Despite a population of more than half a million people, El Paso harbors quiet, empty solitude just beyond its own back door. The city lies at the base of the Franklin Mountains, a twenty-three mile long and three mile wide desert range composed of tilted-block fault mountains containing some of the oldest rock in Texas. The mountain range, both ecologically and culturally significant, provides an ideal natural backdrop to the busy city and, thanks to the efforts of El Paso conservationists and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, much of the Franklin Mountains received protection from development in the late 1970’s. Today, at 24,247 acres, Franklin Mountains State Park may be the largest urban park in the country, covering over thirty seven square miles of wild, undeveloped nature.
But the Franklin Mountains have never really been isolated from humanity. In fact, they served as northern passageway between North and Central America for centuries. Soldiers, priests, traders, explorers, and settlers have negotiated the mountains’ gap that leads from the fertile Rio Grande delta to the high desert grasslands of the Southwest. Native Americans made the mountains their home for much longer, chronicled in evidence such as pictographs and mortar pits, suggesting an occupation spanning twelve thousand years. Today, the Franklins host mountain bikers, hikers, and families picnicking alongside natural inhabitants like mule deer, fox, and the occasional mountain lion. The mountain range is also the only known location in the state for the Southwest barrel cactus, a striking plant with large, brilliant yellow blooms.
Franklin Mountains State Park
Adults: $5, Children under 12 Free.
Open 7 days a week year-round.
Gate is open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
From the first Saturday in April to the third Saturday in September, the Tom Mays Unit gate is open on weekends only
6:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.