“A steep climb leading to a sweeping high desert viewpoint.”
— Brendan Ross
Tom Mays Unit is open from 8 am to 5 pm daily. Off-hours access is permitted and is via a small parking area at the gate off of Transmountain. Overnight camping is available.
A ranger station, usually only staffed on weekends in the warmer months, is located a mile inside the entrance. Adult entrance fees are $5 per person, or $2 in groups; children 12 and under are free. When the station is not staffed, use the pay box next to the station.
Features: Views — Wildflowers — Wildlife
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.
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.
Schaeffer Shuffle, one of the Franklin Mountains State Park's more challenging trails, is a short mile and a half diversion off of Lower Sunset
From the eastern trailhead, which is marked by a sign, Schaeffer Shuffle heads northeast around the base of a large foothill. Keep left at a fork shortly after the entrance; the right path leads to a small rest area. The path enters a creekbed briefly before heading up the hill on the opposite side. A rock cairn marks the way.
The climb starts off easy but quickly becomes a challenge, traversing large areas of talus at steep grades. Some brief respite can be had at the top, where runners are rewarded with an impressive view of the Rio Grande and New Mexico. The trail's descent is as steep as the climb; use caution as footing can be very slippery among the small rocks. Schaeffer Shuffle then flattens out into an area with small ups and downs, crossing two washouts and merging back into Lower Sunset
. A smaller sign and wooden structure mark the trail for runners beginning from this side.
Flora & Fauna
Desert plants tend to bloom in waves in spring and summer after the short periods of rain that El Paso experiences. Ocotillo
tend to turn green and blossom first, followed by barrel and claret cup cacti, and finally flowers and prickly pears.
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, though they leave most visitors 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.