|Trail up South Franklin Mountain|
On this trip I was able to explore much of McKelligon Canyon along with the ridgeline leading to South Franklin Peak. North Franklin Mountain is higher but doesn't have the nice views from the ridgeline nor a chance to see "The Window" natural arch. Here's a hiking map of the area-
As you could probably tell from the map, it does involve a substantial amount of climbing and some areas are legitimate scrambles. Fortunately the park service has installed chains into those sections which help with the climbing. Nevertheless, there are some precipitous drop-offs on several sections which might cause a novice hiker's heart to race.
I started at the highest parking area in McKelligon Canyon which is easily accessible to anyone on the east side of El Paso. There's a trailhead which warns of no water nor facilities on the entire hike- bear that in mind, especially in the summer. The trail is poorly marked and there are an abundance of boot-legged side trails that abruptly end. It's more of a route than a trail but some sections are marked with blue dots. I just as well followed my own route to the ridgeline. Along the way I visited the little cave which can be seen from the parking area.
|The trail up McKelligon Canyon with the small cave visible in the center|
|Looking up the ridgeline. South Franklin is not visible here|
|Looking down on McKelligon Canyon|
Once at the ridgeline, the view was excellent. El Paso and Juarez have some smog but for the most part I could see nearly every major mountain range in the area. It was a fantastic sight for someone who has been living in Chicago the last 4 months. You could see no further from the "summit" of the Hancock building.
The trail/route generally follows along the ridgeline for most of the way up South Franklin. The short and sparse desert plants make the distance look much shorter but do not be fooled- it is a pretty long ways from the top of the canyon to the true summit. But the views are constant so I enjoyed it!
|Ridgeline above "The Window"|
After the window, the trail pops out just below the summit to a bare and flat plateau. The summit itself is actually quite ugly with a bunch of decrepit radio towers and the chairlift. I preferred the subpeak as it was more natural. Despite the buildings, panoramic views of the northern mountains and New Mexico are abundant. I later learned that this is the furthest south that the Rocky Mountains reach.
|Chains up to the Window|
For now, I simply headed back the same way I came and was careful not to fall off the mountain on those slippery parts. It is easy to get going down the wrong way so carefully retrace your steps. Total time was just over 1/2 a day and I finished in time for lunch at Whataburger.
Read. Plan. Get Out There!