The Franklin Mountains frame the backdrop of El Paso, Texas with its rolling mountains and beautiful scenery. The mountains have a long history filled with the hunt for treasure, opportunity, and conquest. Native Americans made this area their home for over 12,000 years, living off the land and traveling through the passages to find other tribes and food. The walls of the mountains are filled with depictions of their history and way of life.
Spanish explorers first came in contact with the vast mountain area in the 1580s, with a goal to conquer the surrounding area and colonize the Puebloan Villages in present-day New Mexico. In the years following their conquest, the population of the area grew steadily and now is home to one of the biggest cities in Texas. The rich history of the Franklin Mountains did not go unnoticed by the citizens of El Paso. In the 1970s when roads came to cut through the mountains they loved, a coalition was formed to protect the area from development. In 1981, the state acquired the park and by 1987 the park opened its doors for the first time to visitors.
The park offers over 26,000 acres and 100 miles of trails for exploration. There are five RV sites that you can reserve too. At the start of each spring, visitors from all over the world come to hike the trails and try out their skills at rock climbing. The park offers a yearly pass like all Texas State parks and is ranked as one of the best places to go birding in the entire state. In the fall and winter months, you can enjoy the cool desert breeze and go on a geocaching adventure with the whole family. Franklin Mountain State Park is a beautiful place to bring your RV and relax away from city life.
RV Rentals in Franklin Mountains State Park
Transportation in Franklin Mountains State Park
Franklin Mountain State Park is located near the edge of the US and Mexico border. The park is less than four miles away from I-10 and a 20-minute drive from the El Paso Airport. With four different ways to enter the park, it’s very easy to access. Regardless of which entrance you choose to use, you'll want to decrease your speed due to the incline of the roads. Larger rigs will have a harder time trying to navigate through the park.
Despite the steep roads in the park, they are well maintained and a pothole will be the last of your worries. It is best to use a mountain bike or walk on foot while you explore the park. The camping areas are quite small for most RVs and trailers and the recommended length for many of them is 35 feet, but you can definitely squeeze a 43-foot trailer into the site. It’ll just be a tight fit. The major problem you may have with your rig is leveling. You will need blocks to level your trailer and may even need to have one half of the trailer off the ground.
Before you enter the park, be sure to stock up on groceries and supplies in town. El Paso is relatively close and offers great places for dining out and shopping. There is no water in the park, so you will need to fill your tanks before you enter. If you are arriving later than you expect, to be sure to call ahead to let the rangers know to look out for your arrival. The park enjoys cool weather year-round with the rainy season reaching its peak in July and August. The warm summers and mild fall make the park’s welcoming atmosphere to find birds and explore the caves and wildlife of the desert.
Campgrounds and parking in Franklin Mountains State Park
Campsites in Franklin Mountains State Park
Tom May's Unit Campground
If you enjoy the rustic experience and want to feel closer to mother nature this is the perfect campground for you. The campground supports primitive camping and does not offer any hookups. You will need to fill up on gas, water, and anything else that you think you will need before you arrive. There are no dump stations, so you have to dump your tank at one of the nearby parks. However, you are allowed to use a generator here. There are only five spaces available and the sites are not leveled, so you will need blocks to level your rig. There are restrooms and a fire ring within walking distance of the RV area, but other than that there are no other amenities.
You are prohibited from bringing your own firewood and must ask ranges for the firewood that you can burn in the park. The gates are closed at night, so if you need to leave before the gate opens, then you should talk to one of the staff the night before to see if they can accommodate your request. The beauty of the campground is that it is undisturbed by buildings and facilities. It provides a beautiful view of the mountain range and the open desert. You may stay up to 14 days at a time and can book a reservation for up to 11 months in advance.
First-Come, First-Served Options
Due to the limited number of RV sites, they are not available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The sooner you make your reservations, the more likely you are to snag the site for the time that you wish to visit.
Seasonal activities in Franklin Mountains State Park
Franklin Mountain State Park has a beautiful network of trails that can be used for both hiking and mountain biking. There are eight trails that are designated primarily for mountain biking. The Upper and Lower Sunset trails are respectively a one-mile trail and a five-mile trail. Loops 1-6 are much longer in length and may provide a challenge for novice mountain bikers, but should feel exhilarating to the experienced biker. Remember to always wear your helmet and bring water and lots of snacks to keep you hydrated and fed on your journey.
Once you get out of the rig there are over 100 miles of trails to hike in the park. You can go cave exploring with a trusted guide from GeoBetty Tours who have been working with Franklin Mountain State Park for the last three years to help newcomers and returners see the desert in new and interesting ways. You will want to pack extra sturdy hiking boots because some of the trails are really challenging like the Ron Coleman Trail. A common tip for going hiking in the park is to stay on the trails and bring lots of water. You may want to bring sunscreen as well if you plan to be out in the sun all day.
There are two areas in the park that allow rock climbing: Sneed’s Cory and McKelligon Canyon. Sneed’s Cory is located near Tom May’s entrance. You can take the first left after the ranger station and continue on until you reach the trailhead. From there, Sneed’s Cory is about a five-minute walk to the base of the wall.
McKelligon Canyon is a bit harder than Sneed’s Cory for a few reasons. It is located near the amphitheater close to Nature Walk trail. The wall is closed when the amphitheater is being used to put on a play or musical. All climbers are recommended to have a climbing buddy. You will have to provide your own equipment and be sure to read the rules and regulations before you climb.
Franklin Mountain State Park sits in a unique location allowing RV visitors to see over 100 species of birds who call the park home in different seasons. Take your binoculars out to the end of the Upper Sunset Trail and from there you can spot the Black-chinned Hummingbirds in the summer and spring. In the winter you can see a diverse population of sparrows. Each season has different birds that call the mountains home. Remember to take your water bottle and wear a sturdy pair of hiking boots to check out the different areas birds call their home in the park.
Taking Nature Walks
You can put on your hiking boots and walk some of the trails to see the unique ecosystem that calls the park home. The Franklin Mountain range is the home to a number of plant species that only grow in this location in the entire state of Texas. On your nature walk, you can spot the different species of birds and small mammals that built their homes in the canyons and caves of the park. Remember to take your water bottle and bring snacks along the way. If you see any trash be sure to pick it up in order to keep the park beautiful.
On your RV visit to the park, you can take your spirit of adventure along and go treasure hunting with your family and friends using a geocaching device. You will need a pen or pencil, sturdy walking boots, a device with GPS capabilities, a water bottle, your own personal treasure to trade, and your inner pirate. Before you go explore make sure you know the rules of how to log your cache. Leave each area undisturbed to keep the adventure alive.