If you are in El Paso and looking for some real natural beauty in a remote setting by all means drive east to Guadalupe National Park. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located in West Texas on U.S. Highway 62/180. You can drive there in two hours or less.
What you will see is some beautiful mountains with crystal clean air, nice highland canyons, and even a desert habitat. The park is uncrowded and full of some good hiking trails. While certainly not the most beautiful of national parks it is still is definitely worth seeing but yes it is off the normal beat and path.
The Franklin Mountains State Park is the largest state park entirely within the city limits of any American city. I recently had the pleasure (and pain) of taking a morning hike up into the mountains, and I can't wait to do it again! There are so many trails to follow, some camping is allowed, and even dogs are allowed as long as they're leashed. I can't really do the area justice from here, so I'll try to make a travelogue for the park as well. To get to the park, take U.S.54 North, and take the Trans Mountain Road exit. Follow the signs!
White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), formerly known as the White Sands Proving Grounds, is located in southern New Mexico covers the area of approximately the same as that of the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island put together. It's the largest military installation in the United States - missile and atomic testing area. The only way to get to the range visitors entrance on U.S. Highway 70, about 65 miles (105 km) north of El Paso is by car, own or hired.
On July 16, 1945 the world's first test of an atomic weapon was conducted at what is now called Trinity site, within what was then the boundaries of the range. NASA has used a landing area on White Sands Missile Range known as "White Sands Space Harbor." Many space shuttles landed there. The US Army Air Defense Center is located in nearby Fort Bliss, Texas.
I was driving U.S. Highway 70 towards White Sands National Monument soon after beginning of Iraq War. Although I was 100% sure that the important US military installation was closed for any visitors, I turned my car towards the entrance gate. To my total surprise I was allowed to enter the WSMR! I had to leave car outside the base and after check-up at the gate I was allowed to walk to visit White Sands Missile Range Museum: an outdoor exhibition of old and still used rockets and missiles (Pershing, Patriot) and indoor exhibition of smaller missiles.
On that day (Easter Monday) I was lucky to see numerous vintage sport cars which stopped in front of the museum. There was a race of these cool cars but I wasn't allowed to go deeper into the military base to watch it.
More details in my White Sands VT-page.
This National Park is absolutely a blast! The area is in the mountain-ringed Tularosa Basin valley area and comprises the southern part of a 710 km² (275 mi²) field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals. Gypsum is rarely found in the form of sand because it is water soluble. I have never seen anything like that. I was there exactly on Easter Monday and I could easily see hundreds of Americans picnicking on white sands of picnic areas and sliding down white sand dunes. It's never to forget.
White Sands National Monument is located in southern New Mexico, 95 miles (150 km) north of El Paso; the Visitors Center is on U.S. Highway 70, 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Alamogordo. No public transportation serves the park. The only way to get there is by car: own or hired.
More details in my White Sands National Monument VT-page.
This beautiful National Park is located 110 miles (180 km) east of El Paso, in far West Texas, by U.S. Highway 62/180 and just south of New Mexico-Texas state line.
I liked most huge mountains and various rocky formations as well as wildlife and fauna of this area. I have seen golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, and other birds of pray. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is said to be the world's finest example of a fossilized reef. It's a must see for every fan of mountain hiking, geology and wildlife. Warning: you have to hike to discover its beauty, it's impossible to visit it by car that is unique in the USA.
The Park includes the highest part of 50 miles (80 km) long mountain range - the Guadalupe Mountains - that surprisingly rises above flat although full of deep and narrow canyons lowlands of southern New Mexico and Chihuahua Desert of Texas. U.S. Highway 62/180 runs through the Guadalupe Pass below impressive El Captain Peak and its neighbour, Guadalupe Peak (2667 m, 8749 ft), the highest summit in Texas.
More details in my Guadalupe Mountains National Park VT-page.
This was a blast! If you like caverns it's a must for you. The park contains 113 caves, formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone, creating some of the largest caves in North America. Carlsbad Caverns are impressive and include the world's largest single cave called the Big Room; 6.2 football fields would fit into the Big Room.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the Guadalupe Mountains of the southeastern corner of New Mexico, 150 miles (240 km) northeast of El Paso. The best way to get there is to hire a car in El Paso and visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park on the way. The option are Greyhound and TNM&O bus lines.
More details in my Carlsbad Caverns National Park VT-page.
My visit to Big Bend National Park was a blast! It's absolutely a must see for every fan of nature, hiking, mountains, and wildlife.
