Sierra Vista West
ElevationAscent: 361' 110 m
Descent: -196' -60 m
High: 4,638' 1,414 m
Low: 4,329' 1,320 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 14% (8°)
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“A sidetrack to the main Sierra Vista trail circling the North Franklins and connecting to Tom Mays.”— Brendan Ross
The trails in the North Franklin Mountains are more remote and isolated than others in the area. Their solitude, combined with the desert sun and a complete lack of shade, make dehydration a potential danger. Make sure to bring plenty of water. A few water caches have been placed by park rangers, but they should never be relied upon.
El Paso is in the desert, so plan around the climate. Summers are regularly in the 90's or above; winters will drop to the 30's and 40's. Lightning storms are frequent in the late afternoons during the warmer months. Winds are frequent and gusts over 50 mph are not unusual. Dust storms in the late spring can be hazardous and reduce visibility to less than a quarter mile. Check the weather before you go, and let someone know where you will be.
The initial section of the trail is easy to lose, thanks to rain erosion. Keep south of the shallow arroyo and watch for the breaks in vegetation. After a few hundred feet, the path clears up and is easy to follow for the remainder of the route. Rock cairns and BLM markers are placed at regular intervals to help out. Around a third of a mile into the trail, it merges into the arroyo briefly; again, watch for cairns.
A short distance further, the trail turns south and begins a gradual climb. The grade is steady but rarely difficult. After a mile and a half, Sierra Vista West merges into Northern Pass, near a water cache.
Animals are mostly limited to jackrabbits, lizards, and small birds. Roadrunners will dart across the trail at times, and hawks circle overhead, looking for prey. Coyotes are hard to spot and tend to only come out after dusk, although they typically leave runners alone.
Keep an eye out for snakes. They avoid the hot desert sun and are more common during the winter months. Most are harmless, but rattlers are a part of the local wildlife. Give them a wide berth, and if they're blocking the trail, tossing a few rocks in their direction tends to be enough incentive for them to leave.
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Land Manager: BLM New Mexico - Las Cruces District Office