The 12 Best Places to Buy a Cabin Vacation Rental Right Now

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
December 19, 2023

Since the rise of remote working, there’s been an uptick in traveler demand for less crowded destinations where it’s easy to escape the daily grind. In fact, Vrbo reported earlier this year that more travelers than ever are searching for rustic getaways and looking to reconnect with nature. 

So it makes sense to consider investing in a cabin rental. Often tucked in woodsy, tranquil areas with plenty of access to outdoor adventure, cabins give savvy real estate investors a strong opportunity to capture guest interest and earn passive income. 

From mountain towns near ski slopes to charming lakefronts, there are many prime spots across the country where cabins earn major attention. Here are the best places to buy a cabin vacation rental for maximum profit potential.

Take a more tailored approach to buying the perfect rental by connecting with our experts. We can help identify markets, properties, and partners to boost your success.

In This Article:
Hocking Hills, OH
Saranac Lake, NY
Branson, MO
Boyne City, MI
Sevierville, TN
Boone, NC
Broken Bow, OK
Breezy Point, MN
Rapid City, SD
Ruidoso, NM
Hayward, WI
Pocono Lake, PA

How We Chose the Best Places to Buy a Cabin

Our data is based on a combination of proprietary and public data, but the three key metrics we took into account include:

  • Vacation rental performance metrics for strong cabin markets across the U.S. to learn where bookings lead to higher median revenue
  • A combination of Zillow, Redfin, and internal data to identify median listing prices in vacation rental destinations
  • Estimated yearly expenses to run a vacation rental (approximately 30% of total revenue) to help calculate the cap rate

Alongside these metrics, we evaluated a cabin’s potential to outperform market expectations with an Evolve partnership. Below, you’ll see The Evolve Difference highlighting how we helped some of our top vacation rental 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. Hocking Hills, OH

Photo of a rocky outcropping surrounded by rolling hills covered in colorful autumn trees in Hocking Hills, OH, the best place to buy a cabin. Image text reads, "$42,751 median rental revenue. $349,260 median listing price. 8.6% example cap rate."

Nestled in rural Southeastern Ohio, the Hocking Hills region is home to breathtaking cliffs, sprawling caves, and cascading waterfalls. As a haven for nature enthusiasts, it’s unsurprising that Hocking Hills is also the best place to buy a cabin. 

The area’s cap rate — your annual net operating income divided by a property’s market value — dipped slightly in the last year due to increased list prices, but an incremental rise in revenue shows plenty of promise for investors. Our experts recommend focusing your search on the peaceful towns of Hamden, Amanda, and Logan. All of these have comparable profit potential, though it’s worth noting that Evolve’s top-performing cabins in the area sit in Logan

What’s more: Those top-performing cabins earn more than double the median rental revenue. They capitalize on the rustic, relaxing feel guests want by offering plenty of outdoor space, proximity to state parks, and must-book amenities like hot tubs.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $97,100 annually!"

Discover more locations with strong profit potential — cabin-centric or not — with the best places to buy a vacation rental across the U.S. right now.

2. Saranac Lake, NY

Photo of autumn trees reflected on the calm waters of Saranac Lake, NY, one of the best places to buy a cabin on a lake. Image text reads, "$29,151 median rental revenue. $264,598 median listing price. 7.7% example cap rate."

The quaint village of Saranac Lake sits in the Adirondack Mountains and offers an irresistible blend of scenic beauty and peaceful ambiance.

If this Northeast town sounds familiar, it’s probably because Saranac Lake boasts plenty of year-round appeal for investors to capitalize on — from epic fall foliage and winter tubing at Mt. Pisgah to summertime boating on the lake (part of why the area  made our list of best places to buy a lake house, too). Its charm also extends into the vibrant downtown area, where opportunities for shopping, art, and dining are abundant. 

The highest earning Saranac Lake cabins are woodsy, private, and close to downtown. They often provide direct lake access — with many sitting right on the shoreline. Keep in mind, though, that lakefront properties are typically more expensive than the median in this market. The great news: if waterfront properties take you out of your budget, you can still find success with real estate a little farther from the waves if you invest in other attractive amenities, like spacious decks and pet-friendliness.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $43,291 annually!"

