Urban Cowgirl

Chic city slickers trade saddlebags for horse saddles and get wild in the Old West at The Resort at Paws Up.

A famous Californian, John Steinbeck, once said, “I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”

It’s hard to argue with Steinbeck’s feeling for Big Sky Country. As its nickname implies, a brilliant blue canopy envelops verdant hills and snow-caped mountains to create one stunning panorama—the kind Lewis and Clark encountered with astonishment during their early-1800s expedition. In Montana you inhale, then exhale, repeat … and give permission for any stress or burden that might be holding you to back disappear with every release.


The Resort at Paws Up might be one of the state’s most talked-about upscale ranch getaways. Positioned 35 minutes northeast of Missoula in Greenough—a little town nestled in the heart of the Blackfoot Valley—the rural property is a short connection flight and drive for visitors coming from the West Coast.

The resort itself sits on a sprawling 37,000-acre authentic working cattle ranch, outfitted with both expansive private homes and sophisticated, safari-style luxury tents. Both the accommodations and common areas are scattered among the property to ensure privacy and undisturbed experience. The resort offers shuttles and convenient green Kia Souls to cruise around at leisure.

Drawing from the agricultural wealth of Montana and the West, executive chef Ben Jones created refined, rustic ranch cuisine that articulately blends the most sophisticated culinary techniques with the freshest meats, produce and ingredients available. Huckleberries picked from the slopes of surrounding mountains might complement a breakfast of French toast and handmade sausage. Fresh Rocky Mountain trout sautéed with herbs might be paired with an exquisite Napa Valley chardonnay.

“I believe that I should be able to make every guest smile,” says Chef Ben, “perhaps by the way I present my dishes or where I buy my vegetables or from the simple vapor from a dish that takes them back to a memory long lost. When I discovered that food was my creative outlet—as well as the most satisfying way to make people happy—it became my passion.”

Enjoy the atmosphere at either of the two on-property restaurants, or soak up the rustic atmosphere at a lavish barbeque where guests may indulge in vintage wines as dinner sizzles nearby.
Discretely nestled on the edge of an expansive meadow, Spa Town is a colony of pristine white tents stitched together by a wooden boardwalk, situated just past an authentic babbling brook and nestled among towering pines. The welcome tents feature full baths and showers, while individual treatment tents are fashioned with a lovely sink, a heated massage table and a view of the meadows spotted with horses.

A traditional “spa” soundtrack isn’t required because the brook, chirping birds and a rustle of the wind in the trees above is played daily by Mother Nature herself. This is one occasion where you won’t mind “getting lost” in the woods.

While Paws Up is open to the public in the late spring, summer and winter holiday season, there’s one special weekend each year reserved exclusively for women. The Cowgirl Spring Roundup, limited to 50 participants, is a three-day experience. It includes cowgirl skills workshops; a ranch photography clinic with award-winning Barbra Van Cleve; and conversations with freestyle champion Stacy Westfall, artist and costume designer Cathy Smith, and Dr. Eleanor Green—a pioneer in equine veterinary medicine. In between the mingling, guests will enjoy relaxing trail rides, wrangling, clay shooting, hiking, campfires and, of course, fine dining and amazing accommodations outfitted in Western chic.

The Cowgirl Spring Roundup is scheduled for April 27-30, 2017 and open to women and girls ages 12 and older. For more, call 877-588-6783 or visit pawsup.com.