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First Time Hiking River Place Nature Trail in Austin, TX

I was contemplating whether or not I should bring my 25 Ibs backpacking pack on the rigorous River Place Nature Trail, with over 2,000 stair steps, for the first time. Let me explain.

The Reason I Took a Backpacking Pack

My friend and I went to REI a couple of weeks ago to fit our first backpacking packs – the Osprey Aura 50. We're planning to use them this fall at a Texas State Park and decided that it would be beneficial to practice with them. This meant packing them up with all of the gear we have and pretending we're going on at least a 2-night trip.

I packed mine up with 2 days of clothes, my tent, 1.5 L water reservoir, Teva sandals, sleeping pad, first aid kit, headlamp, trekking poles, snacks, etc. You get the gist – it was a lot! My pack was like a Mary Poppins's bag.

The only pieces of gear I have left to get before our real backpacking trip are my sleeping bag, Jetboil stove, and toiletries (aka a poop shovel). Yes, a poop shovel because there's no restroom in sight when you're primitive camping, so you need to bury it like a responsible backpacker. Well, back to the story.

Starting the Hike at River Place

Sunday comes around, and we meet up at the trailhead. Depending on the time of the week you go, you may or may not need to pay a $10 fee to hike the entire trail (it sucks, but Texas Parks and Wildlife actually tried to get rid of this fee). Once we paid, we were on our way!

Map Located at the Trailhead

Mid-hike, I was definitely feeling the weight in my shoulders and my ankles. Which makes me think I need to rearrange how my equipment was packed. For example, switching the placement of my tent from the bottom to the inside since it's my heavier piece of gear.

The trail is very nice from start to finish. You have an increase and decrease in elevation throughout, cross a stream a few times, and have some nice views of the hill country at the top. There are also several benches you can take a break at, which is super nice when you need to catch your breath.

We hiked that trail, we conquered those stairs, and we made our way to the top. The fun thing about River Place is it's only one way. So you either Uber back to where you started or hike all the way back to the beginning. Of course, we hiked all the way back to the start because that's what we were there to do!

An Unexpected Finish

Once we walked all the way back, I was getting concerned about how my body was feeling. I knew I didn't eat a good breakfast (1.5 waffles with grape jam), and I snacked on one protein bar. It wasn't enough, especially for all the calories I was burning. So another lesson learned on my end!

I was laughing in my head because, of course, I would do the hardest hike in Austin, not just with a heavy pack, but TWICE. Making it my longest and most difficult hike to date. It took about 3 hours to complete it.

Although my body was holding on by a thread near the end, I was jolted back by my friend, who stopped me in my tracks. Well, well, look at what was less than two feet away from us – a rattlesnake. Fortunately, a kind man helped us move it off the path, and it went on its way. This was my first time seeing one in the wild! And after this unexpected encounter, we completed our hike. Clocking in 6 miles and over 4,000 stair steps.

One thing I really enjoyed about this experience was being able to feel a little connected to the people I've read about and watched on YouTube that have done a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. I've dreamt, crazy enough, of how it would feel to walk a long distance and be like a real backpacker all decked out in gear. I felt like Cheryl Strayed walking with Monster.

Cheryl Strayed with her backpack "Monster"

But I haven't had the REAL experience – yet.

I definitely think I can conquer this trail with no problem without a backpack now...since I've completed it in the hardest way possible. Don't get me wrong, I felt like a badass but a defeated one who ate an entire medium-sized pizza afterward.


Have you hiked this trail before? If you have any questions about my experience, any backpacking tips, or want to know more about the trail, leave a comment below. And don't forget to sign up to be on my monthly newsletter!

Talk soon,

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