A winter retreat at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines

By: Mauri Elbel
January, 2022

It’s easier to ride a horse than it is to walk a pony. These words of wisdom came from my newly-turned 7-year-old daughter after spending a recent weekend at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa  –– a luxury wilderness retreat sitting on more than 400 tranquil acres fringing the banks of the Lower Colorado just 30 minutes from where we hang our hats in bustling Austin.

Situated along the banks of the Lower Colorado River between Austin and Bastrop, Hyatt Regency Lost Pines offers families a memorable Texas escape. Photo by Mauri Elbel

Ever since our kids were little, we’ve thought of this resort as a fun and convenient summer staycation, with its winding Crooked River Waterpark featuring a 1,000-foot lazy river, a two-story water slide, shallow pools and splash pads and refreshing poolside cocktails. But just last month, my family returned for the first time in a few years and got to experience a quieter, more peaceful side of the resort, which just completed an extensive multimillion-dollar transformation of its guestrooms and suites.

The recent revitalization features a complete transformation of the hotel’s 434 guestrooms and 56 suites. Contributed by Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort

Spoiler alert: While folks often flock here for summertime fun, the cooler fall and winter months might just be one of the resort’s best-kept secrets. 

Writer Mauri Elbel and family embark on horseback ride at Renegade Trailhead.

One of the highlights of our stay was our first-ever family horseback trail ride (our daughter just made the minimum age requirement) at the resort’s on-site Renegade Trailhead, an old-fashioned outpost that offers leisurely guided trail rides through McKinney Roughs Nature Park for riders of all levels ages 6 and older. Saddled up on a beautiful chocolate-colored quarter horse named Kruger, I filed in line in front of my husband and our two boys and behind my daughter, who was riding a gentle horse named Skip. I watched her and Skip’s matching blonde ponytails bounce up and down as we clip-clopped through 3 miles of cool, shady loblolly pine forest trails.

At Renegade Trailhead, first time riders have a lead line on their horse that’s attached to an experienced trail guide. Mauri Elbel photo

Our boys have been on a couple of trail rides over the years, but just before the ride, I grew nervous about how our daughter would handle the experience. Thankfully, we soon found out that there’s no need for nerves at Renegade Trailhead, which is operated by Dusty and Natalie Wells of T&D Adventure Parks. Before the ride, our kids were fitted into cowboy hat safety helmets as we signed waivers, and once we rode out of the stable area, our 7-year-old’s horse was tied up to an experienced trail guide who patiently gave my daughter tips throughout the ride, reminding her to hold Skip’s reigns, lean back when he marched down a hill and lean forward when he trotted up one.  

Renegade Trailhead offers hour-long rides for all riding levels on trails along Wolfdancer Golf Course and McKinney Roughs Nature Park. Photo by Mauri Elbel

“We get a lot of people who haven’t ridden a horse before,” says Natalie Wells, who began the business with her husband in 2015 and has been offering trail rides to guests of Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort since 2019. “What we do with our 6- and 7-year-old guests –– and even some adults who are a bit timid to ride a horse –– is to put a lead line on their horse that’s attached to a guide. Lead lines are a lot like training wheels for a horse. By the end of the ride, guests aren’t scared of the big animals anymore. They aren’t pros yet, of course, but now they know what to do when they get on a horse.”

Following our horseback ride at Renegade Trailhead, which also offers pony rides for little ones, expert-led trapshooting classes, and tomahawk and archery adventures, we headed back to meet the resort’s friendly animal mascots. We arranged a private mascot meet-up that began in the resort’s corral, and our kids got some one-on-one time with adorable animals like the Kunekune pigs Maple and Honey, an alpaca duo called Yogi and BooBoo, and the aptly named band of goats: Johnny, Willie, Hank and Waylon. 

Meeting the resort’s friendly animal mascots is part of the fun at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines. Photo by Mauri Elbel

RELATED: 10 Magical Holiday Hotels

A mascot handler let each of our kids lead an animal out of the corral and walk it around the resort’s grounds. Our boys each led an alpaca while our daughter learned that ponies tend to be more interested in snacking on grass than getting their daily steps in. Taking a leashed pony for a leisurely stroll is a much more challenging task than horseback riding, she determined.

Kids take two alpacas and a hungry pony on a walk on the resort’s sprawling grounds. Photo by Mauri Elbel

Animal experiences ranging from meet and greets with the ponies to goat socials and cowboy and cowgirl photo ops with the resort’s Texas longhorn steers are just some of the daily activities on offer during the winter months. There’s also a slew of other free, family-friendly experiences to choose from, spanning arts and crafts, lawn games, bicycles, tennis courts, fishing at the on-site pond stocked with bass, carp and catfish, nightly s’more’s roasts and family movies on the lawn. 

