If you’ve ventured out lately, you’ve likely discovered that a lot of people are also doing the same. Beaches are crowded, freeways are jammed, restaurants are packed. Clearly, a lot of us are eager to expand our boundaries. But if you are still easing back into “normal” life or you just never liked crowds in the first place (and who can blame you?), a getaway that also takes you away from the masses might be exactly what you, your family, and your vacation calendar need.
As other California natives might relate, the Golden State’s ample and varied vacation destinations mean that I often overlooked the majority of the rest of the United States when booking a trip. As a result, I’ve missed out on a lot beyond the obligatory trips that are a rite of passage for California kids (see: Disney World, Washington, D.C.). Luckily, however, this means I have much to explore, and I recently had the opportunity to make one such discovery that resulted in the trip of a lifetime: The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana.
Mention Paws Up to anyone familiar with it and the response is consistent and instant, and can only be described as “dreamy.” There’s almost the feeling that past Paws Up visitors are members of a club composed of people in on a marvelous secret: that there is truly no other place like it, anywhere. Once at the resort, there also seems to be an unspoken recognition and awareness among the guests of just how lucky each person is to be one of only a handful of people experiencing it at any given time.
Thanks to expanding routes and schedules, Alaska Airlines now offers direct service from San Diego Airport to Missoula, Montana, an easy, sub-three-hour flight at the end of which a Paws Up van will pick you up to whisk you off to the property: A working cattle ranch situated on 37,000 vast acres with 360-degree mountain views that defy any kind of visual boundary. And overhead is, by any estimation, a truly magnificent and very big sky indeed.
Paws Up is the birthplace of the term “glamping,” and features just about every kind of accommodation you can imagine, from luxe tents with electricity, indoor plumbing, and even chandeliers and butler service to well-appointed multi-bedroom homes and exquisite grand estates for those who prefer a little more structure. Set around a gently curving stretch of the Blackfoot River, the accommodations are well-spaced and allow Paws Up to strike a perfect balance of comfort and privacy without going to the extreme of complete isolation. The resort can only accommodate a maximum of 275 guests in its 28 homes and 36 tents on property, and even at full capacity it never even approaches feeling crowded. But it’s not just the wide open space that’s Paws Up’s appeal.
Guided activities throughout the property abound in all seasons with gracious, knowledgeable hosts, and plenty of opportunities to jump in on pursuits of all kinds from games to art classes to cooking demonstrations, biking, and hiking mean there is never a dull moment. The multitude of options spans the more classic — rafting, ATV tours, horseback trail rides, fly fishing — to the less traditional, like skijoring (snowboarding or skiing while be towed by horse or snowmobile), cow croquet (wrangling cows through gates in an indoor arena), a drum circle workshop, and a .22 rifle range that resembles a town from the Old West. A quick browse of the options here and it would seem that the only time you could ever hear the word “No” is if you asked if they could make the days just a little longer so you don’t miss out on one thing. If you can dream it, they probably offer it.
Though Paws Up is a decidedly family-oriented working ranch, the menu is definitely anything but campfire basic. Its superior culinary team hails from some of the most elite establishments in the country and the world, and celebrated and celebrity chefs converge here regularly for themed events and exclusive appearances. The food is fresh and sustainable with an emphasis on local (the bison on the menu is sourced from the ranch’s own herd), and always delicious. As proprietor Laurence Lipson jokes, “You’re rarely ever hungry leaving Paws Up.” The reality is that this is a serious epicurean destination with highly-skilled artisans, led by senior executive chef Sunny Jin, who ensure that every plate and every glass served is nothing short of exquisite.
As its established position as a preeminent luxury adventure destination only deepens, Paws Up’s 16th anniversary this month will be marked by the debut of Green O, an adults-only resort on property featuring 12 unique homes created for solo travelers and couples. This exclusive destination-within-a-destination continues in the tradition of luxurious accommodations, impeccable service to meet any guest’s request, and culinary excellence — all set amid the stunning natural beauty of the Montana wilderness.
Lipson, who admits that he’d always dreamt of being an architect, co-designed each of the unique structures in collaboration with his father, who originally purchased the ranch in 1997. Their four architecturally inventive designs comprise Green O’s home offerings. They are the Round Haus, Tree Haus, Green Haus, and Light Haus. Ranging from 880 to 1,080 square feet of interior living space plus outdoor spaces, they are situated in a wide, lushly wooded circle, amply-spaced of course, and oriented so that they do not encroach on the views or privacy of any of the neighboring homes. “The whole concept for Green O is to try to hide each one of these homes in the forest,” explains Lipson, who says that the homesites were so carefully selected before building to maximize forest preservation that only three or four trees needed to be removed in the development of the entire resort. As a result, each home is afforded full appreciation of the surrounding natural landscape and the wildlife that thrives within it. According to Lipson, the single greatest expense in the construction of Green O was glass. Even the roads are thoughtfully laid with a special kind of “quiet” material to minimize interference with the natural soundtrack of wind, rustling trees, and birdsong.
Though Green O guests have full privileges throughout Paws Up including at its restaurants, they also have exclusive access to Green O’s own restaurant, Social Haus, which serves as the heart and hub of Green O. Not more than a five-minute walk from the front door of any haus (but far enough to not be heard from any of them), Social Haus boasts its own superior culinary team to delight the resort’s maximum 24 guests in a sleek, contemporary setting that heartily embraces its forest backdrop.
Given the caliber of fine dining offered at both resorts, it’s worth noting that the nightly rates are inclusive of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a selection of alcoholic beverages. Also included at Paws Up: a Lexus vehicle for your personal use and transportation around the property. Additionally, this is a gratuity-free resort, meaning you’re never left scrambling for cash — a heartfelt thank you is the only currency you’ll need to express your gratitude wherever you go. pawsup.com, thegreeno.com