How to Live in El Paso – Franklin Mountains State Park

The pandemic made some winners. Amazon. Best Buy. FedEx, and UPS.

Locally, Crazy Cat. People wondered whatever happened to that bike they used to have, and then they found it in the garage, next to their stair stepper and their Nordic Track.

Many people were surprised that they still knew how to ride a bike.

They all took their bikes to Crazy Cat to get them tuned and detailed.

Another winner in the pandemic lottery was the Franklin Mountains State Park.

Pre-pandemic, the park was a desert, so to speak. I mean sparsely attended. And because the park had so few visitors, it was poorly funded. The rangers would show up every morning to open the gate, and every evening to shut it. Mostly you didn’t see them.

But then the gyms closed.

You thought El Paso was all Bud Light and churros, but El Paso has a lot of gyms. A lot of gym rats. All those gym rats needed some exercise. And outside is a good place to not catch the Coronavirus.

The park filled up.

Okay, Franklin Mountains State Park is 27,000 acres. It didn’t exactly fill up. But now you have to wait for other walkers to cross the footpath bridge. You might not get your preferred parking spot, and have to walk to the trailhead before you begin your hike.

(I’ve decided the only difference between hiking and walking is the style of shoes you wear.)

Here’s some information I lifted from the Franklin Mountains State Park website:

We often reach capacity; reservations are highly recommended for both camping and day use. To guarantee entrance reserve passes online, or by calling the customer service center, before you visit.

So sometimes the park “reaches capacity,” which must be a lot like filling up.

There’s a new ranger station park headquarters at Tom Mays, built before the plague, as if they knew. I’ve never been in it, but I bet it’s got bathrooms and air conditioning.

To get in the park, there’s a $5 Cover Charge, and it’s BYOB. (No drinking alcohol in public. For God’s sake, be discrete.) BYO Burritos. BYO Blunts. BYO Beer, and Bottle, and Babe.

Or you can get the annual pass for $70 a year. With the Texas State Park Pass, everyone in your car can get in the park for free. Or, if you’re walking hiking, you can bring up to 14 people with you, for free. And that Texas State Park Pass is good at 89 Texas State Parks. Around there, that means Hueco Tanks, and Balmorhea, when it opens again.

There’s no contract, no membership fee, and no monthly dues. Try to get that deal at your local gym. Or try to get a day pass for $5.

Also, there’s camping at Tom Mays. At 5 o’clock, the rangers lock the gate, and the campers have the whole 27,000 acres to themselves. (On weekends in the summer, the gates get locked at 8.) You can watch the sun set over the Potrillos, and toast your good sense with Pinot Noir from your red Solo cup. (Be discrete.) Camping is $8 a tent site, plus the $5 a head Cover Charge, unless you sprang for the Pass.

You reckon after the quarantine passes, all those gym rats are going to head back to the gym and never visit Franklin Mountains State Park again? I reckon not. I reckon they’ll still make it out to the park, but maybe not on Leg Days.

You know, it’s El Paso. Bud Light and churros make the world go round. But we’ll always have Tom Mays.


  1. Good post. FYI, A water well is being drilled at the new visitor center. Wondering how this will affect the seeps/ springs up slope from there. Surprising that TPWD allowed it at all.

  2. A couple of corrections from the blog:
    1. camping fee is $10 a night per site whether it is a tent or rv plus the $5 entrance fee.
    2. alcohol is not allowed at all.

  3. Schaffer Shuffle is my favorite trail, about 2.5 to 3 hours depending. There is a power spot up there and, if you find it and sit quietly in it, magical things will happen when you return home. You can be Carlos Castaneda for an afternoon 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *