We’d been hiking in Shawnee National Forest on a late winter’s day after an ice storm that left each tree limb encased in glass (my companion called them tinsel trees). Giant icicles dangled high over our heads from exposed bluffs, and occasionally one of them would fall with a mighty crash and crystalline explosion. It was one of those serendipitously timed outings you could never anticipate and might not ever experience again.

Such an occasion demanded something different, more glamorous than returning to a chilly and tattered tent at the end of the day. As luck would have it, we’d reserved a stay in a luxury treehouse at Timber Ridge Outpost & Cabins in nearby Elizabethtown, Illinois. The unique, bird’s eye perspective, the sense of dwelling within nature rather than apart from it, the cabin-like charm and amenities — we couldn’t have been more enamored with the place. 

Want to give this high-flying offshoot of camping a try? Here are four treehouse options in our region that promise to stoke your inner Tarzan and Jane.

White Oak Treehouse, Elizabethtown, Ill.

White Oak Treehouse Interior

Our home away from home at Timber Ridge Outpost & Cabins was a two-story berth nested in a massive, 200-year-old white oak tree. We spent our evening there lounging in the warm wood living space, complete with a kitchenette, dining nook, bathroom with shower and toilet, heat/air conditioning, and honest-to-goodness tree branch bisecting the space. Up a short ladder staircase, two beds (one queen and one full) inhabited a loft with gabled roof and small balcony overlooking the downstairs interior. As it was winter, we didn’t take full advantage of the muti-level patio, campfire area with grill, picnic table, or hammock but vowed to so on our next trip. White Oak sleeps four to six — there’s also a convertible sofa in the main living space — or if you want something a little smaller, Maple Oak Treehouse next door sleeps two to four and is built over a small creek. Starting at $210/night. timberridgeoutpost.com

Sunset Tree House, Hermann, Mo.

Sunset Tree House Hermann Mo

Named for the way the setting sun lights up the main level and back deck, this widely windowed treehouse differs from the rest in that its white interior feels more beachy than backwoods. Up to four people can stay in the upstairs loft with queen bed and in the living area with wraparound lounge. a dining room area with microwave, Keurig and mini fridge, and a bathroom with shower, sink and toilet. The Sunset has both a back deck and a more private front deck complete with Adirondack chairs. The Cottage Bed & Breakfast in Hermann also offers the Sunrise Tree House and Moonlight Tree House, the latter on one level for the mobility impaired. Guests will enjoy the secluded location, yet they will be only minutes away from the downtown area and its renowned wineries. Starting at $260/night. hermanncottage.com

High Hope Treehouse, Potosi, Mo.

High Hope Treehouse

Perfect for a romantic escape or a honeymoon in the woods, High Hope Treehouse sleeps two in its richly decorated, hand-crafted interior and features a private hot tub on the lower deck. Aptly named, the unit floats 20 feet in the air just a stone’s throw from beautiful Sayersbrook Lake, which is located on Spring Lake Ranch in Potosi, Missouri. You and your partner sleep in a second-floor stateroom with vaulted ceilings and a California king bed from which you can see the stars. The climate-controlled space also includes a large kitchenette, bathroom with shower, living room, sitting area, and outdoor patio — along with amazing lake views via its large glass windows. Spring Lake Ranch is also home to two additional treehouses, Spring Lake Chateau and Dancing Under the Starts, which sleep five guests apiece. Explore the hiking trails, rent a kayak or canoe, or sign up for a horseback riding excursion at the ranch. Starting at $175/night. springlakeranchmo.com

Tranquil Treehouse, Eagle Rock, Mo.

Tranquil Treehouse Exterior

The word distinctive hardly captures the curated highlights of this four-guest treehouse near Table Rock Lake in southwest Missouri. A 60-foot swinging bridge leads up to the unit’s wraparound deck, the perfect place to relax, grill out, or enjoy nature’s symphony as soar you 16 feet above the forest floor. Nostalgia and art pieces are incorporated throughout, starting with the red tin roof and extending to the five stained-glass windows spread around the interior. The bathroom features a copper Japanese soaking tub for two and a door that is 130 years old. The living area includes a stand-up video game and a record player with vinyl ready to spin; the kitchen has a vintage-style refrigerator and a backsplash made of hand-painted Mexican tiles. Upstairs, the queen bed frame was welded using parts from an old 1956 Chevy pickup truck. (The dome light and taillights still work!) Guests have access to two kayaks, as well as a fire pit stacked with wood. Starting at $162/night. airbnb.com/rooms/45203789

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.
Top Image: White Oak Treehouse in Elizabethtown, Illinois.