ElevationAscent: 387' 118 m
Descent: -605' -184 m
High: 4,877' 1,486 m
Low: 4,582' 1,397 m
GradeAvg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 27% (15°)
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“Travel along the Franklin's western foothills in the shadow of a Native American legend.”— Brendan Ross
Thunderbird and trails branching off from it are generally more difficult than others in Franklin Mountains State Park. Rocks are more abundant and cacti tends to grow closer to the trail, and in some cases, directly in the middle. Washout damage and minimal maintenance can make the trail hard to follow at points. Run carefully.
The initial portion of the trail is wide doubletrack, keeping close to the side of the mountains as it passes South Clyde's Trail and Transmountain Summit. Eventually the trail begins to narrow to rocky singletrack, crossing the first of many arroyos. The next mile is a rollercoaster as the path climbs and descends steep hills.
As the trail nears a water tank at the mile and a half point, at an intersection with Down and Out and Sanctum, southbound runners may want to consider taking Thunderbird Bypass to the right due a steep and slippery descent over loose rock after Thunderbird Summit. In any case, the trail continues southbound, becoming indistinct for several hundred feet as it follows a rocky arroyo (refer to the Trail Run Project mobile app for help).
After another arroyo crossing and the aforementioned steep segment, Thunderbird meets back up with the Bypass at a rock cairn. It then climbs to the beginning of McKelligon Saddle, marked by two more cairns. While the trail appears to continue southbound, it quickly ends after a few hundred feet in a field of cacti and lechugillas.
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Land Manager: Texas Parks and Wildlife - Franklin Mountains State Park