Government Canyon State Natural Area
 San Antonio, TX

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26.5 miles


singletrack; doubletrack

loops: network


$6 per person 13 and older/day use (annual pass available for $70)

Front Country: Lytle's Loop | Savannah Loop
Back Country: Far Reaches | Joe Johnston Route | Little Windmill
Recharge Trail | Sendero Balcones | Twin Oaks | Wildcat Canyon

• Restrooms
• Group picnic pavilion with 10 picnic sites nearby

TPWD website

(210) 688-9055

• Open: Friday-Monday          Closed: Tuesday-Thursday
• The front gate is open from 7 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Welcome to Government Canyon State Natural Area Trails and intersections are clearly marked, making navigation a breeze (photo courtesy of Geoffrey LeNoir) The smooth singletrack of the Front Country Technical is not a frequent term describing Lytle's Loop A beginner-level technical section along the Front Country trails
Winding singletrack along Lytle's Loop in the Front Country Many of the open trails in the Front Country are straight and fast The only real climb in the Front Country lies around the corner following a rocky creek crossing Lytle's Loop offers this little climb, suitable for beginners Rolling down Joe Johnston Route Heading up a doubletrack section of Recharge Trail
Sections of Recharge Trail resemble singletrack more than doubletrack Entering Far Reaches from Recharge Trail One of the smoother sections of Far Reaches If you are coming from Recharge Trail, get used to climbing this along Far Reaches Rocky steps aren't all that uncommon along Far Reaches The view from Chula Vista
Sections like this shouldn't surprise you Far Reaches isn't all technical, rocky trail ...but there is plenty of that, too The intersection of Far Reaches, Wildcat Canyon and Sendero Balcones Wildcat Canyon has plenty of loose rock for you Descending into a rocky creek drossing along Wildcat Canyon
A view from Sendero Balcones (photo courtesy of Geoffrey LeNoir) Heading up Caroline's Loop The view from Overlook Trail (no bikes allowed) Pick your line wisely or deal with more rocks Watch the grass, it often hides none-too-friendly rocks The other intersection of Caroline's Loop and Joe Johnston 

Video courtesy of TPWD

  Broken down into two distinct areas – the Front Country and Back Country - GCSNA features a little bit of everything for everyone. The Front Country is ideally suited for those not quite ready to face the challenges offered by the Back Country. Though it does provide a climb or two and a few rocky sections, it's challenging enough to improve the new rider's skill without them wanting to call it a day. It also serves as a great warm-up ride before hitting the Back Country trails. The Back Country is where things start to get challenging. Joe Johnston Route is the trail you will find yourself on at the trailhead and makes for a decent ride in and of itself if you choose to simply ride out and back. Even those less skilled should be able to handle the first 3-4 miles of JJR without too much difficulty. GCSNA’s trail layout allows you to be very creative in the route you choose. With that said, I can share the following comments on the trails I've rode thus far, and will add more when I ride the rest.
  Joe Johnston Route – able to be tackled by most anyone. Even with its occasional climbs, nothing’s too, too steep. Keep in mind, however, that once JJR begins to turn towards the Protected Habitat Area (around mile 4) you will face some serious rock steps/climbs. If you choose to avoid some tough climbs or walking/carrying your bike, head back once you reach the northern most point of JJR.
  Caroline’s Loop – I recommend riding this one clockwise, as the rock steps you face early on lead to a lengthy and fun descent as you make your way back to JJR. However, due to recent storms, it's more personal opinion as to which way is ideal.
  Far Reaches - If you hit up Far Reaches coming from Recharge Trail, do not be fooled by the picture-perfect singletrack that lies ahead, the way the sun's rays break through the trees, or the pleasant sound of birds chirping along the first .25 mile or so. It's really just an evil ploy to trick you in to taking on the 2+ mile rocky climb that soon follows. Challenging, but not impossible, the key is to be quick about choosing your line and choosing correctly. A few times you'll be further tricked into thinking you have crested and it's that it's time to go downhill...then you start going back up. Eventually you will reach the highest point of the trail and quickly descend upon the intersection of Wildcat Canyon and Sendero Balcones. In retrospect, perhaps the other direction would have been the better choice.
  Little Windmill - This little trail is probably the tamest of the Back Country's trails and serves more as a connector between JJR and Sendero Balcones, along with linking to the Protected Habitat Area. Consisting of true singletrack and fewer rocks, Little Windmill, is a nice break before tackling the likes of Sendero Balcones or returing to JJR.
  Recharge Trail - Safe to ride either direction, this trail is primarily doubletrack with a hint of singletrack here and there. Fairly level, your direction of travel is more dependent upon whether you wish to go to Far Reaches, or come from Far Reaches.
  Sendero Balcones – If you dare to follow JJR to the point that it heads south along the Protected Habitat Area, you will come across a few choices of routes: Little Windmill, Twin Oaks, Wildcat Canyon, Sendero Balcones, or Far Reaches. The first three will bring you back to various points on JJR and can be rode either direction. Sendero Balcones faces you up against more climbing, similar to the JJR’s latter half, but the rocks are a bit smaller. The downhills that follow each climb are evident, but nothing to get overly excited about – though there are some nice windy sections as you gain speed near the end.
  Wildcat Canyon - What Wildcat Canyon lacks in elevation change it certainly makes up for in technical riding. Most of the trail is rocky to some degree or another and features several back to back rolling ledges as you continue gaining speed on your way back to JJR. Just watch out for the last one as it quickly throws you into a right turn that can be tricky to make going too fast (trust me). Naturally, if you are coming from JJR, these will be steps. Be careful along the creek crossings as the rocks can be loose and pinch flats aren't uncommon. Like most in this area, they can be an accident waiting to happen if you hit one of the many rocks just the wrong way.
~ 7 August 2010)


Government Canyon State Natural Area weather forecast

Last modified: 13 January 2012