The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a getaway to nature for millions of tourists each year, but what if you could stay right in the middle of it?
Treehouse Grove at Norton Creek is making your childhood dream of staying in a treehouse a reality.
As soon as you step into Treehouse Grove, you’ll hear the babbling water, chirping birds and sounds of the Smokies. The luxurious treehouses are the newest addition to Norton Creek Resort, a Knoxville family-owned neighborhood of mountain homes in Gatlinburg.
Owners Joe, Carole and Joseph Ayres partnered with Pete Nelson, who is known for his Animal Planet show “Treehouse Masters,” to custom-design eight treehouses on the property in late 2018. After scouting trees, obtaining permits and creating blueprints, Nelson’s team broke ground Aug. 18, 2019.
Almost exactly a year later, the Ayres and Nelson were ready to unveil the treetop escape.
“We don’t do this every day,” Nelson told Knox News. “The chances of everything working out so easily is like lightning striking a tree.” He later said that nearly half of his treehouse drawings haven’t come to fruition.
The Ayres and Nelson gave Knox News an exclusive tour of Treehouse Grove, which is Nelson’s first project in the area and of its scale.
Going beyond ‘glamping’
Treehouse Grove goes beyond what you may think you know about glamping, or glamourous camping. Norton Creek Resort’s treehouses aren’t much like the one you grew up with in the backyard either.
Each fully-furnished treehouse has two bedrooms, one full bathroom, a balcony, screened-in lounge and unique, handcrafted details. They offer modern amenities like Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a television and more.
The smells of cedar and pine waft throughout the cozy, 300-square-feet treehouse, making it seem like you never left outside. Natural light pours through the windows, helping guests wake up with the sun. Each treehouse can accommodate four people.
Shared picnic tables, grills and fire pits are scattered outside the treehouses for guests to mingle and relax. Spacious swings hang below many of the treehouses.
“It’s all about creating a community and having a sense of being in the woods, “Joe Ayres said.
No two trees are the same, and neither are these treehouses.
Every floor plan is slightly different to complement the trunks that go through the treehouses. Nelson made sure to keep the natural curves of the wood when building the treehouses so they wouldn’t look out of place among the landscape.
The treehouses are built to stand the test of time. The treehouse master himself designed to treehouses to be durable and allow the trees to grow over time.
“Pete’s guys aren’t construction workers,” Joe Ayres said. “They’re craftsmen and carpenters. You can tell in the details.”
Social distance escape
Treehouse Grove was completed in May and started booking reservations in March as COVID-19 cases spread across East Tennessee.
The Ayres discovered that the treehouses became a popular pandemic retreat because of their distance from each other and proximity to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The resort is about a 20-minute drive to any attraction in the area.
Reservations for 2021 will open Sept. 1. More information about Norton Creek Resort and Treehouse Grove is available at nortoncreekresort.com and treehouse-grove.com.
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