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Peak pursuits: Navigating nature’s trails safely in El Paso

SalmaPaola Baca
Hikers admire the view from Mammoth’s Trunk Trail.

The rugged mountains of El Paso invite hikers to uncover the hidden gems of the Chihuahuan Desert. As the weather begins to warm up El Pasoans and visitors will begin making their way to the Franklin Mountains State Park to explore the various trails the mountain has to offer.  

In 1979, the Franklin Mountains State Park was established by the Texas Legislature as a community effort to save the mountains from being developed and to conserve the mountains as open space for visitors to enjoy.  

According to the Visit El Paso website, there are 125 miles of trails that span across the mountain range. Popular trails include Aztec Caves, West Cotton Wood Spring, Mundy’s Gap, Tin Mine trail, Thousand Steps trail, B-36 Crash site, Mckelligon Canyon, Ron Coleman Trail, also known as Mammoth Rock and North Franklin Peak the highest point on the mountain range. 

“People hike because of the challenge of climbing a mountain and the reward of the views,” said Franklin Mountains State Park superintendent Cesar Mendez. “For some reason mountains have always attracted humans, climbing these mountains makes people feel accomplished.” 

The trails include a nature walk, which is less than one mile and loops around an arroyo, allowing hikers to admire the flora and fauna in the area. Another easy trail is the beginner’s loop, which is also a mountain biking trail.  

Ranger-led programs are also available for visitors interested in learning more about the native flora and fauna. They are held on the first and third Saturday of the month. 

Local wildlife that hikers might see includes birds, deer, lizards, snakes, insects and cotton tail rabbits. In the evening hours foxes, mountains lions, coyotes and collared peccary roam the trails.  

“The desert is fragile so stay on the trail at all times,” Mendez said. “For your own safety and for the safety of the wildlife. You don’t want to destroy their habitat and you don’t want to have encounters with the wildlife either.” 

Some tips to stay safe while hiking include always staying on the trail, keeping a safe distance from wildlife, bringing a lot of water and snacks, wearing proper clothing that protects and shields from sun overexposure, and wearing sturdy shoes. It is also important to make sure someone is aware of the hiking location and how long the hike will be in case of an emergency.  

Other safety tips include packing a flashlight for when it gets dark, checking the weather conditions before and using a hiking stick to help with balance. In case of an emergency call 911, and if it is not an emergency, call the park.  

Park rangers say hikers should also respect the ecosystem by picking up their trash and leaving all artifacts, rocks and plants alone.  

The Franklin Mountains state park is not the only place with hiking trails in the area. Located in east El Paso is Hueco Tanks State Park which takes the hiker back in time. Visitors can admire the hieroglyphics painted on the sides of the rocks there.

North of El Paso are the Organ Mountains, which contain a wide range of trails for visitors to explore which includes Dripping Springs, Filmore Canyon, La Cueva Rocks, Soledad Canyon, and Achenbach Canyon. Further up highway 25 is another popular hiking spot called Slot Canyon. 

Entrance fee to enter the park is five dollars per person for anyone 13 years and older, children 12 and under are free. Visitors can also rock climb, mountain bike and camp in the park. Camping fees range from 10 to 30 dollars per site.  

Alyson Rodriguez is a contributor may be reached at [email protected]; @alyson_rod1127 on X. 

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About the Contributors
Alyson Rodriguez
Alyson Rodriguez, Contributor/Writer

Alyson Rodriguez is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso, currently majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in leadership studies. She is a contributor at The Prospector. She joined The Prospector in the Fall of 2020 as a contributor for the Arts and Culture section and has now written articles for the sports and news section and has done podcast segments as well. After discovering her passion for journalism through The Prospector, Alyson has gone to intern at El Paso Matters, NPR Next Generation Texas Newsroom and the Texas Standard. 

SalmaPaola Baca
SalmaPaola Baca, Contributor/Photographer
SalmaPaola Baca is a senior at UTEP majoring in engineering innovation and leadership with a concentration and minor in civil engineering and an emphasis in computer science. Her passion for photography enables her to be photographer at The Prospector. While a full-time student, she freelances while planning to grow her platform through travel photography. After graduating, she wants to pursue a master’s degree in architecture while working on her photography simultaneously.
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