• Django Kroner, 32, founded his company, The Canopy Crew, to help people reconnect with nature.
  • The company rents out treehouses in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, some for as much as $950 a night.
  • Take a look at one of the two-bedroom shed properties he refers to as “Cliff Dweller.”

Entrepreneur Django Kroner describes his dream home as a tree house on a cliff where he can see forest for miles and where tree-dwelling critters can come and visit him in the morning. And it’s that vision that motivated the 32-year-old to turn a series of treehouse vacation rentals from his imagination into reality.

As the owner of The Canopy Crew, which operates in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, Kroner said he wants to give people a creative outlet to interact with wildlife the way he does.

“Everyone thinks of children when they think of tree houses,” Kroner said. “But an adult tree house can bring out your inner child, which everyone should be able to tap into.”

Kroner moved to the Red River Gorge in 2009 because of the world famous climbing opportunities. Shortly after, he took a job building frame cabins with a wilderness cabin rental company called Red River Gorgeous and asked the owners if he could build a tree house on the property. The owners committed, and he built his first 10-foot by 8-foot structure out of scrap metal about 45 feet in the air between a tulip tree and a sycamore tree, he explained.

The first treehouse was more of a canopy, Kroner added. It had no walls, but he had a chest for his clothes and slept in a hammock. When he needed to store groceries overnight, Kroner said he used a net rope to lower a basket into the creek that flows between the two trees supporting the treehouse. Kroner said he slept in this canopy all year.

After Kroner’s friends started visiting his tree house, he came up with the idea for The Canopy Crew. Kroner started the company in November 2013 with just a treehouse that he built for about $10,000, he said. Since then, the company has added nine more treehouses that cost $200,000 to $400,000 to build, some of which rent on Airbnb for up to $950 a night. The company also has approximately 50 employees spread across its vacation rental business and tree care operation in Cincinnati.

When scouting a new location for a tree house, Kroner says he finds a spot in the woods where he’d like to be. Sometimes he’ll find some trees that can support one of the designs he’s sketched in his notebook. Other times, the landscape dictates the design, he said.

“Whenever I’m at the top of a tree house, all I can think about are suspension bridges and other connections going further down the canyon into the trees,” Kroner said.

The company’s newest addition is a treehouse called “Sky Dancer” that looks like a pirate ship built into a rock face. There are three separate structures that make up Sky Dancers, each connected by wooden stairs and each with their own master bedroom and bathroom. It also has a giant net that doubles as a hammock and unbeatable views of the canyon, Kroner said.

While there are many treehouse builders to choose from, Kroner said The Canopy Crew was one of a few companies that could build treehouses into landscapes the way they do.

The canopy crew uses techniques Kroner learned while training with an arborist intended to protect the trees in which they are built, including lowering materials in place rather than lifting them off the ground, and the time to trim the branches appropriately. This allows The Canopy Crew to erect their structures higher off the ground than other treehouse builders.

“I like to think of these tree houses as a blunt reminder that we don’t have to live in busy cities or chase after material objects all day,” Kroner said.

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