In the dreamy landscape of Montana, near the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, Trevor Harrison made a slice of paradise. I’ve been seeing images of the gorgeous landscape for the last few years through social media. And I’ve been in love with the Dreamcatcher Tipi Hotel.
This unique hotel experience, is part indoors and part outdoors, part new and part bygone. I got to ask founder Trevor Harrison about the Dreamcatcher Tipi Hotel.
BB: What is the name of the hotel and where is it located?
TH: Dreamcatcher Tipi Hotel is located 100 yards from Yellowstone River and 5 miles from the North Entrance to Yellowstone Park. It’s near the charming village of Gardiner. We’re in Montana – only 6 miles from the north border of Wyoming. We’re in the shadow of an interesting geological structure (mini-mountain?) called Devil’s Slide and in the heart of one of the largest elk migration points. Often we wake up to bald eagles fishing along the river and a herd of elk or bighorn sheep amongst the tipis. Steam rises from underground tectonic activity around the bend of the river, and I believe we’re near the epicenter of the potentially weekend-ruining, Yellowstone Super-Volcano.
Scientists assure me we might be fine.
BB: Who created the hotel and how long has it been open? What inspired Dreamcatcher Tipi Hotel?
TH: In May of 2015, I was just done with my corporate consulting job. I was working late at night from my porch in Austin and realised, after much fear and deliberation, that I couldn’t continue. I wrote two resignation emails, closed both laptops, and mailed them the next day. What would I do with myself now? I knew before I was done asking the question.
Anytime I had, was spent in the mountains. I would spend the summer camping in the woods and searching for the Forrest Fenn Treasure. Long story short, an eccentric art dealer from Santa Fe has hidden 2-3 Million Dollars in Gold and Artifacts somewhere in the Rockies. He wrote a poem in which nine clues to the treasure’s location are hidden. Sure, it could be bullshit, but I was going to find it. I needed to find it. I just quit my job. Twice my search led me to Gardiner Montana. I remember asking myself after my second search “How can I stay here?” Again, before I was done asking myself, I had the answer. And Spoiler: I didn’t find the treasure.
I traveled as a consultant for years and regularly stayed at unique boutique hotels. I considered myself a bit of an expert on what makes for the most enjoyable experience and had long fantasized that I would create something too. And while on my next treasure hunt, I failed to find a single room in the nearby towns. And I failed at an attempt to get my first real shower and bed in over a month… I knew the demand was there. I returned to my Canvas Tent high on Bald Mountain. The next morning did a cash flow analysis, literally on the back of an envelope, like a total cliche. Soon the Fenn treasure was forgotten, and I spent my days preparing pitch material and financial projections for my project.
Eventually, I talked to my mother who is a fabulous interior designer in Austin about the idea. Fortunately she loved it. And my recently retired father, had always wanted to live in Montana. So we all partnered. My mother treats each interior like a blank canvas and designs each with total uniqueness and love. She’s an unstoppable force of creativity. I set to work on the project – trading my canvas tent for a tiny tin-can-of-a-1976-trailer still parked on top of Ash Mountain. It was heaven. I’d come down to Gardiner every day. I’d park myself at the charming Tumbleweed Coffee & Books and work on the project. Within a few months, we got extremely lucky and found the land. And after many challenges, and almost a year later opened for business August 1, 2016.
BB: How are the Tipis made?
TH: The tipis are stunning. They are 22′ monumental structures with 380 square feet of floor space. It’s hard to convey the beauty of 10 of these lit up with a warm glow at night but it’s something to see. Built by Nomadic Tipis from Bend Oregon, they’ve been doing this for about 50 years. I poured circular concrete foundations for them and fitted them with electric outlets, lights, heaters, even chandeliers. The tipis are heavy canvas with 20 25′ poles supporting them and inside, high-end rugs, 12″ memory foam mattresses, and lush furnishings.
BB: The Tipis and the grounds sound so luxe. Can you tell me about the amenities and what it feels like to stay there?
TH: Well, washrooms are important. We have 6, soon to be 8, private washrooms with Heated Floors, Rain Shower Heads, and UV Treated Spring Water straight out of our mountain spring. We also hold a nightly communal bonfire with complimentary wine, craft beer, and fancy s’mores! This is the real highlight for us and for our guests. Yellowstone brings people from all over the world. It’s not unusual for us to have guests from four continents around that fire, making friends, in a single night. You can hear the elk bugling and the coyotes yipping in the distance..it’s heavenly! We also cater in a complimentary, continental breakfast with three varieties for fresh baked breads and cakes from a local baker, organic oats, Kalispell Kreamery yogurts, etc. If you eat it everyday, it will increase the size of your gut!
BB: How close are you to Yellowstone River? Corwin Springs? Yellowstone Park?
TH: We are 5 miles from the entrance. But as the crow flies, the park starts just across the river and about halfway up the mountain. We have a great view of the 6th highest mountain in the park called Electric Peak.
BB: What kind of people stay there? Do you have any amazing moments with the guests, staff, or Yellowstone Park?
TH: We really do have a great mix of guests. We’re boutique with only 10 tipis, so we have a chance to meet most of our guests. This place attracts only the adventurous and those seeking something unique. I really get spoiled with all the amazing individuals I have a chance to chat with around the fire at night. Guests from 4 continents isn’t unusual, Western Europe, Asia, South America and from a variety of occupations. Gardiner needed something unique like this, and so we’re different than anything else and perfect for those seeking a truly singular experience.
BB: Are there any insider tips of where to go and what to see near Yellowstone that’s off the beaten path?
TH: My local friends will tar and feather me if I tell! I would say, however, to those visiting Yellowstone, spend some time in the mountains around the park too. They’re nearly empty but just as beautiful! Great hiking and camping without bumping elbows with the tourists. And sure, if you come stay at Dreamcatcher I’ll draw you a map to see some great grizzlies!
BB: What’s the best way for readers to stay connected to Dreamcatcher Tipi Hotel?