LOGE Camps plans to begin renovation of the historic Izaak Walton Inn near Glacier National Park this spring. Credit: Justin Franz / MTFP

Officials with the Washington-based hospitality company that purchased the historic Izaak Walton Inn near Glacier National Park in December say their company is growing rapidly and they see big opportunities in Montana in the years ahead. 

In fact, just weeks after LOGE Camps sealed the deal on the Izaak Walton in Essex, it purchased a second Montana property, the old Mountain Valley Inn near downtown Missoula, which it plans to renovate and reopen this fall.

LOGE (pronounced “Lodge” and standing for “Live Outside, Go Explore”) was founded in 2016 and has locations in Bend, Oregon.; Alta Crystal, Westport and Leavenworth, Washington; and Mt. Shasta, California, and will soon open two new facilities in South Fork, Colorado, and Taos, New Mexico. LOGE’s mission is to “find forgotten motels near our favorite towns and trails, and bring them back to life,” and it likes to do that in communities with plenty of recreational opportunities. 

Located on the southern edge of Glacier National Park, the Izaak Walton Inn — a historic railroad lodge built in 1939 — fits that ethos perfectly, said Slate Olson, head of marketing for LOGE. The company purchased the inn and the 100-acre resort, which includes a number of old rail cars converted to cabins, for $13.5 million in December. In the following weeks, LOGE officials traveled to Essex to hold a town hall meeting to introduce themselves to the community, dispel rumors about their plans (including one alleging plans to turn the resort into a nudist colony) and assure locals that they respect the history of the lodge. 

This spring, LOGE Camps plans to close the inn and its surrounding property for significant renovations. (The company stopped taking new reservations this week, but is honoring reservations already on the books until the end of May). When it reopens, hopefully in November, it will be renamed “LOGE Glacier,” in line with the naming of its other properties. Olson said the historic name will likely remain on the outside of the lodge structure and the restaurant inside (currently called “The Dining Car Restaurant”) may be rebranded in homage to the inn’s original name. 

LOGE plans to refurbish all the rooms as well as the community areas, including the basement bar, long a popular hangout for guests and locals alike. Olson said room keys will be replaced with keycodes so guests don’t have to check in at the front desk anymore. The company also plan to soundproof the rooms (Olson notes that it’s currently pretty easy to hear your next-door neighbor coughing in the lodge), though it’s unclear how much could be done to reduce the noise of the trains that rumble by the inn at all hours. 

A trademark of the inn is the collection of historic railroad photos and advertisements that line the hallways and walls of the bar. Olson said some of the more historic items will remain, but other artifacts may be taken down in the renovation. 

“We want to respect the heritage of the place but also move it along,” Olson said. “We want the community to feel as if this is a newer version of itself.”

Olson said LOGE’s management is respectful of the inn’s history and that, as the company’s only property currently on the National Register of Historic Places, the inn is a unique addition to the company’s portfolio. But inclusion on the historic register does not prohibit an owner from making changes, even significant ones, to a building, according to John Boughton, the national register coordinator with the Montana State Historic Preservation Office. 

“We want to respect the heritage of the place but also move it along. We want the community to feel as if this is a newer version of itself.”

Slate Olson, head of marketing for LOGE, on changes coming to the Izaak Walton Inn

While renovating a beloved lodge near Glacier National Park might require a delicate balancing act for LOGE, remodeling Missoula’s Mountain Valley Inn will be considerably more straightforward. The 58-room hotel on Broadway Street had been vacant for a number of years and was listed for sale at $3.6 million. LOGE plans to revamp the property with the hope of reopening in late October or early November. 

“We’re going to take what has essentially been a derelict building and bring a new energy to it,” Olson said. 

Besides lodging, the company hopes to open a cafe, conference center and outdoor gathering area. Olson said the company plans to host community events like musical performances at the site, too. 

Olson said the company hopes to expand its presence even further into Montana, beyond Missoula and Essex, and that it is eyeing opportunities in two or three other communities, though he wouldn’t say where. Olson said LOGE isn’t interested in putting roots down in more popular tourist destinations, like Aspen or Vail, but rather ones that haven’t gotten as much attention in the past. With that in mind, Olson said, Montana is the perfect fit for the company’s ethos. 

“We think there are a lot of places that are less discovered that we think people will really want to explore,” he said.  

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Justin Franz is a freelance writer, photographer and editor based in Whitefish. Originally from Maine, he is a graduate of the University of Montana's School of Journalism and worked for the Flathead Beacon for nine years. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Seattle Times and New York Times. Find him at justinfranz.com or follow him on Twitter.