San Antonio’s Wildest Place: Government Canyon State Natural Area

On Christmas Eve this year, my family and I explored Government Canyon State Natural Area, one of the largest parks in a city limits in the nation. In the NATION! Right here in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas.


All park, as far as the eye can see.

At 12,085 acres and over 40 miles of trails, the place is huge. It’s impossible to see it all in a day so I chose two: Savannah Loop and Bluff Spurs. (It’s fitting San Antonio has a trail with the word “SPURS” in it, is it not? GO SPURS GO!)

We had a great time and I loved the Canyon, which got it’s name because it was a supply route to one of San Antonio’s military bases in the 1800’s. First I’ll give you a tour of the brand new Visitor’s Center, and then I will show you the two trails we hiked and the scenic vistas that made the our efforts worth it.

Visitor Center


Trooper checks for frogs and bunny rabbits under the deck.



Restrooms: clean and tidy. Whit approved.

Restrooms: clean and tidy. Whit approved.

Savannah Loop – 2.12 mi, ~ 1 hour

This trail is flat, easy, and the perfect spot for light hiking or trail running. (Bring your furry buddy!)


Trooper had a blast.

Savannah Loop is in the Frontcountry, a section of the park where dogs are allowed.




Mom and Jaimie enjoy a little pre-Christmas Eve dinner exercise.

Smile for the camera, ladies! Say “filet mignon” on three!

On the first half of the hike, the trail weaves through thick juniper stands before popping out in the middle of an open savannah. (Hence the name.)







249 calories…success!

Bluff Spurs Trail – ~2.92 miles, 2-3 hours

This trail was more difficult than Savannah Loop, though still easy and doable by hikers of all skill levels.

After Savannah Loop, Brandon and I headed off on our own to the Backcountry. (Sadly, leaving Trooper behind for this section.) I was eager to see Bluff Spurs because it was rumored to be the most scenic.


After resting by the trail map for some water and granola, we took off down Recharge Trail which connected us to Bluff Spurs. Recharge Trail was flat, but once we turned off onto Bluff Spur, the topography changed and I was reminded we were in the Texas HILL Country, after all.




Aquifer recharge zone on the left side of the road.

Trail becomes rocky and starts to head uphill.

Bluff Spurs Trail begins and the path becomes rocky and uphill.


Bluff Spurs trail wove in and out of juniper groves for the first half an hour at least. We had been promised scenic lookouts on this trail and I started to get impatient.




A fossil!


Once, we got a little sneak peek of the scenery to come. It was gorgeous, but such a tease as we still had a ways to go for the big view.


Finally, finally, finally (!) after much ado, we reached the first scenic lookout (indicated on the free map) and wow–was it worth it!





Views like this make you forget that your feet are sore and your body is aching. The sun peeked out of the clouds for us and it was an incredible scene.

We attempted to make it to the second scenic overlook on Bluff Spurs trail but had to turn back because we were out of time. You all will have to check it out and report back.

We ended the day with a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. Because nothing feels better after a day of hiking than a hot shower and getting dressed up.


Say “filet mignon” on three! Happy birthday to me!


  • Whit’s Wilderness Rating: A+ (For its easy and scenic trails, low number of visitors, and proximity to the city.)
  • Website: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – Government Canyon State Natural Area
  • Cool sights: Dino tracks. Hill Country views.
  • Most scenic trail: Bluff Spurs.
  • Perks: Lots of nearby things to do. San Antonio Missions (a UNESCO World Heritage site), the Pearl (classy shopping/eating area on the Riverwalk), and La Cantera, a high end outdoor shopping venue.
  • Doggie info: Dogs only allowed in the Frontcountry (See Map)
  • Good for: light hiking, intense hiking (diverse trails offer both), dog walking, and trail running.
  • Why “Natural Area” and not “State Park”? In short, less human footprint, more wilderness. This property is used for wildlife and ecology research and is preserved for aquifer recharge. There are fewer campsites, roads, amenities and hours of operation than a regular state park. However, it is still managed and operated by the state parks system.

1 Reply to "San Antonio's Wildest Place: Government Canyon State Natural Area"

  • First Day Hikes 2016 | Whit's Wilderness December 30, 2015 (2:47 pm)

    […] First Day Hikes and Bike Ride – Government Canyon State Natural Area – Happy New You! – Whit’s Wilderness Review: Government Canyon SNA […]

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