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On Top of the World

by Isabel Burton

Header photo: A breathtaking treehouse by Nelson Treehouse and Supply is nestled in seven branches of a silver maple tree and boasts sweeping views of the iconic Lake Chelan in Washington State.

Resort treehouses are elevating the vacation experience. Lavish and lush, these rooms offer incredible comfort, breathtaking views, and a deep connection to nature, for a stay that exceeds even the loftiest of expectations.

Luxury travel is going out on a limb, quite literally, with treehouse accommodations to add some enchantment to your getaway. Everywhere from Tennessee to the Loire Valley, premier resorts are reimagining those childhood fortresses into deluxe dwellings—and fulfilling the wish lists of vacationers who crave one-of-a-kind experiences that come with long-lasting, life-changing impact (a recent Airbnb report indicates a 70 percent year-over-year hike in searches for unique stays, including treehouses specifically, and the 2023 Global Glamping Market Report predicts various forms of glamping will continue huge growth).

“People want to be deep in the natural world, and also have extravagant comfort. We’re putting in top-line kitchens, glamorous baths…you name it. But doing it in an ecologically sound way.”

–Pete Nelson, Nelson Treehouse and Supply

Upper Pond at TreeHouse Point

That desire to settle in with the birds and branches is driven by a mix of factors, says Pete Nelson, who is largely credited with sparking the treehouse trend as the star of the hit reality television series Treehouse Masters, and now, with Nelson Treehouse and Supply, is the go-to designer and builder for private clients and resorts alike. At the heart is an urge to fully escape, he believes, not just from regular life, but to nature specifically. “We all know that incredible peace we feel when we enter the woods. Treehouses provide an immersive experience, but dialed up,” he tells us. “They’re not just in nature, they are structurally part of it. When you start climbing, you’re entering a place that’s totally out of your world, so you can disassociate with what is otherwise weighing on you. I read that when you get up into a tree, your heart rate drops instantly because from up there, you can see and anticipate potential dangers. It’s primordial, and a deeply comforting feeling.”

Of course, there’s also the novelty attraction. Travelers are seeking unusual adventures that kick them out of their normal thinking and habits, and there is nothing ordinary about sleeping while hovering over a mountain’s edge, or roaming wildlife, or crashing waves. “It’s kind of a fantasy,” says Nelson, who also built and runs TreeHouse Point, a bed-and-breakfast getaway with seven high-rise homes just outside of Seattle. “As a kid, a treehouse is the first place of your own. In a way, these throwback bunkhouses let adults revisit that excitement of having their own little corner in the world. They’re this mix of being mischievous, precarious, private, and also nostalgic and joyful.”

Interior at TreeHouse Point

For all their embrace of the wilderness however, today’s resort treehouses do not skimp on indulgence. With gorgeous thoughtful architecture, high-end beds, fireplaces, grand baths, incredible locations, epic views, and even tech discretely incorporated within the tree-hugging interiors so you’re fully wired for music and more, these fancy forts balance simple with serious pampering. Nelson points out that you don’t need to forsake creature comforts to engage with creatures of the forest. “I’m regularly building million-dollar spaces with all the frills,” he says. “People want to be deep in the natural world, and also have extravagant comfort. We’re putting in top-line kitchens, glamorous baths…you name it. But doing it in an ecologically sound way.”

In fact, one of the strongest drivers for Nelson to build these structures is their environmental friendliness. “We work around the natural world, incorporating existing branches, trunks, and clearings into our designs,” says Nelson. Luxury needs to be kind to the land, and these treehouse resorts exemplify that ethos. They’re a testament to the potential for us to tread lightly while definitely living large.

Interior bedroom at Blackberry Mountain

At Blackberry Mountain, based in Walland, Tennessee, there are 14 treehouses with simple, black wood exteriors that don’t confront the natural beauty of the forest. Which is the point—to fully respect, admire, and give love to the surrounding landscape. “Our treehouses are designed to create a seamless blend from the outside in,” explains Mary Celeste Beall, Blackberry Mountain’s proprietor. “White oak walls and floors create a continuation of the natural elements, and floor-to-ceiling windows make you feel like you’re floating in the trees.”

Step out onto the deck and you’re instantly one with nature, in the perfect spot to watch the sunlight move over the Smoky Mountains. It’s pretty magical.

Of course, the treehouses come fully loaded to tend to all your needs (king bed, Wi-Fi, a coffee station), plus, they’ve added nice surprises like floor cushions for lounging, mats for morning yoga, and an opulent tub placed in the main room so you can soak your muscles after mountain hikes without missing a moment of changing sunlight and scenery. Staying here means you get to wake up to the sound of the wind and birds, and end the day toasting s’mores on your personal wood-burning stove.

Wildlife and wilderness are the main attractions at The Green O near Missoula, Montana, a designated retreat within the expansive 37,000-acre Paws Up Ranch. Here, “Tree Hauses,” sustainable, luxurious digs are suspended high off the ground and exemplify nature-inspired design, blending indoor-outdoor living with supreme comfort: fireplaces, soaking tubs, huge windows and skylights. These private rooms-for-two have sweeping views of the Blackfoot River Valley and the Swan Mountain Range to the north, and to the south, the Garnet Mountain Range, where you might spot elk herds and raptors. The architecture reflects a deep respect for the environment—they’re built with wood from recycled wine barrels—with no trees felled in their creation.

The Green O interior

Sitting 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean, on the California cliffs of Big Sur, the Post Ranch Inn takes full advantage of its backdrop. They have witnessed, like most nature resorts, the premium that guests now put on sustainability and have gone above and beyond to not just take care of their environment, but enhance it— they have planted over 150 redwood and oak trees. The resort is part of Beyond Green, a portfolio of hotels that demonstrate sustainable tourism leadership.

Their seven eco treehouses are also examples of the inn’s ethos of sustainable luxury. Constructed as freestanding triangles on nine-foot stilts, they’re designed to protect the trees’ root systems below. Inside each, the vibe is both intimate and luxurious, with a king- size bed, a wood-burning fireplace, and a desk (which happens to be one of Nelson’s top must-haves for the full fantasy treehouse at which you might write poetry or love letters). A window seat provides the perfect vantage point to take in the panoramic Pacific views, and a skylight lets you lie in bed and stargazing at night.

At Loire Valley Lodges, in Esvres-sur-Indre, France, it’s the architecture and design of the treehouses themselves that take center stage. Here, the perspective finds a beautiful interplay between nature, art, and design. Eighteen treehouses are spread across 750 acres of forest in the heart of this area famous for its excellent wines and fantastical chateaus. Each floating lodge is individually designed by a different contemporary artist, reflecting his or her unique creative vision and singular aesthetic that informs your stay. The one thing they all have in common: they’re chic, cool, modern, and a complement to the natural surroundings of green forest, which you can soak in from the huge terraces. The motto here feels apt, that true luxury lies in the ability to escape and to rise above the commonplace

The Green O exterior

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