El Paso’s cooler weather means it’s still possible to enjoy the outdoors during the winter months.
And for those visiting El Paso for the holidays or to attend the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, know that there are a myriad of great places to enjoy a nice hike.
Check if you can make reservations online, find out if there are any limits on the group size due to COVID-19, and wear a face mask.
Tom Mays Unit of the Franklin Mountains. The mountains became very showy with green during the fall due to rain.
Make reservations online at https://bit.ly/3pEydqP or reserve by phone at 512-389-8900. The Tom Mays Unit gate, off Transmountain Road, is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nature guided tours and activities nature tours are on the first and third weekends of the month, according to the Texas State Parks website.
Driving directions: From Interstate 10, take the Canutillo/Transmountain exit, turn toward the mountains; the Tom Mays Unit park entrance is 3.5 miles east of I-10. Or take Loop 375/Transmountain Road going west up and over the scenic Franklins and find the park entrance 7.5 miles from the intersection with U.S. 54.
Entrance fees are $5 daily, but children 12 years old and younger can hike for free. Information: 915-444-9100.
Earlier this year, Hueco Tanks State Park was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
It is estimated that there are between 3,000 and 6,000 pictographs at Hueco Tanks, including the largest concentration of painted masks or facelike figures in North America, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
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Enjoy a hike or guided tour at the park, 6900 Hueco Tanks Road. You must book tours a minimum of one week in advance by calling 915-849-6684.
For a self-guided visit, there is a maximum of 70 people to access the North Mountain area each day. To make sure you get in, reserve permits in advance of your visit at 512-389-8911.
Guests must watch an orientation video before starting self-guided tours.
Entrance fees: $7 adults daily; children 12 years old and younger get in free.
El Paso Tin Mines Trail
The trail is 6.6 miles long, with lots of wildflowers, and is good for varying skill levels. You can take your dog.
There is no shade until you get to the mines, so wear a hat. The mines are the remains of a mining operation from the early 1900s. And watch out for loose rocks.
The mines are on a steep hill to the right of Mundy’s Gap; look out for the large metal covering. You might want to take a flashlight to look inside the mine.
You can start the hike from Chuck Heinrich Memorial Park, 11055 Loma del Norte Drive. Look for the archway that welcomes you to the trail. There are several trails that can make it longer. Try using Google Maps to get the best route.
Ron Coleman Trail
If you are an experienced hiker and want a bit of a challenge, try the Ron Coleman Trail. It stretches between two canyons along the ridgeline.
Those who finish Ron Coleman are rewarded with views of three states in two countries and the distinction of completing the most challenging trail in El Paso, according to www.hikingproject.com.
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Note that the section of the trail between Transmountain road and the Mammoth is currently closed, stated Lydia Pagel, a Franklin Mountains State Park interpreter.
There is no shade or water available along the trail. Plan to avoid the hotter parts of the day. Also, check the wind when reviewing the forecast; gusts over 20 mph can make the ridge and climbing segments uncomfortable; winds of 30 mph to 35 mph should be the no-go point for most hikers.
While there is no “official” direction to take the trail, most users making the full journey do so from the south to north. The southern end of the Coleman Trail is at the back of McKelligon Canyon.
Fees are $5 per adult and are free for children 12 and younger.
Safety tips for hiking during winter
Check the weather before you leave. Pack cold weather gear and dress in layers in the event the weather changes.
Consider that nightfall comes early during this time of the year. If conditions are not ideal, don’t take the chance. It’s safest to hike or camp with at least one companion. If someone gets hurt, the other person can call for assistance.
Share your plans with a family member or friend. Include details like the make, year and license plate of your car, your intended hiking route and when you plan to return. Stay alert to your location and any landmarks that could be used to find you in the event of an emergency.
Keep your cellphone battery fully charged. Searching for a cell signal can quickly drain your phone battery, so consider turning off your phone or switching to airplane mode until you need it.
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Pack your essentials. Plenty of water, a first aid kit, a whistle, any needed medications, sunscreen, cellphone, candles and matches in a waterproof container, flashlight, sunglasses and a hat for protection from the sun.
Take breaks often. Know your limits and pay attention to how you are feeling when on the trail. Eat snacks and drink water. Hiking can drain your energy quickly. Dehydration may sneak up on you, even during cooler weather. Stay hydrated during your hike and ensure that you and any companions have plenty of water.
Snack on nutritional foods, such as trail mix, nuts, and granola bars, to keep your energy high.
Dial 911 if you need help.
Source: El Paso Fire Department
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María Cortés González may be reached at 915-546-6150; [email protected]; @EPTMaria on Twitter.