While East Texas may be known for their towering pine trees, there remains a stretch of pine forest in the area around Bastrop, East of Austin, known as the Lost Pines. The existence of the pines, so far removed from East Texas, are a mystery, but just one of the many fun things to see and do in the area!
Bastrop is home to two incredible state parks, Bastrop State Park and Buescher State Park. Bastrop is a huge park, almost 6,000 acres, with a swimming pool, hiking trails, and historic cabins built by the CCC in the 1930’s.
We recently stayed in Buescher State Park, Smithville which has a nice lake for fishing and kayaking, and some terrific hiking trails! However, during this camping trip, we mostly stayed at our campsite and enjoyed the sound of frogs as we watched the rain fall across the lake. It happens sometime, and as I get older I’m learning to appreciate these quiet moments as much as the loud and playful ones! We stayed at Screen Shelter #4, and I have to say how much I loved this location, even at the risk of letting out a great camping spot. It’s more secluded than the other screen shelters, with it’s own parking and separated by the restrooms and a playground. While I usually don’t book screen shelters, this one is also large enough to accommodate cots in the shelter, and has a nice area for a tent, with lake access for fishing. As my husband was down fishing with our boys, I grilled steaks, and afterwards we enjoyed a nice evening by campfire at the large stone fire ring. We had hiking planned, as the park offers a great hiking trail, the 7-mile Pine Gulch trail, with some significant elevation changes and scenery. This would have been my 12th hike in the #52HikeChallenge, but the weather just wasn’t cooperating. Kayaking is another activity offered at the park, and they have rentals. Fishing license aren’t required for bank fishing at any Texas State Park, but since the entire lake is encompassed by Buescher State Park, you can fish from a kayak as well, without a license. All but two of the trails allow mountain bikes, and cyclist also love the hilly, 12 mile Park Road 1C between Buescher and Bastrop State Park, which is also a scenic car drive.
In 2011 the worst forest fire in Texas history consumed much of the beloved Lost Pines, almost 32,000 acres, destroying 1,600 homes and killing 2 people while burning for 55 days! The damage from the fire can still be seen in Bastrop, and in Bastrop State Park. In 2015, another wildfire, the Lost Pines Fire, consumed some of Bastrop State Park, the homes and subdivisions along Park Road 1C, and about half of Buescher State Park. Park biologist and volunteers set to work replanting the loblolly pine forest that was destroyed in the park and along Park Road 1C. Part of the recovery includes prescribed burns to rid the area of the yaupons and oaks and give the pines a chance to grow. In 2018 we were lucky enough to be allowed on a guided “Fire Hike” in Bastrop Park following a prescribed burn. There were still small fires burning as we hiked along, and the small dips in the hilly terrain held the smoke in a beautiful and ominous way.
We’ve camped several times in Bastrop State Park, but my favorite will always be my son Cole’s 18th birthday, when we rented the Big Cabin. Cabin #12 is a rustic cabin that offers 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, dining area and bathroom, and is located at the very back of the cabins loop, with its own parking area and a private outdoor area overlooking the remains of the lake, which was drained when the dam failed in May, 2015. The park has recently began construction to restore the dam and lake. The historic cabins were built in the 1930’s, as part of President Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corp., referred to as the CCC, which employed workers in an effort to rebuild following the Great Depression. We were told that Cabin #12 was also a favorite of President LBJ, who enjoyed spending time there and playing poker on the big table.
The Gas Station, 1073 SH 304, Bastrop The 1974 horror movie, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre may not have really happened, but it was filmed in Texas! One of our favorite places to take out of town friends is the Gas Station for a fun photo op, which not only has terrific BBQ and memorabilia from the movie, but also has little cabins where you can spend the night, if you dare!
Hyatt Lost Pines Resort and Spa, Lost Pines We love the Crooked River Water Park at this Hyatt destination resort, where you may never want to leave the property! Guest can also fish at the resort, with all the equipment and assistance provided! They also offer complimentary s’mores for their fire rings, and complimentary bike rentals. A golf course and a spa are also available, as is horseback riding and skeet shooting and archery, at an additional fee.
Barton Hill Farms, Bastrop Set along the Colorado River, you’ll have fun at the annual Fall Festival and Corn Maze each October, or enjoy Spring in Bastrop at their Spring Festival, running from mid-April through Memorial Day!
Sherwood Forest Faire, McDade A fun little Renaissance Festival that runs each March and April. I love that not only can you camp in the forest, like at the Texas Renaissance Festival, but you can also rent rooms inside the festival!
Scream Hollow Haunted Park , Smithville I told my friend Pam just the other day that Scream Hollow has really ruined all other haunted houses for me. This is a neat park with several haunted houses, a bar, live music in a patio seating area all out in the middle of the forest! They open several times a year, not just in October, with different scary events, including a haunted hay ride this Summer! It’s recommended for 12 and over, and seriously, we go to a LOT of haunted houses, and this is the only one where I’ve sat and watched as numerous people pee’d their pants when running out of the houses!
Rocky Hill Mountain Bike Ranch, Smithville A designated mountain bike trails ranch with many events. Trails are open when there are not events.
Lake Bastrop South Shore Park, Bastrop Another amazing LCRA park, they offer cabins and camping with mini golf, water recreation! They rent kayaks, canoes, Stand Up Paddleboards and corcls! Check out the corcls, they look like so much fun! They also rent those fun Ultraskiffs!
Downtown Bastrop Did you know that Bastrop is known as the Most Historic Town in Texas? Many of the old homes are located on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s a really iconic old Downtown, with shops, restaurants and galleries! I love our recent visit to Paw Paw’s Catfish House, and we love Maxine’s for breakfast!
The Colorado River runs through Bastrop, which touts itself as “Just Downriver from Weird”! Downtown Bastrop sits on the banks of the Colorado River, but there are a series of stairs and walks that take you down to the Riverwalk. A paved trail leads you to Fisherman’s Park, with picnic tables, a playground and watercraft rentals!
Neighbors Kitchen and Yard, overlooking the Colorado River, is quickly becoming one of my favorite restaurants, with a huge deck and big, open yard and live music on the weekends.
Bastrop River Company, Bastrop Explore the Colorado River on a kayak and SUP! Rent for an hour, a day, or overnight camping trips! This is easy, flat water and so much fun for fishing or just exploring! Bastrop is home to the El Camino Paddling Trail, also!
MckInney Roughs Nature Park and Zip Lost Pines, Cedar Creek Another amazing LCRA park (we stayed at Matagorda Bay Nature Park in December and loved it!), this park offers terrific trails, zip lines and even a hostel!
The Dinosaur Park, Cedar Creek Take a walk along trail with life-size dinosaurs at this fun park every dinosaur lover will love!
Capital of Texas Zoo, Cedar Creek At this intimate, privately-owned zoo you’ll see and get to know some very special animals, including Tank the Hippo! They offer several unique animal encounters, too!
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