The 12 Best Places to Buy a Cabin Vacation Rental in 2023

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
October 13, 2022

Imagine the perfect cozy escape: a crackling fireplace, bubbling hot tub, and large windows framing mountain ranges or lakeshores like they’re photos. 

As for property type? A cabin fits the bill, offering travelers a dreamy tucked-away experience. Since mid-2021, Evolve cabin rentals have seen a 37% increase in booking value, and many of the best places to buy a vacation rental are in cabin-centric locales — which signals that now is the right time to make a smart cabin investment

Whether you’re dreaming of an A-frame that echoes 70s-era ski culture, a life-size replica of your childhood Lincoln logs, or a luxury home nestled deep in the woods, here are the 12 best places to buy a cabin across the U.S. in the next year.

How We Chose the Best Places to Buy a Cabin Investment Property

The data below is based on a combination of proprietary and public data, but the three main metrics we took into account are:

  • Vacation rental performance metrics for cabin destinations across the U.S. to learn where bookings lead to higher median revenue
  • Zillow’s 2022 median home value to identify listing prices in cabin destinations
  • Estimated yearly expenses to run a vacation rental (approximately 30% of total revenue) to help calculate cap rate

We also evaluated a property’s potential to outperform market expectations with an Evolve partnership. Below, you’ll see The Evolve Difference, showcasing how we helped some of our top cabin owners maximize income and significantly beat the market’s projected revenue.

Please note: all data projections reflect ideal-state scenarios. Variables like owner-blocked calendars and extenuating circumstances (like natural disasters) are not factored into these calculations.

1. Gatlinburg, TN

Image of a vacation rental cabin in Gatlinburg, TN, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the U.S., with a graphic overlay depicting median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

Located at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg offers easy access to year-round natural beauty in the country’s most-visited national park. Fireflies light up the Smokies each spring, wildflower hikes peak in popularity through summer, fall foliage is an autumn must-see, and snow tubing reigns supreme come winter. 

To be close to all that action, the area’s steady stream of tourists favor Gatlinburg cabins — which makes this market so profitable for investors that it tops our list of best places to buy a cabin. 

High-performing vacation rentals are spacious (think 4+ bedrooms), though they do tend to be much more expensive than Gatlinburg’s $300,000 median list price. Still, profit potential in the area grows with square footage — especially when you have key amenities like hot tubs, game rooms, and comfy outdoor living spaces with panoramic mountain views. 

All of this can contribute to an annual revenue well above the median. When hitting all the right notes, top Evolve cabin owners have earned over $105,000 in yearly profits.

Even better news: you don’t have to limit yourself to just Gatlinburg. If you can’t find the just-right cabin there, our Real Estate Services (RES) team recommends looking for homes in Sevierville and Pigeon Forge. All three close-together markets overlap pretty heavily when it comes to list prices, income opportunity, and cabin-specific success.

Graphic stating The Evolve Difference, Our owners have earned up to $105,440 annually

2. Hocking Hills, OH

Image of a vacation rental cabin in Hocking Hills, OH, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the U.S., with a graphic overlay depicting median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

Hocking Hills has hiking trails that lead to waterfalls, large caves for exploring, and rivers to canoe on. Outdoorsy and peaceful, cabins feel like the perfect type of place for getaways in this region of rural Ohio.

When browsing investment options in the Hocking Hills area, our RES team says to set your sights on the towns of Logan, Hamden, and Amanda more specifically. They all carry strong revenue potential at a 9% cap rate — which is the ratio between a property’s net income and its market volume, and a great indicator of return on investment. 

And while the average Hocking Hills owner brings in $39,000 annually, some of Evolve’s top-performing properties net six figures during the same time period. Our RES team says these high-earners are cabins with hot tubs, fire pits, or fun features like a catch-and-release pond.

Graphic stating The Evolve Difference, Our owners have earned up to $100,481 annually

3. Fairbanks, AK

Image of a snowy vacation rental cabin in Fairbanks, AK, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the U.S., with a graphic overlay depicting median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

Located two hours from Denali National Park and just 20 minutes from North Pole (not where Santa set up shop, but a town with year-round Christmas decorations all the same), the pretty city of Fairbanks offers travelers a unique and secluded escape. The summer sun shines for almost 24 hours a day here, and epic stargazing is an itinerary must in the Aurora season

Between the growing number of tourists flocking to the area and its all-season appeal, Fairbanks is an up-and-comer perfect for investors looking to break into a market early. More good news: Fairbanks is vacation rental-friendly, and you’ll just need a city and state business license to kickstart operations. 

As you look for properties, our RES team says classic log cabins hold major appeal. Some of the best-performing ones have waterfront views and enough room for 10 guests. Modern amenities, lots of natural light, game rooms, and fire pits can also help you rack up five-star reviews.

4. Bryson City, NC

Image of a vacation rental cabin in Bryson City, NC, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the U.S., with a graphic overlay depicting median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

Bryson City is considered “the outdoor adventure capital of the Great Smoky Mountains.” But those who vacation here don’t just want to hike, bike, and raft in one of the country’s best national parks — they also want to wake up in a cozy and secluded home with scenic mountain views that beckon them to come play. 