Evenings are capped off at Hyatt Lost Pines Resort and Spa with nightly s’mores roasts. Photo by Mauri Elbel

Cuddle up after s’mores to enjoy a family movie on the lawn. Photo by Mauri Elbel

Families can also book more thrilling experiences during their stay, like professionally guided zip line tours that allow you to zoom up to 1,315 feet above the landscape at Zip Lost Pines, or UTV excursion tours winding through McKinney Roughs. The resort is also home to the championship 18-hole Wolfdancer Golf Club and Spa Django, boasting 17 treatment rooms offering everything from massages and body treatments to facials and nail services. 

RELATED: Sleeping in a treehouse at Cypress Valley 

The main pool at Crooked River Waterpark is heated throughout the cooler months. Photo by Mauri Elbel

While my husband and kids headed to the Crooked River Waterpark (the main pool is heated year-round), I checked myself into the spa for my first facial since the pandemic –– a HydroPeptide rejuvenating treatment that left my skin feeling fresh and hydrated for days. Pro-tip: linger at the spa before or after your treatment –– there are relaxation rooms, saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs and an outdoor heated pool reserved exclusively for spa guests. 

More than 18 miles of hiking trails wind through the adjacent McKinney Roughs Nature Park. Photo by Mauri Elbel

On our last morning before heading back home, we took a long, meandering 5-mile hike through the adjacent McKinney Roughs Nature Park, trekking along the pine-shaded, sun-dappled trails skirting the river. We listened to chirping birds, spotted black cows taking a morning dip in the green river, and climbed up to a tranquil overlook called Meditation Point. Perched high on the overlook, we relished the brisk morning breezes and bird’s eye view of the beautiful Colorado River, and I couldn’t help but be grateful for the quiet beauty that unfolds less than a half-hour from home and spots like this made for soaking it all in.

If You Go

Getting there:

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines is about 30 minutes east of Austin.

Stay:

Rest your head in one of the hotel’s recently renovated 434 guestrooms or 56 suites, which are ideal for families with multiple kids. Outfitted with new furniture, art and décor, the revamped guestrooms and suites embody an upscale ranch-style feel with a more modern aesthetic.

Do:

Book a horseback ride at the resort’s on-site Renegade Trailhead, an old-fashioned outpost where guests can take horseback rides, learn archery and take expert-led trapshooting classes. Go hiking at the adjacent McKinney Roughs Nature Park, fish at the resort’s on-site pond, get pampered at the luxurious Spa Django, swing your clubs at the world-class Wolfdancer Golf Club, take a dip in the heated pool, meet the friendly animal mascots, and end the day with nightly s’mores and a movie on the lawn. 

Eat and Drink:

Shellers Barrelhouse is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving casual fare like salads, burgers and tacos. Firewheel Café Restaurant boasts a bountiful breakfast buffet as well as a la carte brunch items like huevos rancheros and eggs Benedict and Southern-inspired dinners. Sip a hand-crafted cocktail at Scribes Club, the resort’s 21-and-up library-style lounge. The resort’s fine dining restaurant, Stories, remains closed, so if you’re craving variety during your stay, you’ll need to venture out to nearby Bastrop, which is home to a handful of noteworthy restaurants.

Follow Austin Travels


Austin Travels is a women-owned, Austin-based travel magazine committed to highlighting destinations in Texas and beyond through the lenses of diverse and talented writers.

