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Lost Pines: Family fun in the Texas Hill Country

Winding down a narrow road, we spot a deer grazing on grass vibrant with blooming wildflowers. We stop for a closer look and Theo, our three-year-old, peers wide-eyed out of the window, squealing when three more spring out of nowhere.

Winding down a narrow road, we spot a deer grazing on grass vibrant with blooming wildflowers. We stop for a closer look and Theo, our three-year-old, peers wide-eyed out of the window, squealing when three more spring out of nowhere. Four hours south of Collin County, our three-day stay at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa—about 30 minutes outside of Austin, close to Bastrop—has begun.

With 491 rooms and 405 acres of amenities, Lost Pines is located on the southernmost tip of the Lost Pines Forest, a 13-mile stretch of over 6,000 acres of loblolly pine trees, which are genetically identical to those found in the East Texas Piney Woods, over 100 miles away. Legend has it that these “lost” pines were brought to Bastrop by a groom seeking to comfort his homesick Native American bride with the trees she had grown up with in East Texas. Geologists, meanwhile, attribute the curious separation to a massive prehistoric glacier. Guests are encouraged to visit the trees in all their towering glory—they grow up to 120 feet—at McKinney Roughs Nature Preserve, next door to the resort property. Here adventurous families have access to 16 miles of hiking trails and can partake in a wide range of excursions from horseback riding, rock climbing and guided nature walks—look out for the purple-berried American Beauty bushes and red-flowering Turks caps—to kayaking, ziplining and sunset river floats.

We arrive on a sunny Friday afternoon; our ground-floor suite opens directly onto a lawn and beyond that is a small paddock, home to ponies, two longhorns, four Pygmy goats and two alpacas. Off to one side is the Hummingbird Garden. While Theo explores by jumping on the bed, the sofa, each of the lounge chairs and then hiding inside a wooden cabinet, Philip and I catch our breath and share a small glass of wine on the balcony, Luna, our 10-month-old bouncing on my knee.

Image courtesy of Lost Pines on Facebook

Lost Pines is described as “family-friendly,” a label that conjures up an expectation of cheap food, brightly colored plastic play areas and screaming kids. Lost Pines breaks that mold.

Natural light floods the lobby, an elegant space with deep leather couches, rocking chairs and two fireplaces. Kids scribble in coloring books, tweens browse iPads and parents sip wine. In one corner stands a horse statue, which on closer inspection is designed for children to sit and take pictures on. We have fun sitting Theo in the saddle and patting the horse’s hollow plastic head. A little later, Theo’s grubby hands discover a bronze longhorn diorama that spins around and around, and around. Beyond the lobby, a central lawn with a badminton net is flanked by flowerbeds bright with wildflowers and towering sunflowers, and at the end is a fire pit circled with rocking chairs. This area, just like the rest of the resort, is simple and elegant—it’s family-friendly without compromising on beauty.

Our first stop outside of our room is Shellers Barrelhouse Bar; I order a frozen margarita and Philip an Old Fashioned. One of nine restaurants on the resort grounds, Shellers serves a variety of cocktails, beers on tap and wine, as well as standard American fare such as burgers, sandwiches, salads and tacos. There’s also a rotating buffet which makes it easy to feed picky—or impatient—kids and spouses.

While I wait for our drinks, I perch Luna on the bar, which is curiously decorated with pecan shells; Philip wrangles Theo as he attempts to play pool just outside. We explore the rest of the resort, sipping our cocktails. On our way to the playground, we pass a fire pit; on one side a young couple are sharing a bottle of wine they’re drinking out of Yetis and on the other a grandfather swings a baby boy into the air while his mom and grandmother try to keep a set of identical twins in check and dad slurps a beer. The playground is simple: a climbing structure with monkey bars and a slide in the shade of a pecan tree.

There are pecan trees everywhere; the hotel was carefully designed to minimize any disruption to the ecosystem and as a result, the building sprawls, snaking around the pecan trees, leaving them free to grow. In the end, just six pecan trees were cut down during construction and those remain on property: as a striking chandelier in the lobby and underfoot as shiny wood flooring.