Dreaming of a lake house investment? Check out our helpful guide on everything you need to know before taking the plunge.

3. Branson, MO

Aerial photo of Branson, MO and its lush forested surroundings with rivers running through the trees. Image text reads, "$22,962 median rental revenue. $246,472 median listing price. 6.5% example cap rate."

Branson is a family-friendly destination in the Ozark Mountains with a wide array of things to do. Visitors can get their adrenaline pumping at Silver Dollar City, embrace awe-inspiring views at Top of the Rock, explore the famous Entertainment District, or indulge in water sports at Table Rock Lake

Cabins earning the most provide easy lake commutes or views while still sitting close to other top attractions. And while landing a true lakefront property can earn investors higher rates, they tend to be more expensive and harder to find — so it’s all making the most of your budget and aligning with your business goals.

In addition to standard permits and licensing, Branson has some zoning restrictions to be aware of — both in the downtown areas and on parts of Table Rock Lake. Our experts recommend tapping local experts to make sure the neighborhoods you’re interested in buying in are zoned for short-term rental before making an offer.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $54,903 annually!"

We can connect you with trusted, local real estate agents who specialize in vacation rental — and can get your rental journey off on the right foot.

4. Boyne City, MI

Photo of a harbor in Boyne City, MI with boats docked on the shore by a small lighthouse. Image text reads, "$33,724 median rental revenue. $383,845 median listing price. 6.2% example cap rate," showcasing this area as one of the best places to buy a cabin.

Boyne City’s proximity to the famous Boyne Mountain Resort makes it a great place for a ski property investment, but it’s also a summer hotspot for families and large groups visiting Lake Charlevoix. Ample charm, an award-winning Main Street district, and cabin popularity all further the area’s multi-season draw and make Boyne City one of the best places to buy a cabin.

When looking at data over the last year, median rental revenue dipped while list prices climbed, bringing the overall cap rate down. That said, Evolve cabin owners equipped with expert management strategies are still taking home incomes well above the average — with many more than tripling market revenue. 

These high-earning cabins sit close to Boyne Mountain Resort and provide enough space for eight to 12 guests. Outdoor amenities like fire pits and hot tubs are also great ways to maximize multi-season booking opportunities and get the most bang for your buck.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $107,389 annually!"

5. Sevierville, TN

Aerial photo of Sevierville, TN surrounded by rolling green hills covered in trees, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the woods. Image text reads, "$42,751 median rental revenue. $483,309 median listing price. 6.2% example cap rate."

Considered the “Gateway to the Smokies,” Sevierville serves as the perfect home base for an outdoorsy vacation. Staying here gives travelers easy access to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Dollywood, and Douglas Lake (a top fishing spot). Sevierville also boasts a spa, waterpark, golf course, and a lively downtown scene, making it an ideal destination for guests of all ages. 

Travelers come to Sevierville to explore the outdoors, but they also look for cozy cabin rentals where they can unwind after an exhilarating day in the mountains. Evolve cabins that perform best offer family-friendly amenities like game rooms, plus hot tubs, saunas, and fire pits — all of which help some Evolve owners bring in more than double the median revenue as a result.

It’s worth noting that nearby Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have comparable market potential — so it’s worth expanding your cabin search to include all three towns and increase your odds of finding your dream investment.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $94,113 annually!"

6. Boone, NC

Photo of rolling forest-covered hills glowing in sunset light in Boone, NC, one of the best places to buy a cabin. Image text reads, "$37,628 median rental revenue. $423,825 median listing price. 6.2% example cap rate."

With close proximity to three major ski resorts — Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain, and Appalachian Ski MountainBoone grabs plenty of demand from wintersport lovers. But don’t be fooled: this scenic town in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a hit during warm-weather months, too.

With picture-perfect drives down the Blue Ridge Parkway, show-stopping hikes up Grandfather Mountain, a dynamic downtown area, and a handful of local breweries, Boone is an idyllic year-round destination for all types of travelers. 

