to take a drink order or bring out a latte. On multiple occasions I watched people seated on the patio have to walk inside to the bar to place their order, including one gentleman trying to balance a tower of beer cans to take back to his group’s table instead of a server offering to carry it for him.
  • Paws Up has a custom app with features like a property map, a chat box to facilitate special requests like booking an excursion, spa service or arranging a pickup, and addressing any questions/concerns. Camp butlers are also happy to assist with any guest needs.
  • A family affair: The Resort at Paws Up welcomes guests of all ages, and you can expect to see more kids during the summer while shoulder season months like September typically bring adult, corporate groups. Those craving an adults-only getaway will want to book into Paws Up’s highly-anticipated sister property The Green O, which is scheduled to open in summer 2020. The intimate resort features four striking suites including a luxurious treehouse, the Green Haus which has a living roof, and the modern Light Haus with an oversized skylight that brings the stars right into the room.
The Tree Haus at Green O

The Tree Haus at The Green O

Globe Guide experienced Paws Up as a guest of the resort. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles

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