This weekend you should be heading out of town... a whole six point two miles out of town!
That is how far the entrance of Government Canyon State Natural Area is from San Antonio city limits. You’ll escape the hustle and bustle of the city, get out in nature while simultaneously saving on gas and time! Simply exit 1604 at Shaenfield Road and head outside the loop until you come to a roundabout. There’s a big sign for Government Canyon State Natural Area, so you can’t miss it.
To get to other state parks, there’s usually drives that take hours, meaning you have to wake up at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds and the blazing sun. However, Government Canyon is close enough to San Antonio that you can take a quick afternoon trip to access to over forty miles of hiking and biking trails. And you’ll be back home in time for dinner.
And don’t forget to pack your water and sunscreen!
The front section of Government Canyon is the Frontcountry.
After you get in the gate, park at the Ranger Station, pick up your maps, maybe buy a book there too, and also use the restrooms before you set out on your nature trek. For beginning hikers, or who have little ones, the Frontcountry provides the easiest trails in Government Canyon. The Savannah Loop and Lytle’s Loop are the easiest trails of the park. They’re fairly flat and you can even take your bike.
If your little one isn’t all about the hiking and biking experience Government Canyon is home to a nature playscape. Located in the frontcountry, it’s a cute playground-like area with rocks and tree limbs to climb on, as well as a cargo net (it looks like a spider-web), situated over rubber matting you’d find in most neighborhood playgrounds. The Nature Playscape is less than a half-mile from the ranger station, accessible by road or by foot.
When you’re done hiking, biking, playing, or all three, take a break to have a picnic. Or you can head back to the Ranger Station to enjoy the group picnic pavilion.
The Backcountry is where you’ll find the moderate to most challenging trails in Government Canyon. So if you’re wanting to explore trails such as North Bluff Spurs Overlook, Outer Loop, Wildcat Canyon, Sendero Balcones, Twin Oaks Loop and more, make sure you arrive earlier in the day. These trails, when hiking, take a good two to seven hours to complete. Many of the trails intersect each other, giving you even more opportunity to hike and see pristine natural Texas countryside. All of that hiking time may get shorter if you’re biking but still, these trails are called challenging for a reason and you can expect some inclines too.
A little note here; Overlook and Bluff Spurs are hiking only! These two trails have great scenic vistas for pictures taking, giving you a glimpse of the San Antonio skyline, as well as giving you an idea of how this land looked before settlers ever arrived.
If you’re wanting to see a little bit more history, pick the Joe Johnston Route. Along this trail you’ll come across an old ranch settlement known as Wildcat Canyon Ranch. There’s also the Zizelmann House which belonged to German Bakers who settled in the area long ago. At about the two and a quarter mark, the oldest piece of history can be found- dinosaur tracks!
Protected Habitat Area
At the very back of Government Canyon is the Protect Habitat Area, aptly named for nesting area of the Golden-Cheeked Warbler. This small bird is on the endangered list. Because they migrate to Government Canyon to nest, this section is only open from September to February and the handful of trails there are hiking only.
If you’re an avid runner and looking for a challenge, Government Canyon has hosted the Recharge Run for the past four years. Scheduled for the fall, this gives you time to train over the summer months in Government Canyon itself. Hosted by Friends of Government Canyon, your entrance fee goes back into the natural area to help support park maintenance and other initiatives.
Runners have two different lengths lengths to choose from; an 8k and a 15k. Both runs start at the Recharge Trailhead. The shorter 8k course branches off and heads into the frontcountry, taking runners along sections of Lytle’s Loop and Savannah Loop. The 15k course is in the backcountry, covering most of the Far Reaches and Joe Johnston Trails.
Enjoy Government Canyon
Keep in mind that Government Canyon State Natural Area is only open Friday through Monday. Check the calendar for guided hikes, the Recharge Run, and other special events.
Adults are only $6 each, children 12 and under get in free. For those that want to visit a lot, purchase a Texas Parks Pass and anyone in your vehicle gets in for free!