That’s why cabins are king in Bryson City. And because this destination attracts honeymooners as frequently as families, cabins of different sizes — from one- to four-bedroom — all share high profit potential. 

This means investors can broaden their property search and still find success with a variety of options, whether a quaint and romantic A-frame or a family-friendly cabin is more your style. (Bryson City’s versatility is also why it nabbed a spot on our overall list of best places to buy a vacation rental in 2023.)

To help make sure your cabin stands out, our RES team says to look (or budget) for wraparound decks or screened-in porches so guests can take in views that are as great as their morning coffee. Relaxation-promoting amenities like hot tubs and fireplaces can help bring in bookings, too.

Graphic stating The Evolve Difference, Our owners have earned up to $59,353 annually

5. Eureka Springs, AR

Image of a quaint vacation rental cabin deep in the woods of Eureka Springs, AR, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the U.S., with a graphic overlay depicting median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

Located in the Ozarks, Eureka Springs is an enchanting destination. Victorian buildings make up the historic downtown and cluster around the city’s natural hot springs. The Thorncrown Chapel — a 6,000 square-foot glass structure nestled in woodlands — draws in loads of visitors, as does a popular swimming hole with forested shores called Beaver Lake

Median home prices hover below $240,000, which makes Eureka Springs one of the best places to buy a cabin for first-time investors. Plus, our RES team says buyers can essentially take their pick of property type. From modern and sleek to rustic and cozy, top-performing cabins come in all shapes and sizes here. 

Regardless of what kind of cabin you’re most drawn to, our RES team recommends looking for homes in secluded settings with scenic views. Features like hot tubs, porch swings, and fireplaces are all tickets to success in the area, too.

Graphic stating The Evolve Difference, Our owners have earned up to $62,044 annually

6. Lake George, NY

Image of a log cabin in Lake George, NY, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the U.S., with a graphic overlay depicting median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

From summer swimming on refreshing lake waters to winter skiing at a bunch of local resorts, the Lake George area is just four hours north of New York City and popular year-round. For investors hoping to maximize profits in the Adirondacks, purchasing a cabin here can appeal to a strong pool of urbanites in need of a one-tank trip to a peaceful retreat.

Our RES team says investors shouldn’t just explore Lake George proper when searching for the best places to buy a cabin in this area. Warrensburg and Lake Luzerne are also thriving markets, with a strong 6% cap rate and reasonable list prices (especially when stacked up against regions like the Hudson Valley).

Though generally more expensive than the median list price, lakefront cabins can earn even more income here — and providing relevant amenities like kayaks or a boat dock help seal the deal with guests.

If a lake house investment floats your boat, explore more waterfront places to buy this year to help zero in on your ideal market.

7. Brainerd Lakes, MN

Image of a lakefront cabin with backyard seating and a dock in Brainerd Lakes, MN, with a graphic overlay depicting median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

Championship golf courses, fishing charters, and the scenic 115-mile Paul Bunyan Trail that meanders by lakes and forests are just a few reasons tourists love Brainerd Lakes.

Given the appeal to outdoors enthusiasts and lake lovers, it makes perfect sense that waterfront properties outperform the market in Brainerd Lakes (and that this region secured a spot on our list of best places to buy a lake house, too). But investors can double down on profit potential by scooping up cabins, as that’s the favored type of property for those seeking waterside Brainerd Lakes getaways.

To find these sought-after cabins, our RES team recommends searching in towns like Pequot Lakes, Nisswa, Emily, Brainerd Lake, and Crosslake. Investors in all five spots enjoy cap rates in the 5% range, and while the average owner in the area earns about $27,000 in annual revenue, Evolve’s top-performing lake cabins net nearly three times that amount in the same period.

Fireplaces, game rooms, grills, private beaches with docks, and decks or screened-in porches are all key perks that these high-earners share — and they can help your property rise above the competition.

Graphic stating The Evolve Difference, Our owners have earned up to $76,706 annually

8. Blue Ridge, GA

Image of a cabin with a large stilted deck in Blue Ridge, GA, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the U.S., with a graphic overlay depicting median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

Once a railroad town, Blue Ridge is now a charming mountain escape with breathtaking vineyards, waterfall hikes in the Cohutta Wilderness, and whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River. (Though you can still take a train ride through the Appalachian foothills in this family-friendly spot, too.) 

After a day of exploring, those who come to Blue Ridge need a peaceful retreat to recharge — so cabins plopped in the middle of the woods do especially well here.

Our RES team says two- to four-bedroom cabins perform best, but the area’s family draw means maximizing space for guests is a good idea no matter where you land on property size. Adding pull-out couches and bunk beds can help attract multi-generational groups who could be traveling with family members of all ages. 

Features like wooded or water views, hot tubs, fire pits, and big windows all offer an added boost to daily rates and booking interest as well — particularly when paired with kid-friendly amenities like game rooms and entertainment systems.

