Did our overall impressions of Paws Up in Montana have you reaching for your Amex and ready to book a trip (see our overview of Paws Up here)? If you are ready to call the reservations office and plan you own "glamping" excursion (that s new trend--glamour camping), we've got a few highlights to share to make your trip even more incredible.
Staff: While they represent a diverse geographic upbringing, every single person we encountered had a love of nature and a joyous spirit. The staff truly seemed thankful to have found a way to work an live in the great outdoors of Montana.
Tip:Spend some time on the phone with the staff mapping out which location and which activities are right for your family. A little prep work is worth the effort.
Accommodations:Paws Up offers a wide variety of housing. Tented camps include: River Camp, Pinnacle (where team Momtrends stayed), Creekside and Moonlight (which was in such a gorgeous setting it has to top the list!). The tents are offered with single king beds or two-room suites in Pinnacle that can sleep 4. Many large families rent out an entire camp area (each camp area has 6 tents). All the rooms and houses have well-appointed bathrooms and luxury linens. The tents are TV/wireless/phone free.
If camping isn't your thing, pick from free-standing houses that can accommodate families of two or opt for the spacious Morris House where Mick Jagger stayed a few years ago. This spot can sleep a large family + friends. The houses have flat screens, wifi and hot tubs.
Pick your lodging to suit your needs. We like the idea of mix and matching. Three days in a tent and three days in a house for example.
Food:The menus we encountered fit seamlessly into the camp's feel. Relying on meat, fish and seasonal vegetables, the chefs at paws up pleased this crowd by prepare flavorful, hearty meals. Nothing fussy or nouveau in these kitchens. At breakfast we had made-to-order eggs (plus the trimming like bacon and toast), pancakes or the most scrumptious granola and Greek Style yogurt.
Lunch at the Trough is a perfect place to get an amazing burger or opt for a lighter trout salad. Dinner's can be ordered and sent to your home from Pomp, or arranged for an entire camp in your dining tent. We had a chef come to Pinnacle one night and prepare a feast of Marlin with guacamole as an appetizer followed by salmon with pineapple salsa. And of course, all dinners are capped off with an offering of s'mores by the campfire.
Shopping: We were tempted by many of the offerings at the retail shop. The merchandiser deserves applause for skipping the traditional cheesy western gear and opting for western glam instead. We loved the studded leather jackets, modern turquoise jewelry and all the offerings for kids.
Spa:The tented "spa town" looks out on a spectacular clearing of land. I opted for the hot stone massage and wasn't disappointed. I could hear the flowing stream and see the blue sky as the masseuse melted my knots away. Spa town also has a small open-tented gym. Take note fitness buffs, Paws Up also offers yoga and pilates classes. As lovely as it is, we say skip the gym and go for a run or a hike!
Getting Around:Paws Up is outfitted with tons of vans, SUVs and carts to shuttle people everywhere they need to be. The shuttles are free and operate on a regular schedule. Those in the Wilderness Estates and the other houses are given "mountain buggies" (glorified golf carts) to get around the central part of the campus, but can't be taken on main roads.
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Service: We didn't encounter a single grump or sourpuss on the staff. In addition to our camp butler Wesley, we give rave reviews to Michael from the kids camp (he crafted an arrowhead necklace with my daughter--now a major treasure) as well as Cowboy Max our riding instructor--it is crystal clear that the team at Paws Up was hired for their passion. No one is ambivalent about his work.
Seth at the Wilderness Outpost (or WO) arranges all the outings. Much like an air traffic controller, he navigated late arrivals, storms and take offs of all the excursions like a pro.
Kids Camp:From 10-4pm kids can check out the activities in this central location. Maybe mom wants to take in a massage and dad wants to repel, this is a spot where you can park your kids guilt-free. There's no TV--it's all about getting the kids out into nature.
While in camp, my daughter went fishing ("all we caught was weeds, but it was really fun"), hiking ("we saw a wolf!"), did some arts and crafts and frolicked with the baby animals. Children must be 5+ Pick from half or full day options.
Which brings us to the important topic: To what ages is Paws Up best suited? We wouldn't advise taking a child under the age of 5.If you brought or hired a nanny, you'd still be able to get out and about, but the activities are better geared for older kids. Ideally your kids would be over the age of 8 to enjoy some of the best activities like ATV riding, trail riding, rafting and more.
We Say Don't Miss:
- Cattle drive--while we didn't take part in this (mini momtrends is too young), we kept hearing again and again what a fabulous adventure this was.
- Chuck Wagon Dinner--Led by teams of draft houses (Pete + Repeat and/or Lightening + Strike), venture out on a 40-minute wagon ride.
- Luxury Tents--Plan to stay at least a few nights in one of the tented camps for a true outdoor adventure.
I know, you want to know how much is "priceless" going to cost you. The answer depends on how "glammped" up you want to get with your accommodations and how many activities you want to tack on. If you are trying for a budget vacation skip this spot. This is for the family that wants to experience it all and has the means to afford this worthwhile luxury, Activities are all a la carte (some of the very basic ones are free such as frisbee golf, and of course the hikes are free unless you bring along a guide). Here are a few examples of the pricing:
- Pinnacle Camp 2 br $1520 per night (Rates include breakfast, lunch and dinner daily for two adults.)
Wilderness Estates (house) $2955 (Rates include breakfast, lunch and dinner daily for two adults.)
For all the rates visit http://www.pawsup.com/rates/montana-vacation-ranch-rates.php
It shouldn't surprise you that luxury has a high price tag. But we'll say it again. This is an extraordinary spot.
PART I OF THIS REVIEW INCLUDES OVERALL IMPRESSIONS. FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT: www.pawsup.com
FULL DISCLOSURE: We were not paid for this review. We did receive airfare, lodging, food, etc. They were comped so we could fully experience the resort and write about it. I have no doubt that the Family Momtrends will be back in a few years on our own dime--It's that good.