48 Degrees North

Rural Refuge, Urban Woods

With a fleet of 10 refurbished vintage campers and a postage stamp of property on the doorstep of Glacier National Park, a local couple has created a retro basecamp for visitors and stay-cationers alike

By Tristan Scott
Photo by Amanda Guy, Treeline Creative.

Anyone who’s fortunate enough to live full-time on the doorstep of Glacier National Park is all too familiar with the Flathead Valley’s most demanding time of year — visitor season.

No matter if the season is high or low, warm or cold, busy or slow, if you’ve got a guest room, someone’s bound to come calling. That’s just one small reason that longtime local builders Kelcey and Tawnya Bingham decided to create Urban Woods, a deluxe glampground with disco fever, where their forested rural refuge in Columbia Falls is bedecked with retro regalia.

“Basically, we just wanted our summers back,” says Kelcey, describing the impetus behind a concept that began as a side-hustle to liberate the Binghams’ guestroom (and their bathroom), but which has since evolved into a fully realized venture for visitors looking to strike a balance between a vacation rental and an RV park. 

“What we ended up creating is a setting where people can feel as though they’re camped out in this woodsy environment, but they can also hop on a beach cruiser and pedal downtown for a beer and a burger,” he added.

“We know firsthand what it feels like to spend a full day hiking in the park or rafting, and then you get done and reality sets in,” says Tawnya. “You don’t want to return to civilization, but you’re also craving a burger and a beer and you don’t want to set up a tent. We’ve got you covered.”

Photo by Amanda Guy, Treeline Creative.
Photo by Amanda Guy, Treeline Creative.

For the past several years, deluxe glamping properties have been popping up in gateway communities across the U.S., but the Binghams wanted to transform their property into a destination that set it apart from the standard luxury tent-camping resort or yurt compound.

To that end, they outfitted the property with a fleet of 10 brightly colored retro campers restored by Riverside Retro, and which will be available for booking starting in May. Depending on the size, the RVs will sleep two to four guests and are equipped with air conditioners, bathrooms and kitchens — some even have bathtubs.

For example, the North, Middle and South Fork campers might appeal to a family of four whose post-float digs would feature a queen-sized bed in the front and bunk beds in the rear, plus a dinette that converts to an additional bed. The Red Eagle, Firebrand, Ptarmigan, and Thunderbird campers, meanwhile, each have a queen-sized bed in the front and a large bump-out dinette that converts to a bed. The Two Medicine and Many Glacier campers are more suited to “the adventurous solo traveler or couple traveling with one child.”

Photo by Amanda Guy, Treeline Creative.

To help manage the property, the Binghams enlisted longtime local Erick Gelbke to help bring the concept to life, which he succeeded at during a soft opening last summer. With a flair for the aesthetic and a strong sense of retro verve in his own right, Gelbke helped round out the Urban Woods experience by equipping a communal game room and group patio area with vintage arcade machines, bookshelves brimming with old-school board games, corn hole, shuffleboard, pop-a-shot basketball, beach cruisers, charcoal barbecues, and patio fire pits.

“We’re analog warriors,” Gelbke said. “Honestly, we’ve gotten as much positive feedback about that aspect of Urban Woods as anything else, including the campers and the landscaping, which are really, really nice, if I do say so myself.”

Each guest or group of guests will find a leather-bound book in their camper with cross-promotional materials for local businesses, including in nearby Columbia Falls, where breweries, bakeries, saloons, eateries, and open-air markets abound.

“We designed it not only as a place where we’d want to hang out, but also where we’d want our families and friends to hang out,” Kelcey said.

Book your stay at Urban Woods by visiting urbanwoodscamp.com or follow them on Instagram @urbanwoodscamp.