Franklin Mountains State Park
The Franklin Mountains State Park blows aside busy city life, as the air rides a cool southwest gust down the edge of the rocky mountain range into its yucca-filled foothills. El Paso is split between the Franklin Mountains, where its peak scrapes the skyline at 7,192 feet above sea level and stretches itself 162-square miles across the edge of Texas within an urban metropolis. Hundreds of trails twist through the park starting from central El Paso to New Mexico. The limestone and granite range of the Franklins shelters wildlife fitting to its rugged nature, housing javelina, mule deer, sheep, mountain lions and an array of species of birds and reptiles including: rattle snakes and golden eagles. When trekking through these mountains, setting aside at least a half day of excursions through it would be necessary—this is the largest urban park in the U.S. after all. For those who need a waypoint to start with, adventure outfitter Geobetty leads tours through the mountains on foot or mountain bike. A painting of the Franklins by Tom Lea, esteemed artist and native El Pasoan, even hung in the Oval Office with President George Bush.
Just west of Hueco Tanks sits Red Sands, which consists of 21 miles of off-roading opportunities. Red Sands features sand dunes, small hills and amazing views. Thirty four million years ago, the entire area used to be under an ancient sea and you’ll come across plenty of fossils. Since it’s open year round, this is an attraction you don’t want to miss. With Off-Road Adventures you can rent an ATV so that you can join in on all the fun in the desert hills. If you have a 4x4 vehicle, you can make this an all-day event by grilling and hanging out with friends or family.
Wyler Aerial Tramway
When there is a time crunch, considering a gondola-ride alternative would be an excellent choice to appease a need for jaw-dropping scenic views. The Wyler Aerial Tramway pulls passengers in cable cars to one of the mountain’s look-out peaks in just four minutes. Visitors from all over the world can view two countries and three states as well as 7,000-square miles worth of territory from Ranger Peak. In 1959, a local broadcast pioneer, Carol O. Wyler, built the tramway to service a future transmitter antenna so that he could haul construction materials and workers to the top as he built the platform and tower. After falling in love with the beauty and splendor of the transmitter’s top-of-the world view, he opened it up to public access from 1960 to 1986 while simultaneously servicing his tower until the tramway closed. In 1997 however, the tramway was donated to Texas State Parks and reopened with renovated Swiss-made tram cars. So much can be seen from this vista including White Sands, Sierra Blanca Peak, and one of El Paso’s most notable Texas state parks, Hueco Tanks.
Hueco Tanks State Park
Seen as a paradise for world-class climbing and archeological research, Hueco Tanks encompasses three low mountains that rise 6,787 feet above sea level. Its structure once sheltered tribes such as the Jornada Mogollan People, Mescalero Apaches and Tigua Indians, giving them a stronghold. Here, thousands of rock and cave paintings of masks and stories can be observed. The famous structure of this arroyo provides unique hollows, or huecos, that capture rainwater. For a dry and weary land, Hueco Tanks can hold pockets of water for months at a time while the Chihuahua Desert lays baked. Known as the best spot for bouldering in the world, the ideal time to visit is November through March when it is not as hot.