Looking for a new getaway experience? Up, up and away in a treehouse could be just the ticket.
Forest bathing takes on a whole new element among the treetops. When Victoria Cantwell wants to watch the evening fireflies, she climbs the staircase to the treehouse she had built on her Argyle, New York, property. She can make a cup of hot tea in the kitchenette and settle in the loft, watching the light show through the clear roof. “On crisp cotton sheets with the breeze coming through, it’s pretty magical, really,” says Cantwell, 62. “It does have that wonder of being a child in a treehouse.”
Riding the coattails of the now-concluded television show Treehouse Masters, which showcased the architectural feat of building fully functional houses around the trunks and in the branches of living trees, treehouses are on the rise as popular vacation rentals.
Each one is unique by design because each must be engineered to stay steady while perched 15 to 25 feet above the ground, typically supported by mature trees, steel pillars, and pylons. That singularity also means that potential overnight guests can’t assume anything as they explore treehouses to rent. Some treehouses are tidy studio apartments, complete with electricity and plumbing. Others offer a nest in the sky with cooking and bathing facilities on the ground. Some are almost barrier-free, offering surprisingly smooth access for visitors arriving with luggage and groceries. Others are reached via a staircase.
Linda Klug and her husband Dave relocated from California to the Hocking Hills area southeast of Columbus, Ohio. They bought an oversized lodge perched on a ridge and then realized that the sharp slopes surrounding it were perfect for building a cluster of treehouses. Working with a local architect, the Klugs designed each treehouse to hover 20 feet above the hillside. Terraced parking enables guests to pull up to the landing point of the suspension bridge that connects each parking spot to the corresponding treehouse. Visitors only have to hoist rolling bags up one step to the bridge and then can trundle through the mid-air to the treehouse some 40 feet away. With decks equipped with grills and houses equipped with electricity, the Klugs’ Among the Trees houses can accommodate visitors for stays as long as a week.
The romance of the treehouse is universal, but it seems especially relevant this summer as travelers center their accommodations around fresh air, say vacation planning experts. In the summer of 2020, the vacation rental site VacationRenter saw interest in accommodations near national forests double, says Chief Operating Officer Marco del Rosario. “There’s a growing rise in wanderlust-styled trips, a trend that started even before the pandemic and continues to grow as travelers crave the outdoors,” he says. The drive to outside has intersected with travelers’ urges to stay at one-of-a-kind accommodations, he adds. Treehouses deliver on each point.
Because treehouses are so popular, some hosts on popular vacation rental sites, such as Airbnb.com and VRBO.com, add “treehouse” to their property description. Potential renters need to pay attention.
“A house on stilts is not a treehouse,” says Cantwell. Yet, she understands why property owners would try to position houses among trees, cantilevered over small cliffs, or with treetop views, as genuine treehouses.
Properly siting a treehouse takes more than finding a big tree. Architects also have to figure out how to get plumbing and electricity to connect. The support system must accommodate a certain amount of sway so the house can adjust to the wind.
London architect Antony Gibbons designed a modern treehouse that looks out into pines and over a pond. “I try to work between the surrounding trees rather than clear a space for construction,” he writes in an email interview. “As long as there is no interference to the foundations with the roots of the trees and reduction of natural light into the building then placing the buildings as close as possible can create a certain atmosphere and calmness in and around the structure providing that balance between the two environments.”
Where to Find Your Inner Tarzan
Want to climb a tree? Here are some options to check out:
Among the Trees Lodging, Logan, Ohio: This group of three treehouses is just down a dirt road from a large lodge that can accommodate groups of up to 30. Adjacent to the scenic Hocking Hills park network, the treehouses are easily accessed by suspended bridges and each offers a full bath and fully functional kitchen.
Roost, Willow, New York: A modern design by Antony Gibbons, this all-angles house cantilevers from a ledge above the forest floor and overlooking a pond. Floor-to-ceiling windows help the interior blend seamlessly with nature. Available for rent via Airbnb.
Whispering Treehouse, Argyle, New York: A little slice of gingerbread architecture perched in and among maple trees, the house includes a rudimentary kitchen but toilet facilities are on the ground below. Access is via a staircase. Available for rent via Airbnb.
Magical Treehouse, LaFayette, New York (south of Syracuse): Accessed by a 60-foot suspension bridge, the house is fully equipped and in the midst of a dense canopy. Available for rent via Airbnb.
Sugar Maple, Hancock, Vermont: A miniature covered bridge links this house to adjacent parking. The house offers a fully functional kitchen and bath. Available for rent via Airbnb.