Friday, June 26th, 2015
Hike: Panther Trail to Canyon Trail including Little Fern Trail, River Place, Austin, TX
Weather: HUMID, warm, clear skies, upper 80s/low 90s
Hikers: Ian, Court
Length: 6.78 miles
I had heard about this trail a while back, but it was closed at the time, due to some issues surrounding land management and rights. Our friend told us that it had been opened back up and I had always heard good things, so we set out to hike the trail on Friday morning.
After this trail, I am confident in saying it is the best trail in Austin, bar none. It is beautiful, challenging, and diverse, with some extremely steep elevation changes. I took almost 70 photos, but I’ll try and edit myself.
We got out to the trail around 8:30 in the morning. It is an out and back trail and we started at the lower trail head that starts off as a board walk around a pond. This ended up being a good decision, as we both agreed afterwards that starting at the top and coming down would make the return trip a lot harder, due to the elevation changes. Quite the quad burner. At the pond, a solitary swan guarded the entrance, but he left us alone.
We quickly ascended into the woods along the creek and were voraciously attacked by dime size mosquitos, thanks to the rain for the last two months. Luckily, I had a couple of Ben’s DEET wipes, which I learned about from Muk Muk’s blog, and they lived up to their hype. No mas mosquitos. I also learned to not put the used wipes in the top lid with Court’s iphone case, as the DEET ate it up pretty good.
We soon came to a beautiful fern wall dripping water and some rapids in the creek.
Soon after, the stairs started, both up and down. Someone put in a ton of work building this trail and it is greatly appreciated. All of the steps are really well made and the tread of the trail is really good all the way through. All the while the creek got better and better.
The trail became the Canyon Trail (after starting off as Panther) and crossed the creek before starting a really long, steep uphill. This was the hardest part of the hike.
We had some good views at the top near the trail head at the other end. We rested and got some food in us to fuel up for the trek back.
We had almost gone through 2 full liters of water and I finally had good reason to use my Sawyer Squeeze Mini for the first time. It worked like a charm and the water tasted great. Court abstained though. She doesn’t trust technology or something.
We got back to the trail junction with Little Fern trail and followed it up the creek to some gorgeous waterfalls. We hung out next to the big one with a great swimming hole for a while before turning around and heading back to the junction where the two creeks (Panther Hollow and Little Fern) converge.
We headed back to the original trail head and stopped to watch some turtles swimming in the pond. We were both very tired, but very pleased with this trail. It reminded me a lot of some of the trails in Oregon I have done. Did not feel like Texas for a lot of it. We’ll be back.