Springtime brings new life to the River Place Nature Trail, tucked away in the hills of the River Place neighborhood west of Austin. In 2009, the middle section of the trail—also known as Panther Hollow—was closed for a rerouting project, but today the trail’s entire length is open and ready to greet you and your adventurous spirit.
Starting from the pond in Woodland Park, walk along the boardwalk—away from the street—to access the trail. There are a lot of log steps with smooth, packed dirt throughout the hike (over 900 steps in fact!), and you will quickly learn that the trail is a natural stair climber workout. This is a 3-mile out-and-back trail, making for a somewhat strenuous 6-mile route when hiked in its entirety.
High, overhanging limestone cliffs hug the trail as it dips and climbs into and out of the hollow, winding through wooded areas teeming with live oaks, Spanish oaks, and ash junipers. You’ll know you’ve arrived at paradise when you reach a lush, tropical-like environment surrounding a crystal-clear creek that occasionally drops down into low, moss- and fern-lined waterfalls.
When you see the trailhead marker for Panther Junction, stay straight to continue tracing the edges of the creek. Abundant native plant vegetation—from American Beautyberry and Mexican Silktassel—can be seen growing along the hiking path. As you climb out of the riparian zone, beautiful vistas await to reward you and your quad-burning, stair-stepping efforts.
Allow 3 hours to hike the entire trail round-trip. If you’re short on time, set a desired turnaround time before you start. The trailhead at Woodland Park is located about 30 minutes from Austin on Big View Drive. Before FM 2222 intersects FM 620, turn left on River Place Boulevard and continue for 2.8 miles. Turn right onto Big View Drive and (after descending the massive hill), look for the Woodland Park parking area on your left. Walk across the street to the pond and trail kiosk to start the hike. Trail is open 7 days a week, but not open to cyclists. Park admission is free.
Mark Your Calendar
The Hill Country Outdoors group will be guiding their next free hike along the River Place Nature Trail at 2 p.m. on March 15. Put on your hiking shoes, pack a snack and water bottle, and meet the group at the Woodland Park trailhead.