Franklin Hills … Much Fun On Limestone
This ride in the Franklin Hills served as a break in driving as well as a chance to get back on the bike. Bad weather had put a damper on my plans for riding in Texas. My only other activity in this huge state had been in Palo Duro Canyon 18 days earlier.
The Franklin Hills Trails lay on the western edge of El Paso … a city that seemed to go on forever as we drove east on Interstate 10.
Google Maps told us where to exit so we could follow a convoluted path up into a hillside neighborhood, only to take some ridiculous back street roads and end up back on the original road!
Finally we found ourselves on Franklin Hills Street. But we had to drive past the trailhead since the housing tract masterminds left no room for any vehicles anywhere near the trail … especially for a truck and trailer needing a combined 40 linear feet of space. We ended up parked where the Franklin Hills Street dead ended into a kind of cul-de-sac.
Start of the Ride
I left the cul-de-sac at 12:15 astride my Specialized Camber and headed back down Franklin Hills Street. In no time at all I found the beginning of Franklin Hills Access Trail.
Interactive Map for Franklin Hills
- Click the green or red balloons for driving directions to the trailhead.
- Click Tracks or Icons for More Specific Information.
Once off the road I immediately dropped into a long, gravely trail running behind the houses along Franklin Hills Street.
But the gravel quickly turned to limestone rock and the Franklin Hills Access Trail soon became rough.
My goal for the afternoon was to ride every trail in the system … taking maybe a couple of hours. The challenge was coming up with a plan, for the map of the Franklin Hill Trails looked like a spider web.
The previous night I had come up with an approach based on the recommendations and trail ratings on my MTB Project app. The path took a figure eight route in general. Below you will find a list of the trails I used in the order they were biked.
Frankling Hills Access Trail, Mayberry RFD, Mayberry Connector, Lechuguilla Trail (west), Lost Dog, Worm Shortcut, The Worm, Dead Cow Road, Brujo’s Garden, Dead Valentine’s Trail, Lechuguilla Trail (east), Baby Head, Broke Baby Connector, Broke Back, Broke Back Shortcut, Broke Back, Baby Head, La Espina Ledge, La Espina, Granola Bowl, La Espina Ledge, Frankling Hills Access, Mine Hill Bypass, Mine Hill, and Franklin Hills Access.
The Junction and Hub
Franklin Hills Access and Mayberry RFD brought me to the intersection of three different trails, a place I am going to call “The Junction.” A place I would return to later in the ride.
I found the northwestern descent from “The Junction” to be quite rough and rocky, probable worthy of a black diamond rating (as opposed to the blue on the MTB Project app).
Mayberry RFD took me to Mayberry Connector and I quickly arrived at another popular intersection, one I am going to call “The Hub.”
From The Hub I rode west on some singletrack called the Lechuguilla Trail, hitting top speeds due to the smooth tread and slight decline.
Of course, dropping over 300 feet on the Lechuguilla meant I would have to climb back up. The Lost Dog, Worm Connecter, and the Worm gradually brought me up the slope. After a short stint on Dead Cow Road I ended up on a cool trail called Brujo’s Garden.
Brujo’s Garden involved climbing up a series of limestone stairs cut into the mountain by Mother Nature. Most steps were about a foot high and about twenty feet long. Getting up onto each posed a unique challenge. I could only imagine how much fun riding down the steps would have been!
While on Brujo’s Garden I was faced with a tough decision. Should I try Brujo’s Drop? Could I ride the drop clean? How long might I lay out in those hills if I broke anything serious? Would Cindy have to pull the trailer home?
I had to pass on Brujo’s Drop.
Brujo’s Garden ran into Dead Valentine’s Trail which shortly returned me to The Hub. I turned left and followed the Lechuguilla Trail to the east this time.
Plowing uphill through some deep sand I thought this trail would never end! But by looking at the terrain I soon realized I was circling a lengthy mountain and would not head west (and downhill) until I got around the eastern end. Once I finally reached my easternmost and highest (4,864 feet) point for the day, I turned right onto Baby Head and skirted the southern edge of that same mountain.
My next destination was to ride the trails around what I assumed was called “Broke Back Mountain.” After cruising down Baby Head I turned onto Broke Baby Connector, then began to climb. Only .2 miles later I was ascending on Broke Back Trail, which ran along a narrow cliffhanging path and eventually crested a north facing ridge line.
Being on the ridge afforded me a great view of all the trails I had just biked in the northern edge of the area.
I came off the ridge line onto Broke Back Shortcut, edging around the mountain, maintaining my elevation. At one point I passed what used to be a wooden jump or teeter totter. The ramp sat in a position making its use almost impossible. A rider would have to pedal up an extremely rough and steep section of trail and continue up a steeper ramp to jump onto a pile of rocks.
I used the western portions of Broke Back and Baby Head to return to “The Junction.”
La Espina (the spine)
I left The Junction heading for La Espina, the most highly rated trails in Franklin Hills. Climbing the La Espina Ledge Trail was a bit steep and rocky, but led me to the very interesting La Espina Trail … which took me onto the spine. After gaining the ridge I followed the spine right to the top of its highest point.
Coming off the peak was exhilarating because the route passed along the brink of a cliff while dropping quickly. Traction was not a problem since the tread lay on one giant sheet of limestone.
After dropping over 125 feet on this sheet of rock I joined a piece of the Granola Bowl Trail which immediately took me back up another sheet of limestone, and once again onto the ridge line and the La Espina Ledge Trail.
At that point I got the chance to ride along La Espina Ledge, not quite as scary as described by one rider on MTB Project site.
From there I returned to the Franklin Hills Access Trail, ready to call it quits, for I still had a couple hundred miles to drive.
But on my way back down the Franklin Hills Access Trail I saw Mine Hill off to my left (to the southeast) and couldn’t resist.
I circled around behind a hill then climbed up the backside. Once on top I came across a half dozen teenagers with a camera on a tripod. Since a couple of the kids were decked out in costumes I figured they must have been doing a school project.
After coming down the Mine Hill Trail I quickly reached the pavement and vehicles where I found Cindy had made me a sandwich. After a quick lunch I placed my bike on the rack, grabbed a cold drink, jumped into the truck, and set out toward the freeway.
Well, I didn’t accomplish my goal to ride every trail in the Franklin Hills area, but I did have a lot of fun exploring this little corner of Texas.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 43 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.
The following link can give you all the stats for this ride … just click on the box below.