Seven trail runs, day hikes, and mountain bike rides to explore the desert mountains towering over El Paso, in Franklin Mountains State Park.
El Paso’s Franklin Mountains State Park is one of Texas’s top outdoor destinations, and worthy of planning a trip to—no matter what your favorite sport is. This nearly 27,000-acre park spans the eastern and western foothills, with over 100 miles of some of the state’s best singletrack scattered around the mountain. Cell reception is abundant thanks to nearby towers, water is available at the western trailhead, in addition to the numerous overnight camping options. Whether you enjoy the sunrise from the historic mining roads along the mountain’s eastern slopes, stand inside a cave on the western hillsides, or shred the fast, rolling singletrack on two wheels: these are the seven must-do adventures in the Franklin Moutnains.
As hiking tends to be one of the more attainable and popular sports within the park, there are several trails to consider. From the park’s western side, the Sunset Loop and Aztec Cave both begin in the Tom Mays Unit, often referred to as the park’s western trailhead. For those simply driving through town, consider a detour over Transmountain Drive and stop to hike this route to the summit of South Franklin. Though steep at times, the trek is loaded with views, and a popular option is to hike to a high point with a view before heading back. Of course, if you have the energy for it, the summit offers stunning views of town looking east, west, and even south.
If trail running is more your style, then you are in luck. While any of the top hikes in the park could double as runs, summiting North Franklin and circling the mountains via the Franklin Mountains Loop are two of the most epic endeavors you will find in west Texas. North Franklin is a near-perfect half marathon originating at the park’s eastern trailhead, and it is likely you will have most of the day to yourself. In contrast, the Franklins Mountain Loop tours some of the park’s best trails and has even been used (in some form) for running and mountain bike events throughout the years.
Those ready to rip some of the park’s fastest singletrack on their XC rig will love the Sunset Loop on the mountain’s west side, and the Sotol Forest Loop on the east. Enjoy the sunset or sunrise – respectively – and tour the park’s historic mining roads as they circle the mountain. Sotol cactus and other Chihuahuan desert foliage paint the landscape, and numerous interconnected trails offer options to amend any of these routes.
As mentioned above, the park has two main trailheads: Tom Mays and Chuck Heidrich Memorial Park. The first is the park’s main entrance and visitor center, complete with restrooms, water, camping, and a park staff eager to answer any questions you may have. The park’s eastern trailhead, Chuck Heidrich, is a neighborhood park that doubles as access for the state park. There is no entrance station, though a self-pay kiosk sits alongside the trail just past the parking lot asking $5 per person for day use unless you are a Texas State Parks Pass holder. Leashed pets are also welcome throughout the park, and importantly – public consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited.
Texas State Parks