Campsite name: Franklin Mountains State Park, Tom Mays Unit, Texas
Camping type: Frontcountry Campground
Campsite opening hours: There are no official opening hours however for any questions please phone (915) 444-9100 or visit the headquarters which are located at Tom Mays Unit, 2900 Tom Mays Access Rd. El Paso, TX 79911
Fees: The camping fee is between $10 and 30 per night depending on what site you book. Entrance fees to the park are $5 per adult per day. Children under 12 are free. However, if you purchase a Texas State Park Pass and enjoy free entry to 80 state parks for an entire year.
Facilities: The campground is located in the Tom Mays Unit. It features 14 tent sites and five RV sites. There are even group camping facilities available for larger groups of friends or family.
Many sites have shade shelters and a high-clearance vehicle is needed to gain access to campsites C1, C2, C3 and C5. All sites include a picnic table, outdoor grill and lantern post.
There is no water or electricity available at the campground so be sure to bring enough water for your entire trip.
Camping Month: The busy season is spring, summer and fall. Reservations are highly recommended as the park often reaches full capacity. In summer the temperature can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The milder seasons of Spring and Fall are the best times to visit.
Gear: Typically camping gear is required when staying at the campground in the Franklin Mountains State Park. The facilities are primitive in the campsites so you will need to provide everything for your stay. Click here for essential camping gear recommendations.
Food: There are no food shops or restaurants inside the Franklin Mountains State Park. However, it is only located a short 30 min drive from El Paso and is within the city limits. Therefore if you need any supplies the campground is not far away.
Lookout Spot: The two best lookout spots in the Franklin Mountain State Park are from the Aztec Cave Trail and the El Paso Tin Mines Trail.
The Aztec Cave Trail is a short 1.2-mile out-and-back trail that takes roughly an hour and a half to complete. It is a steep trail and it is rocky so good hiking shoes are required. Hiking poles are also recommended. Once you’ve reached the caves the panoramic views are worth every step as well as a rest in the shade. The view of the Rio Grande Valley and the Organ Mountains is in the distance. Inside the cave, there is smoke on the ceiling and markings on the walls that show evidence of human presence thousands of years ago.
The Tin Mines Trail is a 6.6-mile out-and-back hike with 1,000 feet of elevation gain. It provides you with beautiful panoramic views during the entire hike. With views of the Franklin Mountains, do not forget to bring your camera on this adventure. Once you’ve reached the mines a paved walkway leads into the deep underground mines. A flashlight is required to navigate the mines as there is no light source inside. This unique trail is a must-see not only for the views but also for the spooky mines.
Activities: Rock Climbing is a popular activity in Franklin Mountains State Park. The designated area is in the McKelligon Canyon or at Sneed’s Cory in the Tom May Unit. You must provide all of your own equipment and follow best practices for climbing.
Ranger programs are offered in the state park. The rangers lead hikes, bike rides and art activities in the park. For further information about the upcoming programs check out the events page.
For the kids a junior ranger program is available. They will learn about the park and about how to care for the park. Download the Franklin Mountains State Park Junior Ranger Activity Booklet or pick up a copy at the headquarters. Explorer Packs are also available to be borrowed and they are loaded with tools for exploring the park.
Birding is a popular activity in the park. More than 100 different bird species to witness. Many of the local wildlife, including golden eagles, ash-throated flycatchers, calliope hummingbirds, and desert cardinals, can be seen by stopping by the park's bird blind in the Tom Mays Unit. Many different species travel through the El Paso region. Nearby locations that feature excellent birding opportunities include Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, Audubon Society’s Feather Lake, Keystone Heritage Park, Rio Bosque Wetlands, and Ascarate Lake.
Highlight: With over 100 miles of trails available to explore the hiking available at Franklin Mountains State Park is the highlight of any trip.
For a short 30-minute hike take the Nature Walk. It is an easy ¾ miles loop located at the Tom Mays Unit. It is perfect for families as it provides an introduction to desert flora and fauna. The start of the trail features a bird blind which is excellent for wildlife observation.
For a 3-hour moderate hike, the 3-mile West Cottonwood Springs Scenic Route is perfect. It starts with a subtle incline with the views looking into the west. Once at the paragliding launch site, the trail narrows and cuts across the north-facing slope. The return journey travels down the scree and rubble making it difficult for some hikers. Hiking poles are recommended for the trail.
For a full-day hike, North Franklin Peak takes anywhere between 4 to 6 hours. This tough 8-mile hike takes you to the highest peak in El Paso. The hike starts with a gradual incline through a rock slide and slowly gains elevation into the steep climb. Once on the ridgeline, you will end at an elevation of 7,192 feet.
Tips: To plan the best time to visit, consider the weather temperature. The wintertime ranges in temperature from 32 to 60 degrees. The range of summertime temperatures is 68 to 95 degrees. Typically Spring and Fall feature sunny days and chilly nights. July and August have the most thunderstorm activity.