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We stop only briefly at the playground before we can’t resist taking a peek at the pool area. I’d been dreaming about the pool, and especially the 1,000-foot lazy river, since we’d booked this trip weeks ago; despite it only being 65°F, the stroller is overflowing with bathing suits, sunscreen and water wings. Shaped like a lagoon, with a sandy beach and a volleyball net, the cold water is virtually deserted except for: three little girls balanced on top of an inflatable alligator; two little boys dashing in and out of the water; and a number of adults timidly waist-deep. The hot tub is full. We take off our shoes and with a firm grasp on Theo’s hand, we dip our toes. It’s cold. We retreat.

When we exit the pool area, we find ourselves looking out over the 862-mile-long Colorado river, the longest river that begins and ends in Texas. The water rushes by, muddied from days of rain. There’s a terrace and rocking chairs to enjoy the view, and a games area where we play ping pong, bocce ball and horseshoe toss.

After dinner at Firewheel Cafe—a buffet with options ranging from simple mac ‘n’ cheese to quinoa salad and roasted cauliflower—we end our night roasting s’mores at the fire pit.

The following day, we start bright and early with playtime on the floor of our suite, the curtains thrown wide so that we can enjoy the view. For breakfast we venture to McDades Emporium, the resort’s gift shop where you can buy giant stuffed snakes, and, in the morning, Starbucks coffee, egg white frittatas, bacon grilled cheese and brisket tacos.

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Fueled and raring to go, we drop Theo off for a morning of fun at Camp Hyatt—a program for kids aged three to 12 that includes arts and crafts—strap Luna into the baby carrier and head to the golf course. The Wolfdancer golf course is a 7,205-yard, par-72 course designed by Arthur Hills, an American golf course designer with  over 180 courses to his name. I’m immediately enchanted by its rugged beauty. Ancient oak trees dot the greens and stately pecans trees line the fairways; egrets and the occasional turkey vulture soars overhead. At hole No. 12, Top of the World, an almost birds-eye view of the Hill County stretches out into the distance. On one hole, as I attempt to chip over a bunker, a roadrunner streaks across the green and disappears into the long grass.

Wolfdancer golf course. Image courtesy of Lost Pines on Facebook

When we return to pick up Theo, he’s had a blast; he explored all over the resort, visited the longhorns and crafted a mug, a windchime and a wooden airplane which he loves, and which he promptly destroys at lunch.  

We spend the rest of the day playing and having fun as a family: biking along the river, playing cornhole, and sitting in deck chairs at the edge of a pond that skirts hole No. 18. We spot a snake, non-venomous. We sip wine out of the Lost Pine tumblers we purchase at the gift shop. We eat ribeye at Shellers and roast more marshmallows for s’mores before bed. At Lost Pines, s’mores are a nightly tradition.

By Sunday, which happens to be Mother’s Day, I feel like I belong. I can see myself in the mother whose toddler wraps around her ankle, while she balances a baby on her hip and a large coffee in her hand. I smile knowingly at the mom who wanders slowly behind her husband and two kids, beer in hand. At the pool, when one mom asks at 10:45 a.m. if it’s too early for a margarita, everyone answers, “No!”

Image courtesy of Lost Pines on Facebook

On our last day, the sun comes out and we’re able to enjoy the pool. We dig in the sand, cruise the lazy river, and Theo runs screaming in and out of the splash pad. When Luna falls asleep on my chest, I lie back and order a Lost Pines Paradise, a tri-color cocktail with vodka, rum and pineapple juice. It’s magical.

On the road out of the resort, a bird flaps right in front of the car and flies ahead of us as if it’s guiding us out. As we round a curve, he perches in a tree, pausing just long enough for us to get a good look at him. It’s a bald eagle, the first we’ve ever seen outside of a zoo. And that’s exactly the kind of trip it’s been: full of unexpectedly beautiful moments.

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa
575 Hyatt Lost Pines Road, Lost Pines,
Texas, United States, 78612
+1 512 308 1234
Click here for more.