Home to a diversity of ecosystems, Texas overflows with national, state and privately owned parks available for us to explore. With the Go Outside series from First Choice Power, we’ll take you all across this great state to visit both well-known public parks and lesser-known spots that are privately owned, but open to the public.
The journey across Texas continues where we search for more places to strap on your hiking boots, and head outside. This time we venture to the far western city of our giant state: El Paso.
While some of these national monuments and parks aren’t within the borders of Texas, they are close enough to jet across the state line and into New Mexico for an incredible day of hiking and sight seeing.
Check out these not to miss places when you’re in the El Paso vicinity.
Within the city limits of El Paso lies the Franklin Mountains State Park, a diverse ecosystem of reptiles, small mammals and birds. You might even catch a glimpse of a coyote, mule deer, or mountain lion.
Bring your binoculars as this is an amazing place to bird watch. Over 100 species visit or live here, including calliope hummingbirds, ash-throated flycatchers, and golden eagles.
For the adventurer that loves rock climbing, the park is a great escape. Climb at the designated area in McKelligon Canyon or at Sneed’s Corey in the Tom Mays Unit. Climbers must bring their own equipment and as always, use best climbing practices.
With close to 27,000 acres to explore, hiking and mountain biking are also a great way to see the park. Camping is also available for those that love to sleep under the stars.
A little more than two hours northeast of El Paso is Carlsbad Caverns National Park, a magical place full of high ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, desert wildlife and flowering cacti in the Chihuahuan Desert.
Yet deep below the surface you’ll find 119 caves, created when sulphuric acid dissolved limestone and left behind caverns of all sizes thousands of years ago.
There’s definitely more than one way to see the caverns!
Hike down 750-feet on the 1/25 mile Natural Entrance trail, or go with a ranger to an “off-trail” adventure hike. You can also trek back country through the Chihuahuan Desert, or bird watch around a natural spring in the hidden oasis of Rattlesnake Springs.
For the lover of old fashioned adventure consider walking into the deep dark recesses of Left Hand Tunnel, lit only by a handheld lantern. Not for those with fear of small dark spaces!
You can also see the shimmering Christmas tree formation in Slaughter Canyon Cave or shimmy through a “chimney” in Spider Cave. These experiences are all possible with a ranger led tour.
Carlsbad Caverns are also home to thousands of Brazilian Free-tailed bats. From May through October you can book a spot for one of their Bat Flight programs, and see this incredible sight for yourself!
An hour and a half north of El Paso, across the border and into New Mexico, is the stunning and ethereal White Sands National Monument.
One of the country’s greatest natural wonders, the White Sands rise from the heart of the Tularosa Bason, where giant dunes of gypsum sand have created 275 square miles of desert, resulting in the worlds largest gypsum dunefield.
Hike to some spectacular vistas at White Sands, or take it to the next level and go sledding on the dunes! You can also cycle through the monument, or take the Dune Drive, an 8 mile scenic drive that takes approximately 45 minutes if you do the full 16 miles. Backcountry camping is also available.
Despite it’s shallow water supply, the White Sands are home to over 800 species of animals. And for the true botanist, a self guided native plant tour is available in front of the visitor center.
Weather can be dramatic and fast changing at White Sands. Be sure to check their website before heading up that way for an unforgettable, surreal day on the dunes.