Graphic stating The Evolve Difference, Our owners have earned up to $56,392 annually

9. Asheville, NC

Image of a vacation rental cabin in Asheville, NC, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the U.S., with a graphic overlay depicting median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

Asheville’s appeal is broad. The town has a buzzy craft brewery culture, an unmatched arts scene, and top chefs at the helm of downtown restaurants. On top of all this, Asheville lures travelers with its epic outdoor playground: hiking trails show off Appalachian ridges and waterfalls, and locally-invented bellyaking (think: kayaking on your belly) makes for a unique day on the water. 

Naturally, those who invest in Asheville cabins have the opportunity to appeal to a crossover market of visitors who come for the mountains or the city — but usually both. And with so much to do here, vacation rental owners are set up for strong profits that aren’t tied to a single tourism season.

Plus, the right short-term rental strategy can take those strong profits to a new level. Striking a balance between proximity to the downtown scene and outdoor adventure can help you turn more lookers into bookers. Pet-friendly rentals also hold major appeal in Asheville — not to mention it’s one of the top places to take a pet-friendly vacation — so supplying treats and toys for furry friends is another way to cater to guests with pets in tow.

10. Dover, VT

Image of a vacation rental cabin in Dover, VT, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the U.S., with a graphic overlay depicting median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

A quaint New England town with more than enough charm to share, Dover offers a variety of traveler draws. Powderhounds book Mount Snow cabins in the winter, the summer bustles with lift-serviced mountain biking, golf, and hiking, and leaf peepers can have a fall foliage field day when the leaves start to change colors. 

All of this means investors can find multi-season value in a Dover vacation cabin, and that can translate to increased bookings and income opportunities. Average annual revenue hovers around $25,000, but top Evolve owners have raked in more than $91,000 in the same time period. 

High-earning properties have a few things in common: They’re within five miles of Mount Snow, and they tend to be larger cabins with three to five bedrooms, mountain views, and great outdoor spaces. Some also include game rooms and wood-burning fireplaces for colder nights spent indoors.

Graphic stating The Evolve Difference, Our owners have earned up to $91,620 annually

Does the idea of a ski home catch your attention? Check out our best places to buy a ski property and carve your path to vacation rental success.

11. Livingston, MT

Image of a log cabin with mountain views in Livingston, MT, with a graphic overlay depicting the median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

Set on the banks of the Yellowstone River, the town of Livingston strikes a special balance between artsy and outdoorsy. With its abundance of art galleries and fly-fishing spots, plus its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park (which sees nearly five million visitors a year), Livingston investors have the opportunity to capture bookings from anglers, art enthusiasts, travelers looking for wide open spaces, and national park daytrippers eager for a unique Old Faithful basecamp.

As such, top performers here tend to be rustic, yet comfortable one- to two-bedroom cabins. It’s best if they have picturesque mountain views, open land to explore, nearby fishing spots, or an easy commute to Yellowstone and other area must-sees (like the Chico Hot Springs mineral pools) to grab travelers’ attention.

With these kinds of perks included, top Evolve cabins in the area have earned more than double the median market revenue.

Graphic stating The Evolve Difference, Our owners have earned up to $63,741 annually

12. Grand Lake, CO

Image of a log a-frame cabin in Grand Lake, CO, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the U.S., with a graphic overlay depicting median revenue, average home price, and the example cap rate for the area

Colorado’s Grand Lake offers the best kind of two-for-one: the namesake lake is a fun spot for kayaking and paddleboarding in the summer, and the area’s draw remains potent in the winter months as ski season gets underway. It’s also located at Rocky Mountain National Park’s west entrance, making it perfect for nature-loving guests — and a great contender as one of the best places to buy a cabin.

That said, cabins do come with higher price tags in Grand Lake — particularly when you start to zero in on larger properties or those super close to the lake, where home values rise above the $747,000 median. 

But our RES team says the area is still a great value in Colorado, especially when stacked against the multi-million dollar homes that have become the norm in towns like Vail and Aspen. And if you’re able to squeeze some luxury amenities into your budget, hot tubs, spacious decks, fireplaces, and panoramic views can all help you get an even higher return on your investment in Grand Lake.

Our RES team also notes that the area has a mandatory fire inspection (alongside a standard rental license requirement) that needs to be scheduled with the Grand Lake Fire Protection District before your vacation rental can operate. This isn’t as commonly part of the short-term rental process, so it’s simply something to keep in mind as you manage your business timeline.

Graphic stating The Evolve Difference, Our owners have earned up to $83,860 annually

Buy the Perfect Cabin Vacation Rental with Evolve

Investing in a vacation home is a personal decision, but you don’t have to navigate your options alone. Our Real Estate Services team can help you take the next step toward making a purchase in one of these best places to buy a cabin.

We have the data to contextualize your investment opportunities and define your income goals, preferred local real estate agents who specialize in vacation rental purchases, and an array of management tools to help make your cabin a success once you’re ready to jumpstart your business.

For additional research, here are some resources to help you better understand the potential of vacation rental investment:

Now that you’re ready to talk about buying the best cabin rental for you, let’s get the conversation started today.

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