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Austin Hiking: River Place Nature Trail Is a Rigorous Climb

Alex Reichek on her favorite, buns-burning hike in Austin

Alex Reichek is a hospitality PR and marketing expert working with several Austin brands to create awareness, partnerships and increase business. In addition, her website is filled with recommendations on where to dine, drink and experience the best of Austin, where she lives now, and New York City, where she lived for eight years after attending UT, as well as discoveries made on her travels around the world. This year, with COVID-19 changing up everyone’s plans, Reichek is exploring the Texas Hill Country and sharing her day-trip escapes with Tribeza readers. Be sure to visit her instagram @ChekmarkEats to keep up with all of the best food and adventures in Austin and beyond. 

River Place Nature Trail is my absolute favorite hike in Austin. Let’s be clear – it might be the ONLY real hike in Austin that gets your buns burning and takes your breath away from the physical activity. Just 30 minutes north of downtown, the Canyon Trail Head offers the steepest incline near the city with more than 5,000 stairs to climb up and step down on a round-trip.

Alex Reichek of Chekmark Eats.

Once you arrive, you’ll see a boardwalk surrounding a mini lake, and that is where you can park and begin your journey that has a 1,700-ft. elevation change. It’s about six miles and takes over two hours to walk up and back down. It’s quite an adventure with alternating terrain.

The first time I hiked the trail was in August. During the hottest time of the year you’ll need to bring water and take a rest halfway through or whenever you feel you need it. My latest visit hit me quite differently. I went during cooler fall temperatures, solo, without water and decided to not let music distract me. It was a Friday morning, when I woke up fully charged with excitement and nervous energy for no particular reason. I felt wound up, so I thought the best way to burn this energy would be to hit the trail out of town to get away from the busy work life and other things roaming in my mind.

I started the steep climb with Kygo tunes in my ears but noticed that my heartrate was already up. I remembered something my uncle taught me when we went trail running in L.A. He always told me to leave my headphones off so that I can engage with nature, the singing birds, the sound of my feet on the dirt path as well as the different smells from flowers or greenery as we swept by. It’s a better way to relax and feel the stillness around you without getting lost in music or a podcast.

With that in mind, I ripped off my headphones and began running up the trail’s stairway like a track star. I felt so alive and present. It was a thrill to power through what I had considered such a tough climb. I wondered if I was crazy for running but I couldn’t stop because it was so much fun! When you are hiking up that many stairs, you have to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Running was a totally different story! I loved flying by walkers and then hearing them behind me start to jog themselves. I felt great knowing I might have helped motivate someone to try something new.

Before long, I was out of my head and felt at ease. Speeding up my body helped me slow down my mind. It was just what I needed.

I participated in high school track, running the 200m and 400m, so seconds meant everything. When I moved to attend UT, I started running the 3-mile loop at Town Lake and also around the indoor track at Gregory Gym. I used to time myself and record in a spreadsheet all of my workouts. I guess I just needed to keep track of my times because I was used to that. I don’t run often anymore because I spend a lot of time swimming or weight training. But my recent trip to River Place Trail felt different because the purpose was to unwind and free my thoughts, not track progress or win a gold medal.

That morning I set out to move my body and burn energy. I cut the walking time in half by running, saw an incredible Hill Country view and felt accomplished. My friend Olivia Young owns a boxing and yoga gym in New York City called Box + Flow. She happily preaches that everything you need is inside and to flow through the fight. That is exactly what I did that morning. Waking up the next day with sore calves was my reward.

If you haven’t been there, I hope you enjoy a run, walk or hike at River Place Nature Trail soon. It’s a great place to get out of town and enjoy some exercise. The mornings are usually less crowded. You’ll need to pay $10 on Saturdays and Sundays, but it’s free Monday through Friday.

River Place Nature Trail is located at 8820 Big View Dr., Austin, Texas.