I especially enjoyed:
- magnificient and dramatic mountain views,
- vast space, fresh air and absolute silence,
- fantastic colours of rocky formations at sunset,
- powerful cliffs and dramatic canyons in the Chisos Mountains (above 7,800 feet = 2400 m),
- desert plants in bloom in April,
- green colour of the Rio Grande River and around - view over Mexico,
- adobe houses of Native Americans,
- wildlife (Virginia deer, bold eagles and many others), unfortunatelly I didn't see any bear or mountain lion.
Thia one of the largest, most remote, and least-visited national parks in the lower 48 United States is located in southwestern Texas, along Mexican border made by the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo River, 330 miles southeast of El Paso. The best way to get there is to hire a car in El Paso. The option is to get to Alpine by Amtrak (train) and then by Greyhound (scheduled bus) to the Park (some 100 miles).
More details in my Big Bend National Park VT-page.
I stopped at I-10 rest area on New Mexico-Texas state line. I could see the Chihuahuan Desert that stretches from the southeastern corner of Arizona across southern New Mexico and west Texas to the Edwards Plateau in the United States. It also runs deep into central Mexico. The dominant plant species throughout the Chihuahuan desert is creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) which is well seen even from I-10 crossing El Paso. In April this evergreen shrub was in bloom. Its little flowers have five yellow petals.
Creosote Bushes are the world's oldest living things. Though each stem of the plant may live to be several centuries old, new ones are continually produced from the outer edge of the root crown, eventually forming a ring. There is a creosote bush ring in the Mohave Desert in California that is several thousand years old. It has been estimated that it started from a seed nearly 12,000 years ago.
The Creosote Bush is the most drought tolerant plant in North America. It can live for at least 2 years without any rain whatsoever, and will lose its leaves and even shed branches to reserve the last water and nutrients for the crown.
When thunderstorms pass over the mountains, the water comes down in a flash flood. To save themselves from disaster, cities and towns make arroyos, lower places where nothing is built through which the water gets channeled. El Paso has one of these, and, after checking the sky for thunderclouds, we went in. You can hardly see anything artificial from here, and the one place in the El Paso area where you'll really get a feel for what the area was like before man set foot here. The arroyo is located between Rim Road and Robinson Ave.
If you go up Mesa St (up meaning up the hill and away from the border) until you hit the corner of the UT campus, you'll see an intersection with Rim Road. Take a right. As you follow the road, look to your right, and you'll catch a really good view of the city, the river, and Mexico beyond. When Rim Road eventually ends, take a right and you'll be on Scenic Dr (that's actually what it's called). As you follow that road along Mt. Franklin, you'll get a whole bunch more nice views. At the best point, there's a scenic overlook where you can park and use the 50-cent binoculars (or bring your own and use them for free). The overlook also has a bunch of plaques pointing out where you can see what and telling you about the history of El Paso.
This isn't really off the beaten path, since in a town the size (medium) and importance (big) of El Paso, most paths are pretty well beaten. That said, you might check out the area around the university for cheap eats and reasonable nightlife. The kids are all right.
I would recommend burritos. In fact, I woudl recommend burritos all the time, no matter where you are. One of my dreams is to go back to Belgium and open a "Burriterie" in Brussels, because once you try a little bit of love wrapped in a tortilla, you can't stop. I knew a guy in Charlotte, NC, who quit his job in bank marketing and opened Charlotte's first burrito place -- hugely successful. Lines out the door and around the block. And I make a mean burrito -- marinated chicken grilled to perfection, sauteed onions and peppers, fresh guacamole, queso, chunky salsa with a hint of cilantro and cumin... Can you tell that I'm hungry?
This might sound strange but Fort Bliss is really off the beaten path for most travellers to El Paso. 'Its a great day to be a solider', reads a sign on a bridge linking two parts of the Fort across a major roadway.
Learn the history of the U.S. Border Patrol from the old west to the present. Static displays of aircraft and vehicles used by the patrol, surveillance equipment, confiscated items and more. This 10,000 square foot museum is a good stop along with the Wilderness Park Museum nest door. Located just west of the intersection of Patriot Freeway and Transmountain Road at 4315 Transmountain Road, call (915) 759-6060. Monday thru Friday, 9am to 5pm
Hueco Tanks State Historical Park
Twenty-one miles east of El Paso on U.S. Highway 62, 9 miles north on country road
check out my Hueco Tanks travelogue
The most striking feature of Guadalupe Mountains National Park is the 8 thousand-feet high El Capitan, which can be seen from miles around. Early settlers used it as a landmark on the route through Guadalupe Pass.