Visitors come to Bozeman, Montana, (approximate population 42,000) for many reasons. It's a gateway to Yellowstone National Park and nearby Big Sky Resort, it's home to Montana State University and, thanks to a surplus of cultural, dining and entertainment opportunities, it's a legitimate destination in it's own right.
In the past, lodging in Bozeman consisted of a handful of chain hotels along the interstate and dubious throwback motor inns around town.
The LARK opened in 2015 changing the local game as the first boutique hotel offering a fully immersive Bozeman experience with a location right in the heart of downtown Bozeman.
The original wing of the hotel is a completely renovated 1960s motor lodge. This summer, the hotel completed a two-year expansion that added a new four-level, 29-room wing to the existing hotel, creating a total of 67 rooms. Beyond the fresh, clean modern aesthetic, what really strikes you about The Lark is the Bozeman-ness of it. That might seem like an odd statement considering the classic western brick buildings dominating Main Street. But thanks in large part to a robust architecture program at MSU, Bozeman is brimming with unique modern design, and The Lark stands out as one of the most notable examples.
The hotel is locally owned by a partnership of businesses that include local architectural design group ThinkTank, which is responsible for conceiving the overall design aesthetic, with a focus on imparting a unique local vibe to the hotel by integrating area artisans and utilizing local materials.
We stayed for two nights in August, visiting friends and family in the area. We pulled in after a circuitous drive from Oregon that included camping along the way, and were ready for some civilization. The hotel was able to accommodate our truck camper in the limited parking spaces; they offer complimentary valet parking in a lot two blocks away, but they made an exception for us and for a few other oversized adventure mobiles staying at the hotel. We also took advantage of the valet check for our bikes, which is a welcome amenity.
We checked into a West King room in the new addition. The hotel had an immediate calming effect with a palette of white and natural wood, metal and leather interspersed with bright hits of color. The room was spacious with unique artisan-built tables and modern lights, and a well-thought-out bathroom layout. Each of the rooms feature unique art, all of which are minimalist pen and ink style drawings highlighting local features.
Above our bed was an infographic detailing the Hebgen Lake earthquake of 1959 – fitting, as my great grandfather ran the Hebgen Dam back in the day (how did they know?). We checked out other rooms and each time the graphics caught my eye – cool renderings of the local ski hill, fun stats about the state of Montana, and more info than you ever need to know about the native grasslands and native fish – all effectively immersing you in this little corner of Montana.
The view from the new expansion was equally as captivating. Our fourth floor room had us just about eye-level with The Baxter, Bozeman's tallest building across the street, and it’s locally famous flashing blue light to alert the community of fresh snow at nearby Bridger Bowl Ski Area. Off in the distance you could see the Bridger Range and the foothills heading east toward Livingston, while just down below was the silent hustle and bustle of Bozeman's Main Street.
Unlike hotels that prefer guests to eat and play at their property, the mantra of The LARK is to encourage visitors to explore downtown and head out to the mountains and rivers. The main lobby is an information hub for visitors anchored by a large Map Room filled with local USGS maps and guidebooks. The lobby opens to an outdoor fireplace with bench seating right along the sidewalk on Main Street – a spot that would be equally welcoming in the winter as it is during the summer.
The downtown location was the perfect jumping-off point for us to bike through the leafy historic neighborhoods and the vast network of trails in Bozeman. We brought our own bikes, but the hotel offers discounted bike rentals at nearby Owenhouse Cycling.
We found ourselves constantly stopping in the lobby to fill our water bottles with reverse-osmosis water from the tap, recharge with complimentary Treeline coffee and teas, and to get suggestions from staff on places to eat and explore. None of their recommendations disappointed, from the great breakfasts at the busy new Jam On Main across the street, to the local's scene at Map Brewing.
Of course we ended both evenings back at the hotel, eating Genuine Ice Cream food truck right outside in The LARK’s common area. In the mornings, I'd head downstairs to catch up on work in the new lobby-level Treeline Coffee Roasters. The coffee shop opens to the sidewalk with locals and visitors alike pecking away at their keyboards and catching up. I felt like I was right in step with the rhythm of Bozeman.
Our stay over was relaxing and rejuvenating and a great way to explore Bozeman. We headed out, feeling recharged and ready for the active itinerary ahead of us just south in Big Sky and Yellowstone Park.
Some additional information to know before you go: Prices at The Lark average $150 to $300 per night, depending on the season. Summer was a blast, but we're already planning a stay at the hotel in the winter--I love the idea of ending the day at The LARK after a full day of riding Bridger Bowl.
As a final note: The hotel also offers attached and detached bunkrooms to affordably accommodate large families or groups – a thoughtful addition. The Lark offers booking online or at 406-624-3070.
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