Head in the Clouds

Head in the Clouds

Spend the night in the treetops

Words by Jennifer Kornegay
Photos by Treetop Hideaways, The Nest


Nostalgia is a powerful drug. And Treetop Hideaways, right outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has it on tap. It conjures memories of childhood fun and adventure, offering guests the chance to relive them by spending a couple of nights in one of its two tree house-style accommodation options. Dubbed Elements and Luna, both are true tree houses, not just cabins set in a forest. 

They are elevated among the branches. They are made of wood and roofed with tin. But if the idea of sleeping in your actual childhood tree house brings to mind unappealing thoughts of a sore back, irritating insects, and exposure to the elements, never fear. Treetop Hideaways combines the authentic tree house experience that your inner child wants with the comfort and calm your adult self craves. And it does it all with a commitment to sustainability, devising construction methods and systems that work with the natural environment, not against it.

Your tranquil escape begins just a few miles outside of downtown Chattanooga (and right over the Tennessee state line into Georgia), where both Elements and Luna are perched on the side of Lookout Mountain below a bubbling stream. A little sign directs you to the small parking lot for tree house guests, where you’ll leave your car and the frenzied pace of modern life behind. From the parking area, the two tree houses are within eyesight of each other, but once you get to yours, you can’t see the other; each was thoughtfully placed with privacy as a priority.

You have to carry your bags to your tree house, but your path is a short, well-maintained trail illuminated by strings of Edison bulbs. Since the tree houses are off the ground, there are some stairs to navigate too. But once you step on the secluded deck surrounding your tree house, you’ll forget the extra (but still minimal) effort required to get there. 

Both Elements and Luna were built with as many salvaged and repurposed materials as possible, giving the spaces a soul that’s not possible with brand-new construction. They feature fully adjustable heating and cooling; full bathrooms with rain showers and rosemary-spearmint-scented bath products custom-made for Treetop Hideaways; and kitchenettes stocked with coffee, locally made granola, a welcome bottle of wine and chilled sparkling water in the mini-fridge. The s’mores kit also in the kitchen tempts you out to the firepit ringed by chairs—each tree house has its own, plus all the supplies needed to create a roaring blaze, including a blowtorch instead of a lighter for fire-starting beginners. 

While they share these attributes, each tree house also boasts a distinct style. Luna is rustic yet refined. Weathered planks from an 1860s barn form its walls. Vintage paned windows look out on massive rocks jutting from the soft slope of the hillside. A copper sink mirrors the bathroom floor tiled with shiny pennies. A plush queen bed awaits in the loft. 

Living up to its name, Elements is sophisticated, simple, and in harmony with its surroundings. Fresh flowers greet you from a small, sleek, marble-topped table fronting a caramel-leather love seat in a cozy sitting area that’s open to a nook with a comfy queen bed. Modest frames hold botanical art. Minimalist light fixtures and multiple windows light up the tree house’s organic color palette of greens, cream, and flax, drawn from right outside. 

The large bathroom soothes with heated pebble floors underfoot and delights with floor-to-ceiling glass encasing a tree that rises right through the shower. More glass above provides sky views while you wash dirt and stress away. But the real prize in Elements is the loft. A ladder leads you to two twin beds, each resting under a large skylight. The lucky recipients of this room can drift to sleep staring at stars twinkling overhead.

When visiting Treetop Hideaways, unplugging is recommended, but optional. If you do choose to stream or scroll, the tree houses have ultra-fast Wi-Fi. Still, the invitation to leave your worries at ground level and sink into serenity is a large part of both tree houses’ appeal. Not giving into the peaceful vibe would be a shame. So, put down your device, crack a window, or slide into a deck chair to let yourself be lulled by a breeze fluttering through the leaves and water gurgling over rocks in the stream.


Three New Gems

Treetop Hideaways opened three new tree houses last May. They were created in partnership with Ruby Falls and are perched in the old-growth forest owned by the attraction that’s not been touched in more than a century. Like Elements and Luna, they’ve all been built with vintage and salvaged materials: doors from a church, picture windows from a general store. They have outdoor showers (one with a tree towering through it) and/or soaking tubs. They also offer stellar views from wide decks that overlook a curve of the Tennessee River as it snakes around the “Scenic City,” with downtown Chattanooga rising in the distance. And one special note: While there will eventually be 12 tree houses on this property, one in this first phase is fully ADA accessible, offering those with mobility issues the chance to enjoy the tree house experience. 


More Tree House Treasures

In North Carolina, Asheville Glamping offers safari tents, domes (some with slides!) and one magical tree house named “The Nest.”

In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Treehouse Grove features a collection of 16 tree houses adjacent to the abundant outdoor activities awaiting in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as the wealth of family fun and attractions found in Gatlinburg.