El Paso County High Point Trip Report
North Franklin Mountain (7,192 ft)
Date: September 1999
Author: John Garner
North Franklin Mtn. quad
I very recently completed El Paso County, which is North Franklin Mountain.
Probably, many of you have already done this one, and published descriptions
of the route exist ("Hiking Texas"). However, a few pointers:
The trail starts at 4800' and ends just below 7200', with a total gain of 2500'
(there is an area where you give back a bit of elevation). The guides don't say
how long the hike is, but it took me 4 1/2 hours, which given the elevation gain,
would be about 8 miles at my pace.
There were NO signs or directions at all at the time of my visit, although there
were several posts, meaning that there had been some before. To get to the trailhead,
take SR 335 from either side of the range in El Paso, and go to the Franklin Mtn
State Park turnoff on the west side, about two miles west of the crest.
Park at the first picnic area. From here, you can see another parking area
about two hundred yards above. I tried to reach it, but finally discovered
that the park has it shut off. To access the trail, go to the upper end of
the picnic area, and pick up a trail heading uphill. This trail shortly meets
the road up to the abandoned parking lot. The actual trail to North Franklin
starts at the upper end of the old parking lot.
The trail is a 4WD road all the way to the top. In some areas, it looks as if a
pickup could drive on it, and in some areas, it looks like no one has driven it
in 20 years. The trail/road winds up to the crest of the range at a pass (5900'),
then drops down a few hundred feet on the other side. At a junction of old roads, go right.
This road switches up to the summit. At the top, the views are very nice,
taking in most of El Paso on either side of the range.
A few notes: watch for snakes. I watched one crawl across the trail about
fifty feet in front of me. Also, the lower part of the trail is easy, but
the part from the pass to the top is harder than it seems. The old road
very loose, and it is almost like walking on talus in some places. It's not
really steep, it's just more effort.
For a range of mountains with two million people within a fifteen mile radius,
it was amazing, but I had the entire trail to myself. No one at the picnic area,
on the trail, or in the picnic area when I got back. I did it on a weekday,
so there would likely be more people on a weekend. Be aware that the park closes
at 5, and you have to be off the trail by then.
P.S., I could swear I saw a mountain lion at the summit. A large grayish animal
ran off the summit as I approached. It was too big for a fox, and wasn't skinny
enough to be a coyote. According to a ranger, there are several lions that live
in the range, but aren't they nocturnal?