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Columbia Falls campground provides vintage experience

In World
June 09, 2024

Jun. 9—Both the grounds and campers at Urban Woods Camp have a retro vibe.

The brightly colored interiors and exteriors of the campers paired with the campground’s location in the heart of Columbia Falls, provide a unique camping experience for those looking to easily access outdoor activities while still enjoying the amenities of being in town. Outfitted with 10 campers, Urban Woods Camp is Northwest Montana’s only retro trailer camping experience.

Apart from the essential amenities such as a private bathroom and kitchen, each reservation includes access to a stereo, charcoal grill, picnic table, pour over coffee maker, cruiser bikes, a community fire pit, and a game room equipped with ping pong, old school arcade games, pop-a-shot basketball, shuffleboard, cornhole and board games.

Erick Gelbke, the camp host, manager, and self-proclaimed “poop tank technician” said, “We’re lucky to live in a tourist area.

I’ve always chosen to live in a tourist area because it’s usually an amazing place,” he said. When people come to visit, they’re here because they want to be here as opposed to just passing through. Maybe they’ve been planning this trip to Glacier National Park and waited their whole life to come here, so I just love being able to spread that joy for people.”

A previous waiter, bartender, and manager for rentals at Whitefish Lake, Gelbke has always dreamed of having a campground to care for. After getting in contact with Urban Woods Camp owners, Kelcey and Tawnya Bigham, Gelbke was brought on as manager and has been involved in every aspect — from marketing to carpentry — to bring life to the vision of Urban Woods Camp.

“I’m involved in taking care of the plants, learning about all of these campers, and solving problems, as well as the people part. I like people and I’ve always been in customer service so I really enjoy when I do have guests to interact with, answer questions for, and help them out. I’ve thrived here,” said Gelbke.

Each brightly decorated vintage-style camper has a name nodding to prominent features such as “Going to the Sun Road” and “North Fork” and Gelbke said in the future, he wants to add a piece of art or photograph for each camper’s namesake.

“Each one is a little different,” he said. “We’ve recently upgraded the mattresses and added down comforters and nice pillows so when you come in, it’s presented in a way that’s nice and there is usually a little custom coffee for your first day.”

Campers can accommodate solo travelers, couples, or small families — the roomiest model has a queen bed and bunk bed. Gelbke said part of what makes the camp unique is the closeness to town while still maintaining a campground status.

The name Urban Woods truly reflects their space and provides comfort to those who may be dipping their toes into a camping experience for the first time.

“Maybe you don’t want to or you don’t have the ability to pull a camper across the country, or you don’t want to stay in a tent in the dirt, but you still want to have a little bit of the rustic sense of camping,” said Gelbke. “This is still within walking distance to the grocery store, the bars, and the restaurants, and the entertainment.”

Other walkable features include a walk along the Flathead River, a boat launch, baseball fields, parks, and a future skatepark.

The campground is open in the summer, but going forward, Gelbke says the goal is to provide lodging during the winter season. The entire campground can be rented out for work retreats, weddings, family reunions, and other events.

“We’re trying to create an experience that’s completely different from anybody else,” said Gelbke. “With our landscaping and the style and vibe, we spend a lot of time creating the space and making an environment that is completely unique and tailored, and manicured in a way that you’re not going to find in most other campgrounds.”

Urban Woods Camp is located at 201 U.S. 2 in Columbia Falls. For more information, visit urbanwoodscamp.com or on Instagram at @urbanwoodscamp.

Reporter Summer Zalesky may be reached at szalesky@dailyinterlake.com.

Brightly colored retro campers are the hallmark of the Urban Woods Camp in Columbia Falls. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Guy of Treeline Creative)

Urban Woods Camp offers a variety of amenities including a game room equipped with ping pong and arcade games. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Guy of Treeline Creative)

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