Rambling across 37,000 acres of Big Sky wilderness 35 miles east of Missoula, The Resort at Paws Up is etched with a 10-mile stretch of the Blackfoot River. So fly fishing is a ritual in these parts, as well as the rest of the great outdoors inherent with the dude ranch lifestyle.
“For attendees as active as ours, Paws Up is a gold mine,” says Brett Jarvis, planner and partner with Laguna Beach-based International Site Alliance. “You can do just about anything there.” His group of 24 split into six teams for ATV geocaching followed with a high-end awards picnic lunch and then a rafting adventure. The highlight, however, was that evening’s chuckwagon dinner on the river. “We had a hatchet thrower teaching us the technique while a family played bluegrass music. It was an absolutely beautiful evening.”
Richly appointed accommodations for 150 range from a converted barn loft to the private 3,200-sf, 3-suite Wilderness Estates. All blend Western swank with modern elegance thanks to hot tubs, enormous decks, modern kitchens and speedy WiFi.
For smaller groups of 10 that fancy the concept of camping more than its reality, Paws Up kicks it up a luxe notch with “glamping” in its Tent City and River Camp. Upscale heavy-duty canvas abodes with electricity are decked out with hardwood floors, king feather beds dressed with fine linens and even a “camping butler.” It’s nature served on a silver platter.
“We have over 30 activity choices and a full Wilderness Adventure rec center staffed with professional guides,” says John Romfo, director of sales/marketing. “And we focus on preserving the environment as we celebrate what’s true to us—our big space.” He adds, “Groups can gather at our 76,000-sf equestrian facility in evening, enjoy a vintage pinot noir flight with hors d’oeuvres in the Sky Box, then mosie over to our working Tack Room for a wine pairing dinner with bison ribeye or Rocky Mountain trout. There are so many upscale possibilities here.”
HORSES, HISTORY + HOSPITALITY Since 1965 at their home outside Tucson, the True family has blended the hospitality and informality of a traditional dude ranch with the service and comforts of a fine resort. In its classic Arizona setting, the 3,000-acre White Stallion Ranch is cupped within a legendary landscape at the foot of the ruggedly beautiful Tucson Mountains adjacent to Saguaro National Park.
Situated throughout the WiFi-ready ranch, 41 guest rooms and a private 4-bedroom Hacienda are appointed in traditional Southwestern style with private patios, while deluxe suites feature fireplaces and whirlpool baths.
Riding is the name of the game here, with attendees saddling up for heap of trail treks led by friendly wranglers who also maintain the working ranch. Options run the gamut from mellow wine and cheese jaunts into the desert to competitive team cattle penning where more advanced riders work in sync to round up and herd steers into a pen. There’s also the Saturday rodeo with steer wrestling, team roping and barrel racing. For business, The Longhorn Room handles 120 for banquets.
Also look into the leadership workshops through White Stallion’s partnership with Western Challenge, which uses horse training skills to teach executive development.
For more upscale dude ranches and country clubs in Tucson, check out the Tanque Verde Ranch Resort, Arizona Inn and The Lodge at Ventana Canyon.
Outside Phoenix, Rancho de los Caballeros features 79 casitas, top ranked golf, a southwestern spa and lessons for calf roping and shotgun shootin’. The horse stables house over 100 horses for team-penning events, previously booked by groups such as Afflack, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Mary Kay.