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2.5 mile 4.1 kilometer point to point
86% Runnable


Ascent: 387' 118 m
Descent: -605' -184 m
High: 4,877' 1,486 m
Low: 4,582' 1,397 m


Avg 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

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Runner Notes

Trails around the Franklin Mountains are often rocky and technical, so users unfamiliar with rough terrain should use caution. Trail shoes with rock plates are strongly recommended.

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.


Named after El Paso's well-known Thunderbird Formation, a red rhyolite band along the mountains in the shape of a bird, this eponymous route is the main connection from the Lost Dog area to trails along the west central Franklin Mountains. Thunderbird begins where North Clyde's Trail turns underneath a series of three power lines. The path generally follows these lines for its entirety, making them a useful reference point in some of the more difficult to follow areas.

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.

Flora & Fauna

Typical Chihuahua Desert vegetation. Sotols, yuccas, cacti and creosote bushes. Lizards and birds.

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Sep 6, 2015
Brendan Ross

Trail Ratings

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in Texas


13 Views Last Month
900 Since Sep 6, 2015



View of the foothills and the Lost Dog area from Thunderbird.
Sep 6, 2015 near El Paso, TX
View of the arroyo and the Franklin Mountains
Mar 29, 2018 near El Paso, TX
View of Mammoth Rock from the trail
Apr 21, 2018 near Canutillo, TX
Looking east into the canyon.
Mar 29, 2018 near Canutillo, TX
Opuntias and view of Mammoth Rock
May 1, 2018 near El Paso, TX
Eagle claw cactus and  Mammoth Rock
May 1, 2018 near El Paso, TX


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