Oh, the Montana sky..." I've always wanted to say that since I was really young and read some romance novel that used Montana as a backdrop.
I have always had an inkling to visit Montana (Wyoming as well, but that must have been another book). I think I fell in love with the rustic feel of it. Over the years, when I saw anything pertaining to Montana, I would read it no matter the subject.
A few years back, I did some looking into dude ranches for a group of families to do something different over the summer break.
Although I knew there were many, I did not realize just how many there were until I contacted one of the associations. In just under one week I had filled a filing drawer with information on various ranches.
There are so many options to choose from in as many states it was quite a chore to narrow it down for my clients.
They chose a family guest ranch in Colorado that had activities for multiple age groups. They had such a wonderful experience horseback riding, hiking, fishing, river rafting, hay rides and they even participated in a cattle drive.
My client said it was the most rewarding experiences they ever had as a family.
There are many options for these ranches. Some are considered true dude ranches, while others choose to describe themselves as guest ranches, most of which are either working ranches that invite their guests to participate in their daily chores (remember the movie "City Slickers"?), or somewhat of a ranch environment, where you can choose your ranch activities.
There are ranch resorts that are more on a luxury and some include full spa options. There is certainly a ranch for everyone's taste.
I recently came upon a Montana property, the Paws Up Luxury Ranch (it is one of our agency's signature properties), that brings me all the way back to those early days of not only reading those novels but also backpacking and camping.
What makes Paws Up stand out over others is that it is not just a hotel or resort or even a dude ranch, it's a little of all of them, only mixed with luxury homes and campsites.
I took a look at their website and fell in love with it. Horses running wild, lonely fishermen standing in the creek fly fishing, empty Adirondack chairs sitting along the edge of the river with my name all over them. I picture myself just sitting there watching the water run by.
The Resort at Paws Up is located 35 minutes northeast of Missoula, Mont., in Greenough, a little town nestled in the heart of the Blackfoot Valley.
Paws Up is located on 37,000 acres of pristine Montana wilderness. Ten miles of the Blackfoot River flows right through the property. Nearby attractions include Glacier National Park (three hours) and Yellowstone National Park (five and a half hours), but be warned, there is so much to do at this resort that you'll not want to leave.
This unique property is certainly one of a kind. You can choose from 28 luxury vacation ranch homes to rent or 18 luxury camping tents; this type of camping in luxury is called glamping.
There really is nothing like sleeping under the stars, listening to nature and calling your butler when you need an extra pillow.
The resort offers glamping accommodations in Tent City, an award-winning glamping community; River Camp, a luxury camp situated on the banks of the legendary Blackfoot River; and Creekside Camp, the newest and most luxurious that opened in July 2010.
Generally speaking, each resort will include most activities and meals. Some may have additional activities that may have a fee attached, depending on the options one chooses.
Pricing for the various ranches vary and most require a seven-night stay during peak season (late June to mid August) although there are three-, four-, five- and six-night packages outside of high season at some properties.
The recommendation is a minimum of five nights to get the best experience.
During peak season, and depending on the resort, a seven-night stay starts at about $1,500 per adult and children fares vary depending on the resort and activities.
So folks it may be time to "giddyup" and make a wonderful memory. It is definitely on my bucket list.
Patty Toppa is a travel consultant with Gadabout Travel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.cruisetraveltours.com.