About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I spend countless hours running in the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, TX. I call it "going to church". I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Peaks in My Backyard

I’m very lucky that I get to play in my “backyard playground” almost every day. I don’t have to travel far to reach a trailhead that leads into the Franklin Mountains of El Paso, TX. 

The red thunderbird overlooks my neighborhood
The closest peak to my home is S. Franklin Mountain (6791 ft). In fact, the red thunderbird formation on the western face overlooks my neighborhood like a sentry keeping watch over the inhabitants below. The Ron Coleman Trail is a 4 mile route that climbs from the east side of the mountain, traverses the ridge line and descends to a high pass along TransMountain Rd. (375). A series of chains takes the climber up to a window where he can peer through to get a great view of El Paso.

The WIndow on Ron Coleman Trail
You can continue to the top of S. Franklin Peak for more fantastic views of the surrounding desert and city below. The only drawback is the radio towers that adorn the highest points of the peak. When you begin the descent you will pass the Mammoth Rock formation that can be seen when driving eastbound on TransMountain Rd. The best way to hike the trail is one way from McKelligon Canyon to Trans Mt. Rd. because the chained sections are more difficult to descend than to ascend. This is a treacherous, strenuous, exposed, steep trail that requires some scrambling and is not for the faint of heart. 

I’ll be guiding this Peak Fitness Challenge Hike on June 2nd, 2013 for the Franklin Mountains State Park. Click here for more info.

Mammoth Rock

The highest peak in my playground is the N. Franklin Peak at 7192 ft. I’ve been frequently power hiking up there to get ready for the Jemez Mountain 50K that I will be running at the end of this month and the San Diego 100 Miler that I’m running next month.

S. Franklin Peak as seen from N. Franklin
N. Franklin Peak as seen from Mammoth Rock (S. Franklin)
I either run on the west side starting in the state park or from the northeast side from Chuck Heinrich Park (El Paso City Parks). The climb is around 2000-3000 feet depending on which side you start from and the trail offers some very steep rugged sections to keep you from getting bored. The views are stunning from the top and a colony of ladybugs frequent the bushes on the peak during warm weather.

Claret Cup 
Texas Rainbow
Big-Needle Pincushion
Some of my recent training runs have taken me around the entire Franklin range where many cactus species have been in full bloom. The lower sunset trail is a favorite of many locals and runners refer to it as the Jack Rabbit loop, named after the 7 mile race of the same name that is run every March. The race ends with a steep climb that we affectionately refer to as “Big Bertha”. You can reach the trailhead from Tom Mays unit of the Franklin Mountains State Park. The best maps are available on GeoBetty.com and a free hardcopy is available at most bike shops in town.

Click for a closer look and you will see their brightly colored shirts 
"Jack Rabbit Trail"
The Run El Paso Club recently hosted their annual Mt Cristo Rey Challenge, an 8 mile out and back to the top of Mt Cristo Rey (4675 ft). Though not the highest peak in the area, it has one of the largest statues of Christ on the top. Thousands of faithful Christians trek to the monument during holy days throughout the year. The mountain sits at the border of Sunland Park, NM; El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico. When the idea of placing  a cross on top of the mountain was envisioned in the early 1930s, the founders didn’t even know in which state or country the mountain was located. The pathway ascends gradually and is mostly smooth packed dirt which makes for a great running trail (especially coming back down). 

Mt Cristo Rey as seen from UT El Paso

Run El Paso Club's annual "boys against girls" Cristo Rey Challenge

We are very fortunate to have many trails around the El Paso area. The city surrounds  the mountains so, no matter what neighborhood you live in, you are never too far from a great adventure. I often run for hours without seeing anyone which is surprising considering the El Paso County population is 827,000. The spring weather is very pleasant so get out and enjoy the peaks in your backyard. 

W. El Paso as seen from the Ron Coleman Trail
See you on the trail.


  1. Greg, that is awesome that you're a leader in the Peak Fitness Challenge! That's a great trail, and you'll be an excellent role model. Wish I could hike it. Good luck as your race season continues!

  2. Thank you Abigail. Hope you are recovering from your ankle sprain and will be back out on the trail soon.

  3. Greg,
    I will be coming to El Paso from Dallas on a business trip this Thursday and an am looking to get a good run in. I am training to do a 50 miler. Would you suggest doing the Ron Coleman trail or is there something better in the El Paso area we should do. Is the Ron Coleman a good trail run or is most of it going to be hiking and not running.

  4. Mark, I wouldn't run the Ron Coleman (too technical/steep), but try some trails starting from Franklin Mts State Park off TransMountain Rd (Lower Sunset) or from Chuck Heinrich Park on the NE side of town. GeoBetty.com is a great source for trail maps. Lost Dog Traihead at the intersection of Redd and Helen of Troy is also a favorite. You can pick up a hardcopy map at the trailhead. Sorry I won't be around to run this week. Join us on FB: El Paso Trail and Ultra Runners.

    1. Thanks for the info. Will check those options out. I am planning on doing a run both Thursday and Friday. Looking forward to the El Paso heat. Next time I am out that way maybe we can go for a run. Thanks