My weekly article for The Fort Bliss Bugle posted this week. It came out early for Thanksgiving, of course. Here's the virtual copy!
By Amy Proctor, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle:
The Franklin Mountains are arguably the most identifiable geographical feature in El Paso, spanning about 23 miles from the south-central corner of El Paso north into New Mexico. In it lies Franklin Mountains State Park, the largest urban park in the U.S., surpassing even New York City’s Central Park.
Well known for its many hiking trails, bike paths, camping areas and picnicking, Franklin Mountains State Park has been a popular spot for Soldiers and their families at Fort Bliss for many years. It presents an opportunity for them to escape the confines of the installation and explore a wide variety of activities that can be both rejuvenating and challenging.
Single Soldiers with a sense of adventure will be enticed by opportunities for mountain climbing with designated climbing areas in McKelligon Canyon as well as mountain biking trails throughout the park. Families with children can enjoy daylong or short hiking excursions meandering through the mountains. The Franklin Mountains State Park map given to visitors at the park’s entrance can help pinpoint the most appropriate hikes, from easy loops to strenuous climbs.
Those wishing to get away from it all need not fear hiking alone, as the park hosts several weekly events to accommodate them. Individuals can reserve a spot on the Women’s Beginner’s Hike, fitness challenges and guided mountain biking excursions, to name a few. This is a great way to experience the uniqueness of El Paso’s outdoor life with no excuses or fear … a readymade group will be there waiting to enjoy the adventure alongside those who have to go without family or friends. There is no fee to participate in these frequent group activities, except for the cost of park entrance, which is $5 per person over the age of 12.
A quick Internet search of the Franklin Mountains State Park will pull up the official Texas Parks and Wildlife Division’s website from which the Events page for Franklin Mountains can be found (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/franklin-mountains/park_events). Upcoming activities hosted by the park are quite fun with a variety of holiday activities, such as the Thanksgiving Turkey Trail Trilogy, “T’was the Hike Before Christmas” and Jingle Dog Hikes, as well as holiday mine tours and mountain biking. Again, there are usually no fees to participate (occasional $3 activity fee depending on the activity) but an RSVP is required.
For those not looking to hike, bike or climb, the state park offers a place to relax, picnic and enjoy the great outdoors with its scenic vistas and vibrant colors.
Things to know:
– The main entrance into Franklin Mountains State Park-Tom May’s Unit is 20 minutes from Fort Bliss. There are two easy ways to find the park: Travel west on I-10 past the Sunland Park area taking the Transmountain Road exit. The park entrance will be 3.5 miles on the left. Traveling on US-54 East and making a left onto Woodrow Bean Transmountain Road will be the scenic route, meandering high through the mountain pass for 6.5 miles until the entrance is seen on the right.
– The entrance fee for Franklin Mountains State Park is $5 per person per day, with children 12 and under admitted free. Groups are $2. The Texas State Park Annual Pass is $70 and covers up to 15 people per vehicle of an annual pass holder. Passes can be purchased at the park entrance.
– The entrance station is usually unmanned Monday through Friday so visitors are on the “honor system” and envelopes are available at the booth for self-payment. The envelope can be deposited into the designated area.
– Bringing water is a must. There is no water or electricity provided within the park.
– Pets are permitted on leash only.
Call 566-6441 or visit http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/franklin-mountains for more information.