“A central trail connecting to America's only tin mine.
— Brendan Ross
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.
As its name implies, Old Tin Mine Road is the former dirt access road to what was once America's only operating tin mine. Closed in 1915 after a few unprofitable years, two portions of the mine can be explored via access points off of Mundy's Gap
and Scenic Road
. It is also one of the area's main arterial trails, but Cardiac Hill
or one of The Maze trails to the south (e.g. South Ridge
) are more interesting and less crowded routes going in the same direction.
Starting from the east side, Old Tin Mine Road breaks off from Fence Line
just before the turnoff to South Ridge
. A sign marking the trail is a few hundred feet after
it begins as depicted here. From the beginning to the end, the trail is a steady, low-grade climb; barely noticeable in most parts. The former road is a gravely doubletrack, and the initial half mile is covered with a great number of loose rocks deposited by thunderstorm runoffs. A well-used singletrack through the debris avoids the worst of it.
As the trail circles a ridge to the south, Lazy Cow
splits off near the halfway point. The path then starts to parallel a small arroyo just to the north. As the ridge descends, a shortcut to Cardiac Hill
and The Maze trails is off to the left, shortly after the mile point. The trail changes little as it proceeds, with the only interruption being two more turnoffs a half mile further in, to Polecat Alley
and Cardiac Hill
Eventually, Old Tine Mine passes through an always-open gate and crosses Blue Moon
. From here on out the trail is a little smoother, but the climb remains the same. A short diversion to the north via Trenchtown Road
leads to a small hillside cave. The trail dead ends at Mundy's Gap
, providing access to the mines and excellent foothills trails.
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. 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.