Situated 40 minutes east of Missoula’s airport, this family-friendly resort is set on a 37,000-acre cattle ranch in the glacier-carved Blackfoot Valley of Montana, made famous by Norman Maclean’s book “A River Runs Through It” and Robert Redford’s subsequent movie with Brad Pitt. We have long recommended The Resort at Paws Up, but a handful of member complaints last year concerned us. I resolved to pay the property an anonymous visit and evaluate the situation myself.
As we turned onto the road leading down to the Lewis & Clark Reception Barn, we had the pleasure to admire the grand snow-covered estate spread out before us. The centrally located reception building, a popular venue for conferences and weddings, showcased a life-size taxidermied bear and a Western-chic décor. After a speedy check-in, the staff downloaded the Paws Up application to our phones and encouraged us to use it for all further communication. They then sent us on our way, unescorted, to our Big Timber Home. The property encompasses 28 one- to four-bedroom vacation homes (ranging from 1,100 to 3,250 square feet), screened from one another by hundreds of yards of mature forest. From mid-May through mid-October, Paws Up offers the alternative of six camps, each comprising six luxurious safari-style tents, that cater to families and larger groups.
We were disappointed to discover that the path up to our Timber Home had not been de-iced, the hot tub most definitely was not, and the heat had not been turned on. The pre-cut wood and newspaper next to the fire stove were a welcome touch, but the stove’s latch was broken. The duct tape that had formerly held it in place dangled ineffectually.