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Montana Getaway

Written and produced by Jenny Bradley

At 5 a.m. on an ordinary day, you’ll find New York designer Robin Bell still enjoying a little well-deserved REM. On this chillier-than-normal morning, however, she’s wide awake--nestled next to a warm campfire and halfway through a hot cup of coffee.

In fact, here in western Montana, where Robin is visiting The Resort at Paws Up, 5 in the morning isn’t even considered early; it’s practically rush hour. The local herd of elk is already meandering across Highway 20 in search of breakfast, and guests at the resort are hopping out of bed, eager to start the day. Hiking and delectable spa treatments are calling.

It’s experiences like these that lured Robin to Montana from Manhattan, and why she’s up at the crack of dawn to start the day. That, and the fly-fishing.

When she’s not knee-deep in design installations and paperwork for her own business called Robin Bell Interiors, there’s no place she’d rather be than enjoying the great outdoors--preferably in a spot with no cell-phone reception and no to-do lists.

"Everything in our daily lives seems so packaged for us," notes Robin. "When we come to remote places like this, we reconnect with nature. The vastness of the West is beyond our comprehension. It impacts us so we feel both insignificant and powerful. It is truly liberating."

Her motto? "Have rod, will travel," laughs Robin. And while she has traveled the world in pursuit of the perfect fly-fishing locale, The Resort at Paws Up is a new favorite.

Just a 30-minute drive from Missoula, the getaway is set on 37,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness. Accommodation options are as expansive as Montana’s much-celebrated big sky. The luxe tents (six in all) of the resort’s River Camp perch along the Blackfoot River. Decorated by resort owner Nadine Lipson, the interior of each tent conveys both her love of the West and her desire to provide the ultimate pampering experience.

"We wanted these tents to feel luxurious and very comfortable," says Lipson, "and to fit with the environment--the majesty of the river, the colors of the rocks and timber--not fight with it."

If tents aren’t your thing, ultra-elegant cabins scattered among the towering pines are full of modern conveniences.

It’s hard to object to a 5 a.m. wake-up call when the scents of sage and ponderosa pine greet you the instant you step outside.

Just down the country lane is Spa Town—the ultimate remedy for post-hike fatigue—where you can enjoy hot-stone treatments or a wellness massage dubbed "A River Runs Through It" while gazing across a meadow of wildflowers.

"This is a blessed place," sighs Robin. "The environment here is the star, and everything they’ve done is in concert with nature." 

Prefer creature comforts to roughing it? You’ve come to the right place. The Resort at Paws Up has a host of options: Tent City and River Camp offer six tents each (two with attached "kids’ quarters"). Cabins run the gamut: Big Timber Homes, Meadow Homes, and the new Wilderness Estates provide all the comforts of home--and then some--and sleep up to six people. The historic Morris Ranch House (built in 1908) is ideal for larger gatherings. Equally accommodating: Blackfoot River Lodge, The Bunkhouse, and the remote Encampment at Bull Creek.

Rates start at $725 a night for a tent, including three meals (for two). For details and booking, call 800/473-0601 or visit

Photography: Michal Venera