THE STORY OF GOLD CREEK LODGE
Words by Dale Spangler | Photography by John Hebert
In collaboration with Fox Racing
Sometimes life decisions can’t be explained through rational means. Instead, they’re guided by what our heart tells us — what feels right and resonates. Dave McCahill grew up in the Northeast, an avid skier and mountain bike racer who dreamed of one day moving to the mountains of the West. After visiting the Northern Idaho Panhandle to ski and ride dirt bikes, he fell in love with the singletrack trails surrounding the Coeur d’Alene National Forest. He found it to be an enchanted place, everything he’d ever dreamed his life could be, and eventually relocated with his family to Coeur d’Alene to make that dream a reality.
After settling in Coeur d’Alene, he worked as a real estate agent while riding and learning the vast network of trails to the north and east, including hundreds of miles of singletrack. And it was during the fall of 2013 that a special real estate listing popped up for a remote and rustic piece of property nestled in the mountains of the Kaniksu National Forest, about three miles from the shore of picturesque Lake Pend Oreille and 40 miles northeast of Coeur d’Alene.
It was a former snowmobile lodge, and McCahill knew it would make an ideal playground for dirt bike riders, so he checked it out. He walked away with a good feeling — as if it were meant to be — and soon after, his offer on the property was accepetd. In January of 2014, he began remodeling the place into what he envisioned as a “ski resort for dirt bikes.”
Soon after opening the Gold Creek Lodge, McCahill started to meet and eventually ride with racers and industry figures like Kevin Rookstool, Cody Webb, Tarah Geiger, Colton Haaker, Thor Drake and Rory Sullivan, all of whom quickly became advocates after experiencing it firsthand. Each of them told friends and colleagues about a magical place in the mountains of Northern Idaho with some of the best trails they’d ever ridden.
As McCahill describes it, “When I started hooking up with people like Rookstool and others, it started snowballing from there.” He created word-of-mouth awareness for the lodge without spending money on traditional advertising.
“I met Dave through Rookstool the first year they opened the place,” recalls Thor Drake, visionary creator of See See Motorcycles and The One Motorcycle Show in Portland, Oregon. “The first time I came out was for my birthday, and it was pretty awesome. It was kind of a weird, rundown place then, but Dave saw the potential. It’s one of those magical places, and Dave’s one of those magical people you want to support in any way you can, so I helped connect him with a few of my friends and suppliers.”
In the ten years since his purchase, McCahill has continued to make updates, remodeling rooms and evolving the lodge to its current state. Accommodations include eight guest rooms, five RV spots, five primitive campsites and a yurt. A rustic onsite moto-themed tavern serves delicious pub fare, and there’s a bike shop staffed with mechanics who provide essential repair services, a quick fix or replacement riding gear. Guests can even rent dirt bikes from the lodge for a show-up-and-ride experience on a fully prepped, singletrack-ready machine, providing an experience they’ll never forget.
“I like to describe Gold Creek as an oasis destination resort for motorcycles,” adds McCahill. “My goal has always been to build a ski resort for dirt bikes. I started this place to share my passion for motorcycles and create a family business. This place is home, it’s family, and it’s my heart.”
The lodge is unique because of its remoteness. With 17 miles of cobbled, dusty dirt roads to navigate to the lodge, it’s a challenge not everyone’s willing to accept, which makes visiting more of an exclusive experience. As if the place isn’t already incredible enough, Gold Creek also offers guests an optional boat shuttle service from the Vista Bay Marina across Lake Pend Oreille to McCahill’s boathouse, which makes for an even more memorable start to one’s stay.
A staff of 10 to 12 full-time employees lives onsite during the summer months, including McCahill’s two sons. The eldest, Aiden, is an expert-level skier who manages day-to-day operations at the lodge, while his younger brother Declan is an aspiring hard enduro and EnduroCross racer who pitches in when and where he’s needed and helps with guest relations. Both are hardworking, grounded young men who genuinely appreciate the life they’ve been afforded. “The lodge has been my whole life since I was twelve,” notes Aiden. “It’s a world-class spot, and we get to be in it every day, so we’re pretty lucky. It’s definitely an epic spot to spend a summer.”
The staff as a whole is a unique group of people who enjoy living the remote life. They live and work surrounded by dirt bikers, mountain bikers, and other off-road enthusiasts, where the lingua franca is always motorcycles. They work hard, ride hard, and embrace their peaceful existence away from the hustle and bustle of the city. A kind-hearted, eclectic group of men and women who genuinely love living and working in such an incredible place.
“I love working for Dave and Aiden,” explains Kristen Harris, head of housekeeping and retail merchandising at the lodge. “They’re awesome people to hang out with and are my moto family. I get to work at this amazing dirt bike resort in the middle of nowhere, where you can ride all day, jump in the lake afterward, have great food, and then hang out with friends. I’ve done the city lifestyle before, but I’d much rather be in the woods.”
Gold Creek Lodge arguably has some of the best singletrack riding in the country. The region’s numerous trails and vastness mean something for everyone, from mellow two-track to fast-and-flowing singletrack, to steep-and-narrow hard-enduro-style slogs. This year, McCahill expanded on his vision by offering all-inclusive adventure packages that combine lodging, dirt bike rental, after-ride activities, food, beer and airport shuttle service. Each package is designed to provide guests with an immersive riding experience that can be found only in the mountains of Northern Idaho.
During our stay, we experienced but a fraction of the total trails. With such an expansive network, it’s no surprise that Gold Creek has quietly become a destination for off-road adventure seekers from around the globe. “Anyone you bring out here, they’re like, ‘wow!’ because you’re so far out here, and it’s its own little paradise, own little world out here,” says former off-road and pro motocross racer Rookstool. “Once people come, they keep coming back, and there’s a lot of repeat customers. For me, it’s like a second home.”
“The two things I love most about this place are the people and the fact that you can do what you want, and nobody says you can’t,” adds Drake. “If you want to go rip some trails, do some gnarly stuff, go as fast as you want, nobody’s going to be mad at you for that. It’s a real treat. It’s everything you want balled up into an oasis in the woods. With good food, the best bikes you can rent, and the best trails, it’s hard to believe it exists.”
McCahill and the incredible staff at Gold Creek Lodge have created a formula that captures the essence of adventure through a bucket list destination for dirt bikers. It’s a summer camp for the soul rider who wants to escape reality for a while, forget about life’s problems, and live in the moment. A peaceful paradise where the distractions of daily life fade with each passing day.
“What I hope people get out of an experience at Gold Creek Lodge is a memorable trip of a lifetime,” McCahill says. “They get to ride some of the most beautiful trails in the country and be around motorcycle people and culture. Hopefully, they tap into this sense of freedom, which is one of the main reasons we all ride motorcycles.”