Hiking, mountain biking, geocaching? Check. Government Canyon State Natural Area is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, with more than 40 miles of trails to explore deep in the heart of Texas Hill Country.
Located on the northwestern outskirts of San Antonio, the 8,600-acre Government Canyon is open to daytime visitors Friday-Monday, and closed Tuesday-Thursday. The natural area also welcomes overnight campers on Fridays and Saturdays, making it a great outdoor weekend destination. With lots of regular programs and group events, visitors should call ahead to verify that trails and campsites are open on the dates they plan to visit.
Government Canyon is dedicated to the preservation of its ecosystem, and guests are invited to enjoy the area with minimal environmental impact.
The 40 miles of trails are a major draw for the natural area, offering a range of terrains for avid nature hikers. Each trail within the network ranges from about 3-5 miles in length, with an overview map prominently displayed at each trailhead.
Many visitors set out for a hike or trail run on their own, but there are also plenty of guided hikes scheduled each month. Most trails have an easy or moderate difficulty level.
When hiking at Government Canyon, guests are asked not to venture off the trails to preserve the natural vegetation.
Mountain bikers rejoice over the advanced (for mountain-less Texas) trails at Government Canyon. There are easier trails near the front of the park, but the backcountry provides a challenging ride with steep, rocky single-track trails. It’s a technical, slow-going ride with about 500 feet of overall elevation change.
While the area can accommodate all skill levels of riders on its varied trails, full suspension bikes are highly recommended. Bike or hikers-only trails are clearly marked at the trailhead.
Geocaching’s continued popularity allows families to explore with a purpose at Government Canyon. The natural area encourages geocachers and participates in the ongoing Texas State Park Geocache Challenge.
The GPS-based “treasure hunt” adventure is a great family activity and Government Canyon often hosts special workshops to teach attendees how to participate.
The natural area now has 25 walk-in campsites, including two large group sites, available for tent camping. Smaller campsites can hold up to eight people, and all sites include a tent pad, fire ring and picnic tables.
Technically labeled as primitive campsites, these sites do not include access to showers, modern toilets or piped water source direct to the campsite (though there is water nearby).
Camping is allowed only on Friday and Saturday nights, and reservations are recommended.