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River Place Nature Trail

Trail (4.22)51
(3.79) (3.22)
3.50 Miles 1800 Feet
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Austin Travis
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Update: After a contentious debate and some hard work, the River Place Nature Trail is completely reopened! We've put together a timeline of events which led to the issues facing the trail, all of which now appear to have been resolved.

The southern trailhead features a boardwalk along the edge of a nice pond.

Hiked just about every trail in the Austin area and looking for something new or challenging? The River Place Nature Trail just might be the trail you've been looking for.

Much of the trail follows along stream beds through the canyon.

This new trail was created by the Municipal Utility District that serves the River Place neighborhood. In a word, the trail is fantastic. There are some steep elevation gains and descents that are mitigated somewhat by the ubiquitous placement of steps and stairs.

One of three trailheads are located on Big View Drive across the street from the tennis courts and small soccer fields. The trailhead here includes a nice kiosk detailing the trail map and animals that one might find along the trail.

The first section of the trail is a boardwalk that follows the boundary of a retention pond. You'll find lots of turtles here and sometimes folks that are fishing. The trail soon turns rough and disappears into the brush uphill.

A few spots here and there feature nice waterfalls and interesting formations like this depression in the stream bed.

This first section of trail is referred to as Lower Panther Trail, named after the surrounding area, Panther Hollow. How did this name come about? When the area was still a working ranch several dead goats kept turning up near cave entrances. Ranch hands tracked down a Mountain Lion in this area thought to be responsible for the kills and dispatched it. There have been no Mountain Lion sightings in the area for quite some time.

The trail surface is hard pack and rock. It's uneven and often hugs the side of steep slopes above Panther Hollow creek. The trail builders used a lot of logs to buttress the downhill side of the trail for stabilization. It obviously required a lot of work to put this trail into place.

About a half mile into the hike there's a junction point that leads into two possible directions. To the right is the trail segment marked as Little Fern Trail. It leads to one of two trailheads along River Place Blvd.

Did we mention that there are lots of stairs on this trail?

If one takes the Little Fern Trail option, there's is yet another another trail segment option. The Water Line Trail parallels Lower Panther Trail on the opposite side of the creek. Unlike the rest of the trail system, this segment is relatively flat and wide open to the sky. It's really more of a utility service path, but it's an option none the less.

The main option continues north and encompasses the newest addition to the trail system which includes trail segments entitled Upper Panther Trail and Canyon Trail. Here you'll find the roughest terrain with the biggest elevation variation. Expect quite a stairmaster-like workout as you descend into and ascend out of creek beds and ravines.

The northern portions of the trail feature a couple of vistas, otherwise your path is well sheltered by trees and brush.

The northern sections of trail also feature a few vista views of the surrounding canyon lands and the River Place golf club below. According to the official maps there are a couple of emergency exits onto the golf course along the northern trail segment.

The northern trail segment also empties out onto River Place Blvd. Although the River Place Blvd. trailheads lack explicit parking, there is space along the road to park.

In looking at the satellite views of the area it's quite possible that the trail system here could be expanded a bit further, though I have seen no plans put forward to do this. Whether the mileage gets increased or not, this trail is worth the visit.


