I originally thought I’d do a post about the 10 best geocaches in El Paso. But, I decided that most of my favorite geocaches revolve around hiking. There are some pretty good geocaches in El Paso that wouldn’t make my top 10 because they don’t involve a walk. So, instead, here is my list of the 10 best hikes and/or geocaches in El Paso’s Franklin Mountains.
Note: Any hike in the Franklin Mountains requires either a Texas State Park Pass, or a $5 daily entry fee.
This geocache hike takes you up the 1000 Steps Trail on the west side of the Franklins after parking at the end of Stanton Street. There is another geocache halfway up the 1000 Steps Trail. Once you get to the top, you’ll connect with the trail that takes you around the Wyler Tramway. Then there is a fun, difficult hunt for the cache. A lot of fun, and, yes, your calves will feel it.
This hike takes you to the site of to the B-36 bomber crash site on the West side of the Franklin Mountains. Back when I did this hike in 2009 and again in 2012, it was a tough slog. After starting at the end of Stanton Street, you eventually had to get off the 1000 Steps Trail and bushwhack your way to the site. But in the past couple of years, volunteers and park officials have added monument markers at the site and have been working on making trails in the area. If you can find the right trail, it’s a bit easier now, but still very uphill. Takes you to a somber piece of El Paso history.
This hike takes you to the highest peak in the Franklins, North Franklin Peak. The hike starts in the Tom Mays Park section of the Franklins, takes you up to Mundy’s Gap, then down a bit before taking you back up to the peak. It’s a long challenge, but there is a good trail the entire way, so that’s nice. Much of the trail is actually an old road, built when there were dreams of designing a mighty tourist hotel at the peak. That dream died quickly, but your dream of hiking to this peak is alive.
7. The Window
There are a few caches along the Ron Coleman trail, which takes you from McKelligan Canyon over to Smuggler’s Pass on Transmountain Road. But this cache is near the signature rock formation of the hike, The Window.
The window shows up after you climb up a wall, giving you a great view of Northeast El Paso.
The Ron Coleman trail is a great hike, and various hiking groups get together to do it every so often. I recommend joining one of those group hikes for your first time. Otherwise the route can be confusing, and the wall can be nerve-wracking.
This hike takes you on a 5-mile loop of the Upper and Lower Sunset Trails in the Tom Mays portion of the Franklin Mountains State Park. Though there are certainly some ups and downs, this trail has a lot less elevation gain than many of these hikes. This is a good one to test your ability in the Franklins before moving on to steeper terrain.
I’ll include this one on this list despite that fact it is the only geocache in the Franklins I haven’t found. Despite three attempts, I’ve never made it to the top of Anthony’s Nose, where this cache is located. There is no trail to Anthony’s Nose, and my attempts to find a good path to bushwhack my way to the top have been unsuccessful. But it’s a popular cache for those souls stronger than me, so here it is. I’ll get you one day, my pretty. And your little dog, too.
4. By Request
Though this hike is steep at times, it is only two miles, roundtrip. Best part is, it will take you up to see Aztec Cave. It’s no Carlsbad Caverns, but it’s an interesting area to check out. And the park service has another geocache you can grab on the way up.
The fun part about this hike is you get to explore some tin mines at the end. It’s a great hike for adventurous kids because, although it’s long (about six miles, roundtrip), it’s not very steep. And kids will love the adventure of exploring the mines. Luckily, for safety’s sake, there aren’t many twists and turns in the mines, so it would be nearly impossible to get lost, but best for kids to stay with the group just to make sure. Here is a bit of history from the cache page:
A search for domestic deposits of tin-bearing ore in the United States was a failure. Small quantities of tin were produced during the early 1900s in the Franklin Mountains of El Paso County, Texas. The only tin mine in the United States was located in the Franklin Mountains, where its ruins are visible today.
This 3.5-mile round-trip hike begins near Arroyo Park in the Kern Place neighborhood. It makes its way up to a small cave for the geocache. I found this one back in 2009, and here is a bit of my write-up from then:
A cache can be a lot of things. A good hike. A little adventure. Logging in with a fraternity (and sorority) and the few and the proud. This one was all that, plus helped me rediscover my love of El Paso.
First up, the hike was great, with interesting sights along the way. A light snow had fallen in the morning, making it that much more beautiful. Next up was the arroyo climb, which I never like, but at least it’s a good workout. Then a great adventure finding the cache and logging a difficult find.
I don’t know if it was the exercise, the mountain air, or some poisonous thorn making me feel estatic, but the hike back down to my car had me feeling the El Paso love.
Mount Franklin is the fourth-highest peak in the Franklins, according to the cache page. Highest is North Franklin Peak, second is Anthony’s Nose and third is South Franklin Peak. There are several ways to get to Mount Franklin, but my favorite is parking at the end of McKelligan Canyon, then following the trails west and up. There is some rock climbing/scrambling required on this one, so you have to be comfortable with that. Once on top, there is a beautiful trail along the ridgeline where you get great views of West and East El Paso at the same time. And because it’s El Paso, most of the time you’ll have the entire trail to yourself. Put it all together, and it’s my favorite hike to a geocache in El Paso’s Franklin Mountains.
- Franklin Mountains State Park, Texas (turtlestravel.com)
- Nature Nerd (cosmicdesertpony.wordpress.com)