Mountain biking in the Franklin Mountains.
Photo by Laurence Parent.
El Pasoans make the most of their city's 300-plus days of sunshine per year, flocking to sheer cliffs and canyons, mountain peaks, and riverside wetlands.
Franklin Mountains State Park, set within El Paso city limits, is one of the nation's largest urban parks, covering 40 spectacular square miles of Chihuahuan desertscape. You'll marvel at the variety of cacti, roadrunners, quail, lizards, mule deer, and coyote found here — figures that appear in Native American pictographs and petroglyphs that dot the park's boulders and rock walls. The Franklins are Texas' largest sustained mountain range; the tallest peak, North Franklin, tops out at 7,192 feet. More than 100 miles of trails await hikers and bikers.
For a less rigorous outing, hop aboard the Swiss-made Wyler-Aerial Tramway to ascend the 2,600-foot cable to Ranger Peak. The four-minute ride delivers 7,000 square miles of views over New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico.
To better appreciate the landscape, peruse the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens. Its 625 species make it one of the largest captive collections of Chihuahuan Desert plants in the world. The obligatory cactus garden leads on to surprisingly lush grounds that overflow with succulents, desert lantana, and purple bee balm, to name a few.
Keystone Heritage Park exhibits some of the oldest human-made structures along the prickly pear–lined nature trails of the El Paso Desert Botanical Garden. Amble along these paths to the Keystone Wetlands, a spring-fed oasis in the Rio Grande flood plain, where 200 visiting species make it a bird-watcher's paradise.
Ducks, herons, and even peregrine falcons are the most common visitors to the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park in nearby Socorro, Texas. Today, visitors can stroll three easy loop trails to spot the more than 240 species sighted here, including the famous Texas horned lizard (horny toads for short).
El Paso Municipal Rose Garden shows off the city's softer side. The outdoor jewel cultivates more than 1,460 rose bushes in 320 varieties blooming along the paths of a 4-acre park.
Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site lies 45 minutes outside of town and is worth the trip, especially for its archaeological finds. Its name is drawn from huecos, natural granite bowls dotting the rock-hewn landscape. These water collectors drew ancient peoples, who adorned the rock formations there with white and rust-colored animal figures, masks, and geometric pictographs. Rock climbers come for world-class bouldering (rock climbing that doesn't require ropes) and rappelling on North Mountain. Only 70 highly coveted permits are granted for self-guided tours each day, so make reservations for the November to March high season. Reservations are also advised for the 20 campsites, which offer unparalleled stargazing on clear nights.
Don't Miss: 2018 Outdoor Happenings
Chile Pepper Challenge, Sept. 30
The city's premier cycling event takes competitors on an epic ride through the Mesilla Valley past pecan orchards and chile fields.
El Paso Puzzler Mountain Bike Race, January 2019
This race pits riders against tough terrain for 15-, 35-, and 50-mile races.
Lone Star 100, January 2019
A grueling 100-kilometer trail running race in Franklin Mountains State Park.
Hueco Rock Rodeo, February 2019
The top bouldering competition in the U.S., overseen by the American Alpine Club.
Poppy Fest, March 30, 2019
Celebrate spring wildflowers as a field of orange poppies overtakes Franklin Mountains State Park.