Subscribe

@austintravelsmag

January Festivals: Top 10 Texas events this month

January Festivals: Top 10 Texas events this month

Weekend getaway: Carefree in Concan at 7 Bluff Cabins

Weekend getaway: Carefree in Concan at 7 Bluff Cabins

A winter retreat at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines

A winter retreat at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines

10 Magical Holiday Hotels to Check off Your List

10 Magical Holiday Hotels to Check off Your List

Seeking relaxation and uncovering empathy at Miraval Resort

Seeking relaxation and uncovering empathy at Miraval Resort

Texas towns shining bright this holiday season

Texas towns shining bright this holiday season

Soaking in the holidays and Austin’s history at the iconic Driskill Hotel

Soaking in the holidays and Austin’s history at the iconic Driskill Hotel

Martin Dies Jr. State Park is an East Texas treasure

Martin Dies Jr. State Park is an East Texas treasure

Make your way to Matagorda Bay for coast without the crowds

Make your way to Matagorda Bay for coast without the crowds

Fishing up old memories and making new ones at Inks Lake State Park

Fishing up old memories and making new ones at Inks Lake State Park

FIRST LOOK: Inside Chef Tim Love’s new Fort Worth shipping container hotel

FIRST LOOK: Inside Chef Tim Love’s new Fort Worth shipping container hotel

Go to Garner this fall for the Frio, foliage and family fun

Go to Garner this fall for the Frio, foliage and family fun

Wurstfest: New Braunfels’ epic Bavarian bash is back

Wurstfest: New Braunfels’ epic Bavarian bash is back

Discover the diversity of LBJ National Grasslands

Discover the diversity of LBJ National Grasslands

November Festivals: Top 10 Texas events to check out

November Festivals: Top 10 Texas events to check out

20 Texas pumpkin patches ripe with fall fun

20 Texas pumpkin patches ripe with fall fun

October festivals: 10 top Texas celebrations to check out

October festivals: 10 top Texas celebrations to check out

Falling for Fredericksburg: Sample all this Hill Country haven has to offer

Falling for Fredericksburg: Sample all this Hill Country haven has to offer

Central Texas Camping Guide

Central Texas Camping Guide

A fall paddle down the Devils

A fall paddle down the Devils

5 nearby parks perfect for an RVshare road trip

5 nearby parks perfect for an RVshare road trip

September festivals: 10 top Texas events

September festivals: 10 top Texas events

Texas Glamping Guide

Texas Glamping Guide

Women, wind and waves: Surfing for adventure

Women, wind and waves: Surfing for adventure

Dive in: 7 swimming holes and natural spots to splash into near Austin

Dive in: 7 swimming holes and natural spots to splash into near Austin

Girls getaway: 24 hours in San Antonio’s Historic Pearl District

Girls getaway: 24 hours in San Antonio’s Historic Pearl District

A downtown Houston hotel reimagined –– plus 5 things to do nearby

A downtown Houston hotel reimagined –– plus 5 things to do nearby

Texas 2021 Beach Guide

Texas 2021 Beach Guide

A true escape: Domovina Ranch in Smithville

A true escape: Domovina Ranch in Smithville

Royal treatment: 24 hours of spa bliss at one of Houston’s poshest hotels

Royal treatment: 24 hours of spa bliss at one of Houston’s poshest hotels

7 magical things to do with kids in Big Bend and West Texas

7 magical things to do with kids in Big Bend and West Texas

Photo Essay: The missions of San Antonio

Photo Essay: The missions of San Antonio

Becoming a birder at Galveston’s FeatherFest

Becoming a birder at Galveston’s FeatherFest

Seminole Canyon’s world-class rock art is a lens to history

Seminole Canyon’s world-class rock art is a lens to history

Need a break? An Archer Hotel Austin staycation, plus Domain shopping guide

Need a break? An Archer Hotel Austin staycation, plus Domain shopping guide

Discovering Surfside Beach, a Texas Gulf Coast treasure

Discovering Surfside Beach, a Texas Gulf Coast treasure

Nature and nurture: Hill Country wellness retreat offers a salve for the soul

Nature and nurture: Hill Country wellness retreat offers a salve for the soul

Gruene Hall: Daytrip to this timeless Texas treasure

Gruene Hall: Daytrip to this timeless Texas treasure

Everyone’s an artist at Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch

Everyone’s an artist at Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch

Get away while giving back to foster children at stunning Hill Country glamping spot

Get away while giving back to foster children at stunning Hill Country glamping spot

Plan Your Outdoorsy Adventure

Plan Your Outdoorsy Adventure

Discover history and simple pleasures in Baffin Bay

Discover history and simple pleasures in Baffin Bay

Texas bluebonnets are back! 10 wildflower hotspots

Texas bluebonnets are back! 10 wildflower hotspots

8 Great State Parks for Camping with Kids

8 Great State Parks for Camping with Kids

Fishing and Sea Turtles and Birding, Oh My: A weekend at South Padre Island

Fishing and Sea Turtles and Birding, Oh My: A weekend at South Padre Island

Relax and relish the coastal charms of Rockport

Relax and relish the coastal charms of Rockport

Social distancing in sleepy Sonora: Escape to a luxury ranch resort 3 hours from Austin

Social distancing in sleepy Sonora: Escape to a luxury ranch resort 3 hours from Austin

Lessons in life and death on the beach in Port Aransas

Lessons in life and death on the beach in Port Aransas