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With City and Bexar County parks closed over the long Labor Day weekend to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, people seeking a taste of the outdoors will have to travel farther afield.
Walkers and bicyclists still have the option of using the Howard W. Peak Greenway trail system, which remain open for socially distanced recreation. One portion of that trail is highlighted below.
Here are some additional areas previously featured in The Trailist you might want to explore:
Government Canyon State Park
Government Canyon State Natural Area allows the deepest plunge into wilderness of any park within a short drive of San Antonio.
Hidden among the trees and creeks are pieces of history, making this park popular with hikers and mountain bikers. A roughly 6-mile hike on the Joe Johnston Route takes visitors to tracks left by dinosaurs, a rock midden left by indigenous peoples, and a mysterious house built by San Antonio Germans.
The land that would become Government Canyon State Natural Area had long been owned by ranching families who raised cattle on the property. In the mid-19th century, it had been the site of a federal government supply road between San Antonio and Bandera through an area locals once called “the government’s canyon.”
Today’s San Antonio residents benefit from the foresight of conservationists like George C. “Tim” Hixon, who helped pull the Government Canyon Coalition together. Hixon, an urban housing developer and former TPWD commissioner, died in 2018. The natural area he helped create now hosts around 40 miles of hike and bike trails.
Read more about Government Canyon here.
Guadalupe River near Sisterdale
The 6 river miles of the Guadalupe River between Zoeller Lane and FM 1376 in Kendall County was a serene stretch of river to paddle, much of it shaded by lofty cypress trees. My friend and I alternated between straight, lazy pools and curves with faster-moving but gentle rapids. The whole trip took us about four hours, with intermittent stops.
Along the way, we saw a handful of other paddlers and anglers, but we mostly had the river to ourselves. It felt like we encountered more birds than people. My friend spotted a great-horned owl watching us from a shaded overhang halfway up a rocky bluff. A great blue heron glided always ahead of us, perching and preening and then lifting off silently as we drifted too close.
Most people who paddle this part of the Guadalupe River use their own kayaks or canoes and stage their own cars at the beginning and endpoints. Previous Trailist reviews have covered the Guadalupe River at Spring Branch and Bergheim, which have outfitters who rent kayaks and tubes.
We used Zoeller as a put-in point and the parking area under FM 1376 bridge as our take-out spot. We could have lengthened our trip by 2 miles if we had put in at Waring and by more than 11 if we had put in at Zoeller and taken out at FM 474 or Amman’s Crossing. The Trailist recommends using the river access maps at Southwest Paddler and from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to help plan your trip on this part of the Guadalupe River.
Read more about this stretch of the Guadalupe here.
Crescent Bend Nature Park
Crescent Bend Nature Park is made up of 190 acres just south of a particularly twisty section of Cibolo Creek, which forms the border of Bexar and Guadalupe counties. The creek tends to flood and has over the years become buffered by a string of municipally run parks on either side.
Of these parks, Crescent Bend has the best scenery. Its short 1.6 miles of gravel trails makes it a good place to go for a quick walk or bike ride if you live or work nearby. The City of Schertz, which operates the park on land owned by Bexar County, maintains the trails.
The trail winds through riparian forest and grassland before dipping down towards Cibolo Creek. I visited in the heat of a July day and still found plenty of shade from the pecan, oak, and hackberry trees.
Cibolo Creek is the reason for the park’s existence, but it’s also what makes it stand out. A prominent tributary to the San Antonio River, the Cibolo is a waterway that gets little attention, despite the several parks near Schertz that offer creek access.
Read more about Crescent Bend Nature Park here.
Salado Creek Greenway
Inside San Antonio city limits, Salado Creek Greenway-North offers 16.5 miles of concrete and asphalt trail that stretches from just north of Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston to Loop 1604. The Trailist recommends biking or walking the trail north going out and south coming back. That way, you can take advantage of the subtle downhill decline on the return trip.
I like to start by parking at John James Park and then riding over the bridge on Rittiman Road. The trail connection on the other side of the creek parallels Holbrook Road.
From the start of the trail, you have shaded forest riding for about 4 miles. The crossing under Loop 10 starts to mark a change in the terrain. Be careful crossing the 410 access road, probably the most dangerous street crossing on the trail, even with the posted warning signs.
The trail takes you through Los Patios, Lady Bird Johnson Park, and then parallels Wurzbach Parkway through open fields and mesquite woods, with long flat sections to build up some speed on a bike. Make sure to follow the signs and avoid getting turned off the main trail when you reach Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park, the easiest place to accidentally veer off down a side trail.
Shortly after passing Voelcker Homestead Trailhead, the trail enters what I consider the loveliest stretch of greenway on the Salado. For about a half mile, it parallels a wooden fence separating the trail from a row of houses. Branches from cedar elms and oaks lean over the trail, forming a leafy tunnel.
Read more about the north part of the Salado Creek Greenway here.
Colorado Bend State Park
If you’re up for a bit of a drive, Colorado Bend is a 5,330-acre park with something for everyone. Located west of Lampasas about 145 miles from downtown San Antonio, it offers 35 miles of trails, most open for hiking and bicycling. Water flowing from the park’s upper regions has cut caves and sinkholes throughout the property, as well as forming Gorman Falls, the tallest waterfall in Texas. Kayakers and anglers can easily access the Colorado River, which twists its way past the campground.
The signature attraction is Gorman Falls, where admirers can watch the tumbling water flow off sheets of travertine rock, formed by the deposition of minerals from the falls. Ferns decorate the sides of the walls and create a cool, green oasis under the trees.
Many visitors also spend their time down on the river, fishing for bass and catfish, or kayaking through the sluggish water. Campgrounds near the river and on top of the plateau have drive-up, walk-in, and backcountry sites.
We hiked up the steep and rocky Spicewood Canyon, where a clear creek laden with minerals has created a series of terraces and pools that form gorgeous swimming holes. If you make a loop, the trail is about 4 miles total, and The Trailist recommends taking the hiking-only Spicewood Springs path up and coming down the hike-and-bike Spicewood Canyon trail. A vista at the top of the ridge on Spicewood Canyon offers expansive views of the creek, the Colorado River and bluffs in the distance.
Read more about Colorado Bend State Park here.