And of course, as one of the best places to buy a cabin, this home type is the strongest earner among Evolve vacation rental owners. Cabins pocketing nearly twice the median rental revenue in Boone are rustic in style and within 10 miles of a ski resort. Beyond aesthetic and proximity, they also have hot tubs, expansive decks for taking in mountain views, and private backyards with on-site hiking trails.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $80,062 annually!"

7. Broken Bow, OK

Photo of a distant boat house surrounded by trees reflected on calm lake waters near Broken Bow, OK. Image text reads, "$38,605 median rental revenue. $456,065 median listing price. 5.9% example cap rate."

Broken Bow is a charming town in the heart of Oklahoma with breweries, a casino, and many locally-owned restaurants and shops. While the downtown area offers plenty to do, nearby Beavers Bend State Park and Broken Bow Lake set the tone for nature-loving vacationers, too.  

Investors looking for a continuous flow of bookings in this market can look at purchasing a smaller property, as those with one to two bedrooms tend to grab the most nights booked on average. However, Evolve properties earning the most annual revenue in this area (all of which are cabins) are quite spacious, offering travelers four to six bedrooms and room for up to 20 guests. 

High-performing properties also lean into luxury by providing well-equipped chef’s kitchens, extra-large hot tubs, complimentary toiletries, and pool tables or shuffleboard. So even if you’re unable to go big with a Broken Bow footprint, make sure to add in these amenities as key ways to boost your property’s booking value. 

There’s more great news for new owners looking to enter the market, too: Broken Bow doesn’t have any short-term rental regulations in place right now, minimizing the red tape needing to be cut through before getting started.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $72,020 annually!

8. Breezy Point, MN

Photo of a canoe sitting in the reeds of a large, foggy lake surrounded by woods in Breezy Point, MN, one of the best places to buy a cabin on a lake. Image text reads, "$30,803 median rental revenue. $382,207 median listing price. 5.6% example cap rate."

Tucked in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” the vibrant town of Breezy Point carries a magnetic allure for travelers year-round. From golfing and boating on Pelican Lake in the summer to ice fishing and skiing at Breezy Point Resort in the winter, those in search of fresh air will find plenty to do no matter when they visit. 

Evolve owners making nearly triple the median rental revenue in this area have two-bedroom cabins with space for up to eight guests. Maximizing the space of a smaller home like this makes it possible for investors in the area to boost profits without necessarily breaking the bank. 

And because Breezy Point visitors come for the variety of outdoor activities, owners can lean into this demand by looking for rental properties that offer on-site hiking or aren’t far from the trails. From there, providing other fitting perks like fire pits and wood-burning stoves can help warm them up to the idea of leaving a five-star review, boosting your odds of repeat bookers and attracting the attention of future guests.  

While Breezy Point has fairly standard short-term rental requirements, they do require an annual well water test. There’s also a vacation rental cap of 60, but their last count put total rentals at 37 — making now the time to grab your stake in the market. If you’re looking to widen your search beyond Breezy Point without losing the value of the area, our experts recommend checking out nearby Pequot Lakes and Crosslake.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $85,966 annually!

9. Rapid City, SD

Photo of green fields at the base of dense alpine woods and distant mountains near Rapid City, SD, one of the best places to buy a cabin. Image text reads, "$31,328 median rental revenue. $403,586 median listing price. 5.4% example cap rate."

Recently named one of the best small towns to visit in the U.S., Rapid City also earns its stripes as one of the best places to buy a cabin with its charming Black Hills backdrop. While best known for its proximity to Mount Rushmore, Rapid City has far more to offer: fantastic local restaurants, state parks, a drive-thru zoo, museums, and a walkable downtown area where you can explore the City of Presidents.

Top-performing cabins in Rapid City offer easy proximity to Black Hills National Forest, Mount Rushmore, and Canyon Lake Park. Our experts say the best places to buy a cabin are on the outskirts of the city. Look for private, wooded properties with large decks, breathtaking mountain views, and on-site hiking trails, as Evolve owners outperforming the area’s median income have at least two — but often all three — of the above. 

