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A dynamic trail passing through the most remote section of Government Canyon.

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1,490' 454 m


1,207' 368 m


296' 90 m


423' 129 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (9°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Wildflowers · Wildlife

The Protected Habitat Area is open September through February, with gates or barriers blocking entry points the rest of the year.

Runner Notes

Black Hill Loop is part of the Protected Habitat Area, a remote section of Government Canyon accessible only to pedestrians. It is home to some of the more rugged trails in the state park, but offers the best opportunity for solitude - few people venture this far into the backcountry.

As with other trails, keep an eye on the heat, bring enough water, and let someone know where you will be, as encounters with other trail users are rare. In an emergency, the northeast section of the Loop abuts a neighborhood and would be faster access to help than returning to the trailheads.


The longest trail in Government Canyon, secluded Black Hill Loop circles the Protected Habitat Area. The northern end starts at a large gate close to where Sendero Balcones turns west. Singletrack and considerably smoother, at least at the beginning, the route heads off to the northeast on a mostly flat course. Some grass overgrowth helps cushion the path even further, making it a welcome break from the rocky trails that connect to it.

A greater variety of plant life is present along Black Hill Loop. Look for different types of cacti and some very large sotol plants. Black Hill is also much more open to the sky, with some nice large clearings to break up the forested sections. A few rocky sections add some changes, but they are not technical, making for an easy and fast first two miles.

At the mile and a half point, where the path turns back towards the trailhead, there is a huge cactus field to the left of the trail. Cave Creek Trail is at the southern end of a large clearing just after this section. There are only brown markers to show where the trail splits off, so keep an eye out for a dirt singletrack branching to the right.

As Black Hill nears the two-mile point, a neighborhood is visible to the left. Not long after, the trail begins a quick descent followed by a half-mile climb, twisting frequently as it goes. The route is much more challenging through these sections, requiring some careful footwork to pick a clean line through the rocks which have started to appear. The more technical character of the trail will continue until the end, also throwing in some roots growing across the path which can catch an unsuspecting runner's foot.

The marker for La Subida Trail is parallel to the path and not easily seen, but there are markers for Black Hill on either side to help point it out. Some interesting yucca grow between the La Subida turnoff and the one for Sendero Travesero a short time later, which is also easy to miss, as it is in the middle of a wide rocky washout area. A large cairn helps point the way.

A rough, bumpy descent finishes out the last mile of trail, as it passes an intersection with Twin Oaks Trail and the western end of La Subida Trail. This last segment is very similar to Sendero Balcones, which is where Black Hill Loop finishes, directly across from the easy Little Windmill Trail.

Flora & Fauna

The Texas Hill Country is well known for its abundant tree life. Government Canyon exhibits a number of these varieties, including mountain laurel, Ashe juniper, mesquite and live oak. Birds and deer are the most common animals encountered in the area.


Shared By:

Brendan Ross

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Apr 7, 2018
Jason Campbell