The Wren is a basecamp for all Missoula
By Bianca Dumas/for Montana Living
The Wren is designed to become “Basecamp Missoula.”
The pet-friendly, sports-forward Wren hotel is Missoula’s newest form of destination lodging aimed at outdoor adventurers.
There are five ski options within a two hours’ drive of town, and one - Montana Snowbowl - is so close it can be seen from the hotel’s fourth floor windows. Montana Snowbowl is known for its family-friendly atmosphere but surprisingly challenging terrain. It’s also an access point to acres of backcountry skiing in the Lolo National Forest. Cross country skiing on groomed and dog-friendly trails is available just five minutes outside of town.
Summer sports include biking, hiking and paddling. Fly fishing in Montana puts all five trout species on offer, and Missoula is at the heart of three fishable rivers: the Clark Fork, Blackfoot River and Bitterroot River, while the Lochsa River is just two hours away in Idaho, and it offers challenging whitewater. For summer fun, Brennan's Wave, a surf wave below the Higgins Street bridde, was installed on the Clark Fork. River rafters and kayakers also enjoy the Alberton Gorge, just 30 minutes west of Missoula on the Clark Fork River.
The Wren’s Main Street address has come a long way since a windowless 60s-era Days Inn stood on this spot. Bozeman-based Nest Partners, who also hold The Lark (Bozeman) and The Finch (Walla Walla) and The Sparrow (Boise, ID), decided on adaptive reuse for the existing building. It now offers four floors, 73 guest rooms, and a courtyard. Part of the fourth floor was left open to allow extra sunlight to shine in. Wraparound patios terrace the interior space above an open courtyard, and guests are found lounging at the patio tables with beverages in hand.
“The owners are interested in putting their money where their mouth is, and being part of the community,” Todd Liphardt, the Wren’s general manager, said. This meant causing as little downtown construction as possible while the hotel was being refurbished. They’ve also been intentional about bringing Missoula inside. Local art in the lobby and in the meeting space is on loan from the Missoula Art Museum. Art inside the rooms comes from 14 local artists. Their work highlights Missoula-area history and industry. A local company, Dry Fly, designed and built the hotel’s sleek, outdoorsy woodwork.
The space is also mixed-use. Just off the lobby, Black Coffee Roasting Company offers a coffee shop and co-working space and Revolvr sells menswear. This brings the energy of the city inside the hotel without compromising its sense of style and casual comfort.
What would otherwise be called a lobby is the Wren’s map room, a space made comfortable with couches and chairs under the watchful gaze of Smokey Bear. Forest Service memorabilia also decorates the space where real area maps can be perused pre-adventure. Guests might then be inspired to visit the nearby National Museum of Forest Service History.
Liphardt, who has over a decade of experience working for a large hotel chain, points out that the rooms have the refined amenities that are often found in large chain hotels. Luxury linens are from Compfy Company. Treeline Coffee places Bodum pour-over service in the rooms upon request. Lone Mountain coolers are made available for day trips.
“People are enjoying an authentic experience outside of a branded hotel,” Liphardt said. The Wren currently holds the top spot on Trip Advisor. The position was held by another Missoula hotel for eight years before The Wren came on the scene.
Rooms at the Wren include Kings, Queens, Doubles, Suites, and even a Bunkhouse. This room is touted for parents who want a little space from their kids; the bunkhouse opens into the King Suite. In the rooms, minimalist Scandinavian luxury mixes with a hint of Pendleton wool. Gear hooks, rails, and non-closet hanging for wet coats and ski bibs mean the room won’t get too battered by gear.
The Wren is in the the heart of Missoula. Steps outside the front door, visitors will find some of Missoula’s best pubs, restaurants, gear stores and breweries. (Missoula ranks second in the nation in breweries per-capita.) The downtown music scene is growing with nationally recognized acts. Live Nation has signed a contract to bring 30 top-bill shows to town, including Duran Duran, Willie Nelson, and Tyler Childers.
Missoula is very walkable and bikable, with three bridges along the Clark Fork River, and a riverside greenway. The University is nearby and serves as the access point for the hike to the “M” on Mount Sentinel and the Montana Museum of Art and Culture.
Missoula has its own ultra-convenient airport with five gates and easy transportation options to and from downtown, making it a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, no matter the time of year.