With more than 40 miles of trails, Government Canyon State Natural Area offers plenty of options for trail running, hiking, walk-in camping or mountain biking. It is only open from Friday through Monday, so it is not an option for a mid-week hike. Come on the weekends though, and you’ll have plenty of parking and options ranging from an easy hike to a long-distance trail run.
There is a $6 entry fee for a day pass that you can either get when you show up, or book ahead online. You can get a day pass online here. Note: Even if you purchase your pass online, you should check in at the visitor’s center to get a pass to leave in your car window. The park is located at 12861 Galm Rd San Antonio, TX 78254:
Bluffs Spur Trail
I have been on lots of the trails at Government Canyon previously and thought it would be a great place for an afternoon run. I noticed that Fairweather Steve had not been out for a run in a while, so I gave him a call. He said he had just an hour before he had to go pick up his kids. We met in the parking area and he suggested the Bluff Spur trail.
From the visitor’s center we headed straight out along the road and across the bridge. Then a left on Joe Johnston trail, went up JJ for about 100 yards, then took a right on the Recharge Trail. Then another half mile for a left onto the Bluffs Trail. Thats where the hills begin.
My GPS track has the route, including the out and back to both Overlooks, at 4.4 miles. There are definitely some uphills, so be prepared to work for the view. The views from the overlooks are pretty sweet, and you can see the visitor center from the South Overlook.
The park has a trail map online, see it here: Government Canyon Trails.
Note: Not all 40 miles of trail are open year-round. There are about 8 miles of trails at the North end of the park that are only open for part of the year. So check the park’s website for updates on openings and closures.
Government Canyon Park History
Government Canyon State Natural Area is over 12,000 acres, making it the largest area of public land in Bexar County. The main area was historically a cattle ranch. in the 1980’s, the area was purchased by a coalition (thanks to George C. “Tim” Hixon!) and the city of San Antonio and converted to a Natural Area. This Natural Area status is why the park is not open all week: the area is set aside to recharge the Edwards Aquifer, which provides water for San Antonio.
The “Government Canyon” name came from the 1850s. A new calvary post was being created in Bandera, and a supply road was needed to get there from San Antonio. At the time, this area was Apache country. A military survey crew led by Col. Joseph E. Johnston scouted and documented the route. Johnston was a soldier, but led a more successful career as a surveyor. It was said about Johnston: “Johnston is a great soldier, but he had an unfortunate knack of getting himself shot in nearly every engagement.” (quote from Winfield Scott).
Over the years, additional swaths of land have been added to the park, including a semi-cleared area that was originally planned as a subdivision just North of Helotes (that area does not have any trails in it yet).
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Always love hearing about your runs! Thank you for sharing them.