OverviewThe Franklin Mountains are located in El Paso in far West Texas. The range neatly cleaves the city of El Paso, and the highest point, North Franklin Mountain, offers incredible views out over the stark West Texas - New Mexico desert scape. This peak is also the highest point in El Paso County, Texas, and ranks fifth on the Texas prominence list.
Getting ThereThe trailhead is located on the west flanks of the range in the Franklin Mountains Preserve. Easiest way is to exit Interstate-10 onto Loop-375 (I-10 exit 6) and drive east about 4 miles to the gate and entrance to the park on the left (north) side of the road. It is well marked and the only sign of civilization along this stretch of road. Follow this road about 1 mile, then turn right. (You may see signs to Mundy's Gap.) After a short distance, you will arrive at a parking area with a trailhead kiosk.
Loop 375 can also be accessed from the east side of the city, but it entails a long drive through Fort Bliss.
Loop 375 is a nice drive for scenery and there are pullouts for picnicking and viewing along the high part of the road. There are other hiking trails in the area as well.
Red TapeNo permits are required, but there is a fee for entering the park (currently $4 for persons over 13 and older). The Tom Mays unit of Franklin Mountain State Park does have "hours" - 8 to 5; a gate will lock you in, so you'll have to time your visit around then.
When To Climb
The mountain can be climbed all year. According to the El Paso Weather Bureau, the sun shines 302 days a year here. Surgent climbed it on December 31, 1999 in very pleasant conditions with just a hint of snow. Most winters, the El Paso area experiences one or two days of light snowfall.
Spring can be very windy – routinely winds will be sustained at 30-50 miles per hour. The wind can kick up dust that reduces visibility severely and even cause the only access road to the State Park (TransMountain/Loop 375) to be closed. Spring can also be one of the most beautiful seasons, particularly when the winter has been wetter than usual. Mexican poppies bloom, turning the east slopes of North Mount Franklin into a golden carpet.
Summer (May through September) can be extremely hot, with temperatures often above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). The whole route is treeless and exposure to the sun could be a concern. Be aware of summer thunderstorms that are common most afternoons in late June, July, and August.
Fall is a perhaps the best season to hike. October highs, for example, range in the mid-70s to low 80s. Winds are calmer and precipitation is light.
CampingThere is limited camping and RV space, but it is relatively primitive. Bush camping outside the park does not seem to be a viable option if you want to stay close to the park. Suburbia comes right up to the park boundaries on both sides of the range, then there's the vast expanse of Fort Bliss. On the other hand, there are tons of cheap, decent hotels in El Paso and Anthony (on the state line along I-10).
Mountain ConditionsExtremely heavy rains in the summer and fall of 2006 have damaged the trails in Franklin Mountains State Park.
Franklin Mountains State Park Offical Website
Geology provided by UT-El Paso
Wikipedia entry This page has great photographs of the mountain.
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