Words and photos: Projekt Roam
It was one of those brilliant and crisp late summer mornings. Bird calls resonated throughout the forest, harmonizing with the hum of bike tires, creating a relaxing background melody. The two of us were exploring the Whitefish Trail system, dodging bears and spying on bushy tailed foxes, when we stumbled upon a small, strategically placed sign and side trail. Whitefish Bike Retreat, the sign read, with an arrow pointing off through the trees in a different direction. Intrigued, we diverted along the smaller path and quickly made our way along more staple, Montana single track.
The end of our route deposited us in front of a huge and inviting converted barn, nestled in the heart of the growing Whitefish Trail system. Lofty pines bordered the drive as we made our way up to the bunk house, the main building of the Whitefish Bike Retreat. Peace and serenity radiated from the surroundings. We couldn’t believe we had stumbled upon this incredible haven in the middle of the forest, amidst a trail system full of amazing single track.
Our impromptu side trip could not have been more impeccably timed as well. As we rolled to a stop, gaping in wonder at our surroundings, an adorable Heeler dog bounded up, taunting us playfully with a ridiculously large stick and wagging tail. Just mere moments later we were greeted warmly by the smiling proprietor, Cricket Butler, who just so happened to be heading up to the bunk house and was more than happy to give us a tour of the place. Curious to find out what exactly we had stumbled upon, we gladly accepted.
It was love at first sight. As soon as you step into the foyer, you are greeted with a spacious open floor plan, while exposed wooden beams and supports lend solidity to the structure. Upcycled bike parts of mismatched origins tastefully and creatively adorn the interior of the Bike Retreat, providing functionality in many instances as well. Comfy couches and an assortment of movies are tucked away in one corner for evening relaxation and down time. Everything about the place was so well thought out; tasteful accompanied by a touch of Montana rustic, with a flair for modern. It was quickly proving itself to be an amazing place to stay while you were on a bike-cation.
As we conversed with Cricket she inundated us, in a good way, with a list of all the amenities her Retreat provided. The downstairs portion of the main bunk lodge was equipped with a communal kitchen, separate mens’ and womens’ full baths with showers, and a very roomy indoor common area. Upstairs boasts private rooms, gender specific bunk rooms, and a half bath along with picturesque views of the evergreens outside.
Complimentary, secured indoor bicycle storage is available and if you need to tune up your bike in preparation for the radically good biking times your about to have, there is a clean, well stocked bike workshop to get your stuff dialed; all open and available for guests. For a full compilation of all the wonderful things the Bike Retreat has to offer, including shuttle services, take a few minutes to peruse their website.
Tranquil tent sites, tucked away among fragrant pines, are available for guests looking to go au natural and camp outdoors. A bonus of camping here is the communal indoor and outdoor amenities and services are open to camping guests as well.
After taking a moment to wash off the remnants of a stellar day of riding from your bike in the last of the sun’s warming rays, the full weight of the relaxing atmosphere sets in. The outdoor rec area, with its toasty fire pit, beckons. The grill awaits. Yet another perfect touch to wrap up a sensational day.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that a common theme among guests, ourselves included, is how taken aback everyone is at how much the Whitefish Bike Retreat truly has to offer. From the aromatic scents of freshly brewed, locally roasted coffee and baked goods greeting you in the mornings, to the shuttle services and a growing trail network right out the front door. It’s a complete package, a wonderful place to stay and really feel comfortable and at home.
As amazing as that all is, I think it is the genuine hospitality that wholly envelopes you during the entire stay that really stands out. This friendly and welcoming atmosphere that emanates from the cozy hostel permeates the entire town as well; from the populace you bump into on the abundant trails to the locals that greet you with a smile and wave downtown.
It’s easy to discern why Cricket decided to permanently call Whitefish home in early 2012. “…Whitefish has always felt like home to me-from my first visit 20 years ago. I am attracted to the remoteness, severity of weather, the wildlife, and boundless wilderness areas here. There is no other place like Montana and I really wanted my sons to grow up with all this!”
And speaking of Cricket’s two young sons, she has to be doing something right, for they are quite adept at helping Mom to run the place; proving themselves to be budding business entrepreneurs as well. If you’re fortunate enough to spend some time here, you just might encounter them running the on-sight mini general store that provides basic essentials, including maps, snacks, and quick fix bike gear.
Overall, the Whitefish Bike Retreat was one of my favorite places to be when I spent time in Montana this past summer. I knew we would be returning to the Retreat time and again regardlessly, but when Cricket mentioned she would be offering fat bike rentals for biking in the snow, I knew we would be heading back in the snowy season as well. How awesome is that going to be considering the area has a local ski resort, to get a bike and board fix all in one trip!?!
Needless to say, the Whitefish Bike Retreat is as delightful and multifaceted as the town and state it resides in. When I asked Cricket what she felt three important things about the Bike Retreat were that she would like people to know and she said, “Come stay, wake up, and ride!!!” I couldn’t have said it more perfectly myself.
If you would like a more in depth look at what the local riding area has to offer, check out our PROJEKT ROAM: Landscapes Vol 3, featuring the Whitefish Trail system, right outside the door of the Whitefish Bike Retreat in Whitefish, MT.
Projekt Roam was founded by husband and wife, Colt and Jessee Maule in 2010. It has been their mission to travel North America in search of places that celebrate the unparalleled beauty and freedom of not only the bike, but the terrain we ride as well. Plan your own trip to Whitefish, MT and check out more photos, film, and riding locations throughout North America at www.gravityrideguide.com.
Words: Jessee Maule
Photos/Film: Colt & Jessee Maule (August 2013)
Riders: Colt & Jessee Maule
For more work by Projekt Roam: