“An unassuming Hill Country trail to the center of Government Canyon.”
— Brendan Ross
Government Canyon State Natural Area is open Friday through Monday, 7 am to 10 pm. Some additional openings are found around major holidays, and there may be closures after inclement weather to protect the trails. Check their website for updates: tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/…
Admission for visitors 13 years and older is $6. Overnight camping is available.
Pets are allowed on the frontcountry trails only (Savannah Loop
and Lytle's Loop
Trails in Government Canyon SNA are typical of those found in the Hill Country, meaning that rocky conditions are common and trail shoes are recommended. This can considerably slow many runners' "normal" pace, so plan for a longer time on the trail than the mileage may suggest.
San Antonio experiences hot, humid summers and mild winters. The months of June to September often experience highs in the triple digits. Plan around the hottest parts of the day and bring plenty of water, as none is available away from the trailheads. Also be sure to pack out any waste produced during a visit; the SNA overlays the Edwards Aquifer and all runoff will eventually end up in the city's water supply.
Cougars, bobcats, and rattlesnakes are part of the wildlife. Cougar sightings are uncommon but a potential danger; they are most active at dusk and sunrise. If out on the trail at these times, avoid running alone, and keep children and pets close at hand.
The Twin Oaks Trail begins a little after reaching the two mile point on Joe Johnston Route
. Look for the bench/trail map/marker combination present at most of the park's major intersections. The path begins as a fairly wide singletrack, taking a frequently winding path through tree canopy. The live oaks that give this trail its name are a staple of the Texas Hill Country, and they provide ample shade from the sun throughout the route.
As Twin Oaks climbs, it becomes a little more technical than the Joe Johnston Route
. Smooth and rocky sections alternate, and while there are a few tricky areas requiring some pathfinding through debris, they are usually short and not very troublesome. Users familiar with other Hill Country routes will find Twin Oaks to be familiar territory; this is a "stereotypical" central Texas trail.
Around a mile and a quarter in, the path passes its namesake twin oaks, seen off the trail to the right. A bench facing the trees here provides a rest opportunity. Continue onward to the northeast. The next three quarters of a mile is fairly flat and easy to manage.
Twin Oaks crosses Sendero Balcones
just after the two mile mark. A large sign is posted at the intersection. The remaining portion, a little over a half mile in length, is within the Protected Habitat Area and is the southernmost entry point. This region of the State Natural Area is restricted to pedestrians only and is open from September to February. A wooden barrier will be placed across the singletrack during closures.
The final portion is a counterclockwise circle, with a slow climb up and back down to the finish. The tree canopy opens up a few times along the way. The increased sunlight encourages grass growth, which can obscure underlying rocks at times, so use caution. Twin Oaks ends at Black Hill Loop
. From here, runners can turn right to visit the furthest reaches of the park, or left to return to Sendero Balcones
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.