The story of how Government Canyon SNA was lost on the first visit to this San Antonio, TX park, but knowing the history of the community coming together made the second visit a little more appealing. A new section of the park was hiked, but knowing what to expect from the original post still rings true in 2021. So follow along and explore Government Canyon SNA!
A story of two worlds
The quick version: The natural area is an important part of the Edwards Aquifer, San Antonio is growing rapidly, the community came together to protect the land and the park opened in 2005.
The area at the park has been home to people and wildlife for centuries; and the big-picture of protecting the resources that it helps provide the city, and its surrounding areas, seem unfathomable not to protect it.
You never really forget how close to the city you are here. While walking around you’ll hear the planes from the San Antonio airport, and at the Chula Vista Overlook you’re watching the city grow below you. Like a lot of state parks in the central, hill country region, cities are growing and expanding rapidly, and ever so close to our protected areas.
But that’s important to remember; they ARE protected. The community knew how important the Edwards Aquifer is to the watershed, and so visiting this place should give visitors a little more pride felt when walking around.
Camping at Government Canyon SNA
Because Government Canyon SNA is a state natural area the amount of camping options is quite limited. There won’t be a full recap of camping here, but visit the official campsite for more details on where you can camp.
The area is restricted primarily to the Front-Country of the park; just off of the main entrance. And it’s important to note that no pets are allowed in the Backcountry of the park, so if hiking is part of your visit, and you want to bring your doggies it’s probably best to have someone watch them so you can enjoy both parts.
While the Backcountry is where the majority of the trails are there are still some fun things to do around the camping area including hiking and a natural playscape. Additionally, just off of the headquarters there is the interpretive Discovery Trail and a handful of little exhibits that highlight some of the park’s features.
Again, because it’s a natural area, the normal state park perks are limited so guests can enjoy more of the natural surroundings.
Hiking Government Canyon SNA in 2021
The previous visit to the park included hiking the Joe Johnson Route (4.0 mi. one way), Caroline’s Loop (2.45 mi.), and skipping over to see the dino tracks from above on the Overlook Trail (1.01 mi.).
On the return visit trails hiked included the Recharge Trail (1.11 mi.), Far Reaches Trail (2.97 mi.), a small portion of the Sendero Balcones (full trail 4.48 mi.), and finally the Twin Oaks Trail (2.61 mi.).
The journey starts on the Recharge Trail and it is the border so to speak of the aquifer. The trail starts easy enough with some open areas that were predominately used as prairies for wildlife, etc. Mostly flat land, you wind around some of the trees here in a great warm-up for the rest of the park.
Eventually, you arrive at the Far Reaches trail and start making your slight ascent up towards two of the scenic overlooks. Chula Vista Overlook is the first one, and you’ll be greeted with a wooden bench that gives a great view of the growing population of west San Antonio. On the last visit, you could see and hear construction trucks off in the distance keeping up with the growth.
That juxtaposition is Texas’ current struggle. The battle between private lands for public use, and the ever-growing Texas population. The irony here wasn’t lost. Enjoying the growing city in a state natural area.
The trails here at Government Canyon SNA are all fairly typical hill country trails.
Rocks jetting up from the ground, cypress and oak trees; pointy things in every direction. The pleasantries of the birds singing along to the breeze. All of the things you’d expect in the park.
With that– there’s not a whole lot else if you’re familiar with this landscape on this end of the park.
You can stop off at one more scenic overlook (Sotol Overlook), but it’s less than impressive than the first. Just after that, you’ll be faced with your first trail challenge: Which trail should I continue on?
The trail intersects with two additional trails: Sendero Balcones and the Wildcat Canyon Trail that will take you back to the entrance. You pass the beginning of these trailheads on the Recharge trail.
The Sendero trail does continue north, so hop on there and head towards Twin Oaks Trail, or into the further depths of the Protected Habitat area (which was closed on the last visit). You can even access the trails from the first visit here if you want to let those miles add up.
The Twin Oaks Trail is a connector trail that will take you back to the Joe Johnson Route. There was nothing remarkable about this trail besides what you’d expect from this area, but the good thing about this section is there’s also nothing here that’s too challenging besides adding length to your trip. So definitely something to keep in mind.
Because Joe Johnson offers views of dinosaur tracks it was revisited to add some miles to the day. The tracks are still a bit of a mystery even on the second go-round, but they are there. This section of the park is the most interesting, and it features multiple points of interest.