Why just camp when you can glamp?
Editor’s Note: As of the time of publication, the COVID-19 virus has spread throughout the world. Especially for vulnerable adults, this is not the time to travel anywhere for enjoyment.
Please enjoy this travel section as armchair entertainment and for planning your future travel in healthier times.
Camping in the outdoors is all fun and games until your back seizes up or the mosquitos attack. But if you want to do something “woodsy” without the suffering, there’s a solution: glamorous camping, also known as glamping.
Although you’re immersed in the wilderness while glamping, you have a bed, running water, a proper toilet, a kitchen with real appliances (none of those devices that threaten to start a forest fire) and shelter from bugs.
A ranch in Greenough, Montana, 35 minutes northeast of Missoula, has taken glamping to the extreme. Voted the best glamping destination by Forbes, the Resort at Paws Up is a 37,000-acre ranch with wooden homes, luxury tents and plenty of activities for everyone in the family to enjoy.
The resort “found that there was a missing niche in the market for luxury hospitality in Montana and [determined] that luxury camping — now called glamping — was the best way to establish that,” said Amelia Robertson, resort spokesperson, in an email.
The Resort at Paws Up got its name from the owners’ dogs lying on their backs with their paws in the air, eager for belly rubs from the incoming guests. But you could also call it Pounds Up due to the food you will eat during your stay.
Fun for all ages
My family and I stayed at the ranch last year to celebrate my mother’s birthday. We had a wide array of ages in our group — from 19 to 72 — but that was fine, as many of the ranch’s activities are meant to be multi-generational.
“You’re not going to be limited by any means by what you can and can’t do,” Robertson said.
Members of my family took advantage of every activity on and near the ranch. My mother, her husband and my brother went rappelling down a rocky ledge, enjoying an overlook of the Blackfoot River and the green acres of the ranch.
Later, I joined them for an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) ride, racing across fields and down dirt roads. The ATV tour is for all levels: I was a relative beginner, while my brother has years of experience. At the start of the ride, I was careful going around each turn. By the end, however, I was gunning the ATV through mud piles and deliberately lifting the machine off the ground.
During these adventures, my uncle — a 72-year-old with Parkinson’s disease — sat outside the cabin in the sun, reading a book and listening to the sounds of the river. When we returned, we asked if he was relaxed. His response: “Quite.”
For horse lovers
My mother and I have enjoyed horseback riding for most of our lives, so we couldn’t wait for this part of the trip. We spent several hours on the trails in the mountains, and we led 30 cows from one end of the ranch to the other. Real devotees can enjoy wagon team driving and wrangling.
But you don’t have to know how to ride a horse at all. The ranch offers lessons and guided trail rides. Kids can ride ponies in an enclosed arena, and all ages can enjoy carriage rides.
Additionally, there is a new equestrian program for those who want to learn more about interacting with the large animals. The resort’s equestrian manager leads “horse whispering” mindfulness sessions that teach people how to establish “authentic and life-changing equine connections,” as the website puts it.
Paws Up also has a “Wild West”-themed rifle range. Halfway through the week, my whole family went to the shooting range. My uncle, despite recent back surgery and a shaky hand, was able to hit the targets, thanks to the support and encouragement of the staff.
More advanced shooters can take aim at sporting clays, where you travel across a course in the mountains and shoot at moving targets. Prior knowledge of guns, however, is not necessary to enjoy the rifle range. And don’t worry; the riflery activities are too far away from the campgrounds to scare the youngins (or even the fish).
Relax at the spa
If living in a lodge or luxurious tent is still too outdoorsy for you, spend the day at the spa center. You can enjoy a massage, other spa treatments and yoga classes with the sounds of the wind and birds in the background, while the rest of your family is driving through mud in an ATV or standing in the river trying to catch fish.
Dogs are also welcome at the spa center, with a complimentary massage available for them with any 60-minute spa service.
If you go
There are no hotel rooms at the Resort at Paws Up. Instead, there are lodges with space for up to eight guests and tents for up to six.
Homes begin at $441 per night per person, and luxury tents begin at $470 per night per person. The cost includes daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The rates also include several activities per person during the stay. Guests can purchase additional activities.
The ranch provides transportation to and from the Missoula airport, a savings of $150 in cab fare. Additionally, vans drive guests to activities during the day and in the evenings.
“You don’t have to wait until summer to have your family reunion,” Robertson said. And you also don’t have to wait for the coronavirus. The resort is currently open and practicing social distancing for your safety, but check cdc.gov for current travel recommendations.
Reservations and activities are available throughout the year, from fly fishing in the summer to skiing in the winter.
The closest airport is the Missoula International Airport. A roundtrip ticket from D.C. to Missoula costs around $400. For more information about Paws Up, visit pawsup.com or call 1-877-580-6343.