Day Trips: Utopia

French chef decorates her ultimate treehouses in Utopia

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Treehouse Utopia looks like a collection of four wooden spaceships hovering above the Sabinal River.

Each cabin offers overnight guests a unique experience:

• Chapelle was the first of the four treehouses designed and built by Pete Nelson of the Animal Planet network's Treehouse Masters. It has a French chapel motif with arched windows and decks above the river.

• Chateau is held up by three cypress trees and is the only two-story cabin of the four. It has an extra-large deck.

• Carousel has the multilevel feel of a backyard treehouse decorated with French antiques.

• Biblioteque circles an ancient tree with bookcases and a wraparound porch that provides a platform to watch the more than 30 species of birds that call the river bottom home.

Raised in Houston and Utopia, Laurel Waters met Nelson when he brought his crew to her Laurel Tree restaurant while building a treehouse in nearby Leakey. When he saw the 450-year-old oak tree behind her restaurant, Nelson jumped at the chance to build a treehouse dining room in the branches. As construction on the dining room proceeded, Laurel showed Nelson the favorite swimming hole on her family's property outside of Utopia. The treehouse architect from Washington state was inspired by the towering bald cypress trees lining the river banks. He built the treehouses and she decorated and manages the guest houses.

Each treehouse may be unique in design, but all four of the cabins in the sky radiate a romantic combination of nature and luxury in a utopian setting.

Treehouse Utopia outside of Utopia opens in late July 2018. Overnight rentals are in the $450-a-night range with a two-night minimum. For information, go to

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Treehouse Utopia, Pete Nelson, Laurel Waters, Laurel Tree, Animal Planet, Treehouse Masters

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