To expand your cabin search, eager investors can also look in nearby Hill City, where guests could get even closer to the area’s top nature sights.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $81,652 annually!"

10. Ruidoso, NM

Image of golden autumn trees in front of distant mountains in Ruidoso, NM, one of the best places to buy a cabin. Image text reads, "$27,885 median rental revenue. $362,411 median listing price. 5.4% example cap rate."

Ruidoso sits in the Sierra Blanca Mountains and embraces outdoor adventure in every season. During warmer months, Lincoln National Forest and White Sands National Monument make for idyllic hikes. When the winter chill sets in, visitors are invited to hit the slopes at Ski Apache Resort or go tubing at Winter Park Recreational Area

Ruidoso also offers a vibrant arts scene, eclectic shops and local eateries, a collection of casinos, and rich Wild West history. With so much to do beyond the outdoorsy, travelers of all kinds flock to this mountain town — boosting your booking potential. 

And — no surprise here — they’re choosing cabins. Those earning the most lean into Ruidoso’s natural beauty by offering wraparound decks, hot tubs, and show-stopping views of the Sierra Blanca Mountains.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $67,771 annually!

11. Hayward, WI

Photo of a sunset casting warm yellow light across lake waters in Hayward, WI, one of the best places to buy a cabin. Image text reads, "$25,874 median rental revenue. $334,015 median listing price. 5.4% example cap rate."

Hayward is an adventurer’s playground with plenty of opportunities for fishing, water sports, ATV riding, and hiking. With a casino, the world’s largest fishing museum, and a bustling downtown area, there’s something for everyone in this midwestern gem. 

Hayward is conveniently located near a vast collection of lakes, like Lake Hayward (which features a public beach) and Lake Chippewa (a popular choice for swimming), so it’s no surprise that top-performing cabins in this market are often waterfront. They boast private docks or boat slips, along with rustic features like exposed wood interiors and majestic stone fireplaces. It’s worth noting, of course, that lakefront homes in Hayward tend to be more expensive — so while you could earn more revenue in the long run, be prepared to potentially face steeper upfront costs. 

To own a vacation rental in Hayward, investors will need a few licenses and permits to operate what they call a “Tourist Rooming House” on state and county levels. Remember, it’s best to work with professionals who can help you navigate these requirements.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $53,332 annually!"

12. Pocono Lake, PA

Aerial photo of Pocono Lake, PA surrounded by dense wooded hills, one of the best places to buy a cabin in the woods. Image text reads, "$20,594 median rental revenue. $279,959 median listing price. 5.1% example cap rate."

Set in the heart of the Pocono Mountains, Pocono Lake is a peaceful town best known for its mesmerizing landscapes and proximity to major ski resorts. Because there are numerous ways to get out in nature — like whitewater rafting, leaf peeping, or hitting the slopes — the potential for multi-season bookings hops up. 

Pocono Lake is also home to a collection of prominent lake communities (like Arrowhead Lake Village), each boasting luxurious perks like members-only beaches, pools, community centers, and watersport equipment rentals. And while high-earning cabins can be found in one of these communities, they don’t need to be.  

So, investors should weigh the pros and cons carefully. Lake communities offer premium amenities, but may carry higher purchase costs. On the other hand, properties outside of a community might be better suited to your budget — but  you’ll need to invest separately in added perks to compete for top dollar bookings in this market

According to our experts, HOAs in this area can also be a deterrent, so it’s essential to work with a local agent to understand how they factor in when exploring your purchasing options.

Image text reads, "The Evolve Difference: Our owners have earned up to $42,851 annually!"

Buy the Perfect Cabin Rental with Evolve

Buying a cabin vacation rental is a major decision, but you don’t have to navigate the process solo. Whether you’re drawn to a lakefront gem or a rustic mountain escape, our skilled real estate experts can help you take the next step.

We have the data to inform your investment opportunities and define your income goals, preferred local real estate agents with expertise in vacation rental purchases, and helpful management tools to make your cabin property a success.

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 an investment in one of the best places to buy a cabin, reach out to our team today.

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