Montana’s Most Dog-Friendly Luxury Ranch
By Si Si Penaloza
The Resort at Paws Up, Montana’s preeminent luxury ranch resort, has always had a special place of honor for our best friend. In fact, it was the owner’s dog and his signature friendly greeting that inspired the resort’s distinctive name. Here on the resort’s sprawling footprint of unbridled wilderness alone, dogs have 37,000 acres of prime woodland, rivers and over 100 miles of hiking trails to explore.
Paws Up has been the plum choice for Oscar winners Leonardo Dicaprio and Gwyneth Paltrow and her pampered posse; who knows who will turn up next? The resort is clearly nailing the whole feral, freewheeling luxury vibe, drawing high profile adventurers from all over the globe. Every guest is wined, dined and catered to like a king, whether they’re the reigning king of Hollywood, or the overworked matriarch of a plucky band of kids.
Working ranch trips tend to attract guests eager for a challenge and a renewal of the spirit at times of life transition. Over a typical weeklong stay at The Resort at Paws Up, defenses tend to fall away; something about big sky country lends itself to an unraveling of the ego, of the everyday agenda. I relish noting how high octane Manhattan powerbrokers stop bothering with makeup or fussing with hair dryers after day two. Most wander from horseback to the dining room in dusty denim, wearing helmet hair with pride and aplomb. This is an ideal destination to clear the mind, sweat it out and recalibrate your center, returning to civilian life unburdened.
Channeling your inner cowgirl or cowboy is humbling; unless you grew up on a ranch, every bit of external vanity is stripped away on a real working ranch like Paws Up. Over the resort’s beloved fire pit Chuckwagon dinners, you find yourself in conversations that delve deeper than surface babble at your local BBQ joint back on the grid. A hard phenomena to explain, but oh so easy to love.
At Paws Up, you and the furmate will bank the best sleep of your lives. Activity filled days, protein rich meals, fresh air and campfires lull you into to such a natural slumber state. Moreover, there is nothing the staff at Paws Up won’t do to ensure a peaceful night’s rest and five-star service for pets. The resort provides their much touted “Last Best Doggie Bed,” an outdoor kennel (if your pup prefers a night of sleeping under a Montana star-filled sky… the luxury homes on property are dog-friendly), dog bowls, a bag of delectable locally-made treats, bio degradable pick-up bags, a special toy, dog collar, doggie room service menu and even doggie spa treatments. All cabins house a life-sized porcelain dog to greet guests and make them feel at home when they can’t bring their furry best bud with them.
Paws Up is so devoted to dogs that a special dedicated dog weekend, The Canine Classic and Wine & Bitch Dinner, is held annually in September. The charity event began eight years ago, and last year the 5k philanthropy run raised nearly $42,000 for the Humane Society of Western Montana (100% of registration fees & pledge donations go to the shelter), and three of the five shelter dogs that attended were adopted after the run!
With so many luxuries available to the discerning holiday-maker, such as spa packages and gourmet dining, it’s no wonder they return time and time again – many even buying into this nature lover’s lifestyle. Clearly, the estate houses, cabins and luxury tents at Paws Up have every conceivable amenity, from sumptuous king beds to lazy porch hammocks. The luxurious Wilderness Estates residences feature three bedrooms and include full kitchens with dining areas and spacious living areas with potbelly stoves or fireplaces. But a ranch resort is much more than a cool cabin, no matter how gorgeously appointed that cabin may be. This is where Paws Up truly shines. With fly fishing, clay shooting, rappelling, river rafting, equestrian and western riding, ropes courses, trail adventures (from hiking to biking to atv) and cattle drives, there are so many heart pumping challenges to check off your list here.
From the moment I arrive at Paws Up, the service is top notch and beyond seamless. The resort exemplifies the best in working guest ranches; magnificent horses, rustic farm to fork cookery offset by bustling activities to keep your mojo rocking. Charismatic wranglers matched riders with steads with shrewd expertise, giving the whole ranch riding experience a bespoke feel.
I channel my inner Annie Oakley and muster up all my cowgirl wild west spirit to take in the cattle drive, one of the most beloved experiences among the resort’s repeat guests. Imagine herding cattle across the plains with the exemplary Paws Up ranch team; they keep both novice and intermediate riders safe and comfortable during this highly authentic encounter. Non equestrians find plenty of thrill seeking options, from the Grizzly Man Fitness Trail to kicking back at the spa.
At Pomp, the fine dining restaurant on property, a bison tenderloin arrives at the table embedded in a butternut squash risotto, embellished with oven-dried goat cheese and a flathead cherry demi glace. Pomp’s refined rustic ranch cuisine is grounded in the fundamentals of classic cooking; Executive Chef Ben Jones is a culinary force of nature inspired by the rugged seasonality of Montana. He is committed to using the finest ingredients and has built close relationships with area ranchers, distillers, sustainable farmers and vintners. Local ingredients are featured, so offerings change just like the seasons.
I recommend at least 4 nights minimum here to fly fish or raft the Blackfork River that flows through the resort. A guided ATV ride along Greenough Valley is another must. The new Skyline aerial ropes course looks more intimidating than it is, seeing how tweens take to it like salmon swimming downstream. It is a humbling course, and rather-character building at times. Ideal for a multi-generational family reunion, Paws Up offers something for every activity and mobility level, and will certainly leave you feeling reinvigorated and renewed when you leave (if you can bear to).
Visit The Resort at Paws Up
40060 Paws Up Rd, Greenough, MT 59823