Trailhead One of the two trailheads along River Place Blvd. (Photo by Austin Explorer) Stairs Stairs, stairs and more stairs. This trail has them. There are some nice benches on which to rest as well though. (Photo by Austin Explorer) Wooden bridges There are many wooden bridges throughout the "Lower Panther Trail" section (Photo by jtkatie)
Trail As you can see, the trail is well-constructed and well-used (Photo by jtkatie) Nice spot One of the lovely resting areas with what seem to be brand new benches (Photo by jtkatie) Stairmaster! The beginning of one of the most strenuous sections of the trail! (Photo by jtkatie)
The view! The view from the top of the hill is quite spectacular! (Photo by jtkatie) Mile marker The trail has very well-marked distances... although the gap from 1.5-2.0 on the way up seems a LOT longer! (Photo by jtkatie) Warning at the top trailhead Always a sign of great things to come when there are Emergency Exits off of the trail you are about to go on! (Photo by jtkatie)
Map of trail Featuring the Emergency Exits in red. :-) (Photo by jtkatie) Golf Course view A view from one of the higher points on the hike (Photo by jloop17) Small Pond One of the few times I saw water on the hike (not counting the times I was pouring my bottled water all over myself) (Photo by jloop17)
Texas Rocks Yeah I didn't do this, but it's pretty cool anyways (Photo by jloop17) Max My pooch taking in the creek ;) (Photo by maddix) Creek Really liked the creeks here. Great for dogs and people of all ages. (Photo by 2AOutdoorsman)
Trail Marker Sort of a weird, jenga kind of trail marker. (Photo by Lone_Star) Cute Good trail karma. (Photo by Lone_Star) View Of The Trail The trail runs past an interesting rock ledge. (Photo by Lone_Star)
Lake There is a nice lake near one of the trailheads. (Photo by Lone_Star) What a dork Me at the end of the hike. I was pretty gassed. (Photo by texaskdog) Going down, then coming back up An example of some of the stairs you'll encounter on this trail. (Photo by heatharcadia)
Sunrise Stopped to take in the sun rising (Photo by heatharcadia) Waterfall and waterhole Off of the Little Fern Trail segment (Photo by heatharcadia)

Log Entries

This place is gorgeous!
By JConger on 10/2/2016
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.50 Miles Duration: N/A

My wife's Fitbit measured that we conquered 96 flights of stairs hiking this trail.  It was so worth it.  Only thing is I wish is was a little bit longer.  They did such a great job making is place.  So many beautiful views and the trail is pretty challenging.  Not the best place to go for solitude so expect to see lots of other people.  

i give this a five star rating.. fantastic, pics are up on my facebook page
By jimmy peace on 4/15/2016
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.80 Miles Duration: N/A

you can go to hiking central texas to see the pics 

Great hike- fairly challenging but fun
By amirmaf on 3/5/2016
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 7.00 Miles Duration: N/A

We did this hike on a beautiful Saturday with temps in the 70s. Starting at the bottom it get progressively steeper with long runs of stairs winding through the forest along a little creek. It's very well maintained and has a good canopy for shade although it could be pretty brutal in the summer.

Only negative is the number of other people, especially those that don't have much ettiquette when it comes to yielding right of way, but overall it's a great hike.

Beautiful Surroundings
By attainablelife on 12/25/2015
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 7.00 Miles Duration: N/A

My first hike in 10yrs, why I gave it a 5 for difficulty. Moved here 10yrs ago and haven't hiked since leavng Tuscon, Az.

Great Christmas day hike, quite a few people out enjoying it.

The only spoiler, people not cleaning up after their dogs !!

Look forward to going back again to this one and discovering more trails in and around Austin.

Great workout with beautiful surroundings!
By heatharcadia on 12/23/2015
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 7.50 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 54 minutes

This is a beautiful place and a great workout. I'll be returning to hike it again!

I began my hike at the Boardwalk trail head just before sunrise. I made my way up to the very top of the trail (taking a small journey off of the main trail to check out what looked like a side trail but ultimately that went nowhere special) and turned around at the upper trail head on River Place Blvd and made my way back down. On the way back, I turned and hiked the Little Fern Trail segment. I'm glad I did: That segment has some of the best-looking water features. When I got to the trail head for that segment I turned around and went back and hiked out the way I came in. 

This was a good workout! BRING WATER! I'm glad I brought more than I thought I would need because I drank it all. There are many, many stairs and I certainly felt it a day and a half after the hike. This trail isn't a loop, so you'll have to turn around and hike it again to get back to where you started, or have someone come and pick you up at your ending spot. I recommend doing what I did if you don't have someone to pick you up: Start at the bottom, go to the top, come back down to the bottom. That way your return trip to your car is mostly descending stairs.

