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. Check the weather before you go, and let someone know where you will be.
Cardiac Hill, the first trail to break off Fence Line
, is one of the Chuck Heinrich area's more interesting routes, with good views and a variety of terrain. The path turns off shortly after the entrance station. It makes a challenging but manageable climb on a short hill, with some stones and minor erosion damage on the way up. The path forks briefly three times as it climbs, a trend that will repeat at various points for the remainder of the trail.
At the top, the trail moves along the side and top of one of the area's taller ridges. A little over a third of a mile in, Cardiac Hill splits into three segments: the north one is easiest, the middle is a little tougher, and the south is the most challenging, with some minor scrambling. The south trail is recommended, crossing over a series of interesting striped rock formations, but requires caution due to its more technical nature.
The paths soon rejoin, and after a couple more forks, Cardiac Hill passes an intersection with South Cardiac Hill
and Castner Range Fence Line
. South Cardiac Hill
climbs to a nice viewpoint and is a more challenging and technical trail. The main path turns north and descends through an area of erosion damage to a dry creek bed. The exit for South Ridge
and The Maze is here. Cardiac Hill continues on the other side of the creek bed shortly thereafter but is easy to miss; the path only coincides with the creek bed for about a hundred feet. The GPS track can help here.
The trail winds a little further, rejoining the southern route, and crosses another creek bed. The grassy West Cardiac Hill
splits off right afterwards, and the main trail turns south. The remainder is rockier but not much more difficult. Near the end, where the trail turns west, look up the hill to the east to see a small natural stone arch. A short loop used to go to the base, but has since become overgrown.
The trail ends at Blue Moon
across from Mule Shoe
Loop. A park sign marks the western end of the trail, helping runners locate it from this side.
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. The northeast area of the Franklins features a greater number of lechugilla than other regions.
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 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.