Weekend Adventure: Government Canyon, Texas

So, I had a chance to get outside over the weekend and experience a little exploration and adventure of my own. I headed out to Government Canyon State Natural Area near San Antonio, Texas. The park has only been open since October, and offers plenty of nice trails for hiking and mountain biking alike.

The weather was cool, and windy, with overcast skies when I got to Government Canyon. Being a recent transplant to Texas from the Mid-west though, 50 degrees in February sounded pretty nice to me. After paying my entry fee, and filling out a record of which trails I would be using, I headed out to explore the area. The ranger station requires you to mark the trails you intend to use just in case someone gets lost or injured, they know where to go looking for them. As this was my first time there, I checked off a few trails in a nice loop, and proceeded on my way. I was probably only a mile or so onto the trail before I had already veered off my choosen course though. Yeah, I like to live dangerously. 😉

I spent about four hours in Government Canyon, and managed to walk about 12 of it’s 40+ miles of trails. Not bad for my first visit. The trails range from easy, wide paths, to moderately challenging, single track. There is not much in the way of elevation gain, and few water crossing, made even easier with the ongoing drought here in Texas. Everything is clearly marked, and the handy map I was given at the entrance made it simple to find my way and explore the region.

A few tips for anyone visiting Government Canyon, and if you’re in the area, I’d recommend that you do. First, the area is scenic, but it’s hard to get good pictures due to all the trees and undergrowth. Head to the Overlook Trail to get some decent views of the valley. Secondly, the Joe Johnson Trail is the superhighway of Government Canyon. 95% of the traffic I saw in the park was on this trail. If you’re looking for a little peace and quiet, and maybe some solitude, head out on Wildcat Canyon or Fear Reaches trails. Also, don’t let the paperwork that you fill out at the ranger station fool you. It’s simple to navigate through the park, the routes are well marked, and you’d have to be fairly inept to get lost here. Finally, there is certainly plenty to see and miles of trail to hike, but I think the park would be even more fun on a mountain bike. Trails ranged from easy, to a nice technical challenge for the few mountain bikers I encountered on my hike. Oh, and don’t forget to bring plenty of water. You won’t find any in the backcountry.

All in all, it was a nice escape for the afternoon. By the time I left to return to Austin, the sun was shining and it was comfortably warm, despite the breeze. The rocky trails made for a nice challenging walk, and the backcountry area was quiet and beautiful. If you live in central Texas and you’re looking for a new place to explore, you could do worse than Government Canyon.