Government Canyon State Natural Area

Park Alert...

Government Canyon FAQs

Q. Is it true you have dinosaur tracks here? Where are they?
A. It is true! The tracks are about 2.5 miles up the Joe Johnston Route, just past Marker #19. It's a long hike (five miles round trip) so take plenty of water and snacks. Start the hike early if you're going to take little ones. Our trails are rugged and not accessible for most strollers. Check with the Visitor Center for more information.

Q. Why do you close the trails when it rains? How can I find out about closures before I visit?
A. Because Government Canyon is a natural area, not a park, our primary mission is conservation and resource management. Saturated trails become muddy, slick and, where puddles form, some­times impassable. Hikers/bikers tend to go around the puddles, which widens the trails. This leads to erosion and trail damage. As good stewards of a precious place, we must minimize these types of negative impacts. We appreciate your willingness to help us in this mission! Find trail con­di­tions posted on our Facebook page, Twitter, or call our main office phone (210-688-9055) after 7:30 a.m. If you visit us often, subscribe to our Twitter feed to get updates sent to your phone. When the main trails are closed due to rain, the new Discovery Trail is usually open to hikers, only. Sorry, no bikes or dogs permitted on this trail.

Q. Why is your site only open to the public four days a week?
A. As a natural area next to a metropolitan area, Govern­ment Canyon is an excellent resource for wildlife biologists and other scientists. Scientists conduct research when we are closed. Staff and volunteers create programs for school groups, conduct heavy maintenance, work on resource management projects, handle administrative duties, and - everyone's favorite – complete paper­work! Govern­ment Canyon does open extra days at holidays. Check our Events page for specific dates.

Q. Why is it called Government Canyon?
A. In the early 1850s, the Army contracted with Lt. Col. Joe Johnston to survey a supply route through the northwest part of Bexar County. The Army wanted a more efficient route between what is now Fort Sam Houston and outlying military posts. Johnston spent time surveying up the creek that runs through our canyon. Locals began to refer to "that government road" that was being built in "the government's canyon." The name stuck.

Q. Are dogs allowed on the trails?
Pets are allowed only on the Front­country trails. The Front­country has two loops: Savannah Loop (2.12 miles) and Lytle’s Loop (4.74 miles). The trails offer plenty of room to stretch your pet’s legs. Your pet must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet. You must collect and properly dispose of fecal material left by your pet. For your convenience, we have three dog waste stations in the Front­country. Please be sure that your pet’s shots are up-to-date for its and others' protection, and be sure to provide plenty of water to keep your pet hydrated.

Q. Why can't we take our dog into the Backcountry?
A. Part of this property is in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. When we acquired it, we agreed to protect and manage this area. That means no domestic animals are allowed. Additionally, your adorable pet is, to local wildlife, a predator. Dogs on Back­country trails would eventually change wildlife behaviors, and that could lead to changes in entire eco­systems. Managing the Canyon includes protecting the eco­systems of the creatures that live here. Thanks to all of you who help us in this mission!

Q. Can we camp here? Are there hookups?
A. Yes and no! Keeping with our mission as a natural area, and not a park, we designed GCSNA to have minimal impact. Walk-in tent camping is available on Friday and Saturday nights, and on additional nights during and around holidays. Each site has a pad for your gear, lantern hook, fire ring, picnic table and a hutch for your goodies. However, these sites do not have water and elec­tricity. Potable water is available from spigots around the campground parking lot. We only provide tent camping at Government Canyon.

Q. Can we go fishing or swimming here?
A. Sorry, no. Most of our property sits over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. Any water here seeps into the aquifer. This means we have no permanent bodies of water in the Canyon.

Q. Do you offer any guided hikes or programs?
A. Yes, we do! Two regular guided hikes and a number of special events take place every month. For the most current listing, please check our Facebook page, our Events page, or the Friends of Government Canyon website.