The trail was pretty wet and muddy even though it hadn't heavily rained (to my knowledge) before I went. Keep this in mind along with the fact that you have to cross a creek several times and wear appropriate shoes (ones that you don't mind getting covered with mud).

For the first hour or so of my hike I didn't see but two other people. After that the place started getting more busy with people and their dogs, so if you want to hike for solitude this isn't the place (I didn't mind, though). 

great workout!
By crocodile235 on 6/24/2015
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 5.00 Miles Duration: N/A

I'm so glad this trail reopened.  I hiked it a few times after the May rains, when there was tons of water in the creek.  I usually start at the bottom and go two or three miles then turn back, since the upper section is not quite as pretty.  The creek is gorgeous and there are several small waterfalls that empty into picturesque pools.  There isn't much solitude--this is (rightfully) a popular trail.  This would be a good place to hike while training for a backpacking trip.  Stairs and more stairs! 

By jimmy peace on 6/6/2015
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.30 Miles Duration: N/A

so far, i think one of the best trails i have hit

Did the reroute
By texaskdog on 3/7/2015
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.00 Miles Duration: N/A

This time we parked at the central entrance, did the stub and the new route, double back to the south (with the fountain) and back.  The new routing offers a lot of cool views of the creek that weren't there before, but the tradeoff is you are right next to the golf course a lot of times (and thanks to the golf course as I believe it is their land that they offered up).  There is one new stairway steeper than all of the others.  They are putting up a huge fence along the protected land.  Apparently the loud generator doesn't bother the birds..not sure why the old trail needs to be dismantled if no one can go in there.  Looks like they allow dogs on the trail now, with the good and bad that comes from that (I don't understand someone bagging up the poop and then leaving it for others to magically clean).  Thanks to Sandy Perry and everyone who worked hard on this trail, the trail should be renamed for her.

Best trail in Austin newly reopened!
By Riff Raff on 1/25/2015
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.84 Miles Duration: N/A
I noticed the www.friendsofriverplacetrail.com web site indicated they had completed the 1600 foot reconnect, and that the full trail is now reopened. So I immediately went out for a very nice hike with the dogs, taking advantage of the awesome weather this weekend. Saw lots of other folks out doing the same thing! There was one section of the reconnect trail that got a bit confusing at a stream crossing that is effectively a Y intersection (with the right side of the Y going into the golf course), but apart from that all looked good.
Great weather for a Christmas day hike!
By AustinWhitewater on 12/25/2014
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 6.00 Miles Duration: N/A

Contrary to what the WARNING in the description above says, the trail is now open all the way from the Canyon Trail Kiosk (highest point) to the Boardwalk Kiosk (lowest point), a distance of 3 miles, and that is exactly the direction I hiked it. Then I turned around and went back up.

As others have said, most, but not all, of the steep steps are in the 1 mile Canyon Trail, which has the largest overall elevation change from 920 feet to 680 feet. In this section, however, the accumulated gain and loss is greater as the trail and steps meander up and down several times.

The Canyon Trail then connects to the 1.5 mile Upper Panther Trail. It has a few steep sections but also some level sections. This section ranges from 700 feet down to 530 feet, but again the accumulated gain and loss is a bit more as there are some uphill stretches.

The Upper Panther Trail connects to the 0.5 mile Lower Panther Trail, which terminates at the Boardwalk Kiosk. This trail is fairly flat, only ranging from 560 feet to 520 feet.

Had great weather and quite a few people were out on the trail, but I had a fair amount of solitude as well. There wasn't much water in the creek but it was still a very pleasant day. Thanks to all the people from River Place and elsewhere that worked long and hard to get this trail open again!

Starting the out and back at the Boardwalk Kiosk is easier as you don't have to finish on the steep steps of Canyon Trail as I chose to do.

And if you only want to go one way, you will need to have transportation parked at both trailheads.

Only showing last 10 log entries. View All Log Entries

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