We agree with AustinExplorer, this is indeed a stairmaster and definitely the toughest hike that we have done so far in Austin! We scoffed at the idea that the "elevation gain" is 1800 feet... but considering all the up-and-down that you do throughout the hike, it certainly adds up (but probably not that much)!
We parked in the tennis court area and started at the Boardwalk entrance to the trail (waypoint "Trailhead"). Before starting our hike, we enjoyed watching the red slider turtles flock over to see if we had any food. At one point, we counted 11 turtles in the one little area right in front of us. People obviously feed them... which is sad, but it was pretty cool to see how many turtles were around.
Judging by the trail markers, from here it is about 3/4-mile to the Panther Hollow Junction. This is a nice stroll through the woods next to a creek. You can tell almost immediately that they put some effort into building this trail - from the sturdy and well-spaced steps to the wooden 'curbs' all along the trail. Along this stretch, we saw four humans and four dogs. After the junction, though, we saw no one else on the trail.
We hiked at a pretty quick pace, and made it almost all the way to the other side of the trail but had to turn back for time sake (at 7:46 pm, after about 1:10 of hiking). We did make it to the very beautiful overlook, which had to be at the highest point of the trail (as the trail headed downhill afterwards). Kicking ourselves for not bringing a camera, we headed back the way we came and finished at 8:37 – with just enough light to not warrant a flashlight.
We will definitely be heading back to this trail when we want some kick-butt exercise… or to train for Guadalupe peak. We figure if we can do the 10 miles that it would take to make two round-trips between the junction and the top trailhead, then that should set us up well for Guadalupe :-)