“A rocky, difficult climb to the crash site of an Air Force B-36.”
— Brendan Ross
Keep in mind that the crash site is considered a memorial to the nine airmen who lost their lives here. Do not disturb the wreckage or take souvenirs.
The trails in the southwest section of Franklin Mountains State Park are among the most rugged and technical in the area. Trail shoes are strongly recommended.
El Paso is in the desert, so be mindful of 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 40 mph are not unusual. Dust storms, strongest 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'll be.
Leading to the final resting place of a U.S. Army Air Force B-36 that crashed into the western slope of Ranger Peak in 1953, this difficult trail makes its way up a steep face of the Franklin Mountains.
The beginning of the trail is not marked and easy to miss. About three quarters of a mile into Thousand Steps Trail
, just before an eastern segment turns to the south, look left for a small, rocky area cleared of the usual mountainside vegetation. A very faint singletrack will be visible on the other side and is where the trail begins.
The Crash Site Trail is rugged, rocky, and steep. It is also unmaintained, meaning that some sections may have damage from thunderstorms or erosion, and plants may be encroaching upon the trail. Take advantage of the Trail Run Project mobile app
or the GPS track available here, and refer to it frequently, as it is often indistinct. Follow the trail as it weaves up the mountain face, eventually circling around an elevated section and making a mostly straight path to the east. Be careful, as there are a few false trails splitting off that may not be obvious for a hundred feet or so.
Looking up the mountain, a ledge-like outcropping will be visible a little ways down from the top. This is the location of the site and is a useful reference point as the trail climbs. As it reaches the north side of the elevated ridge, the path enters an area thick with century plants. It's scenic, but it can also make the trail hard to follow. Not long after, the trail then proceeds along a slab rock section before picking up again on the other side.
Debris from the crash will start to appear around a third of a mile in. Landing gear struts, tires, engines, propeller blades, and other aircraft parts are scattered around. Some sections of the rock face still show discoloration from the intense fire that burned after the accident. Various memorial items are found at the outcropping mentioned earlier, which is more or less the "official" site.
The singletrack continues up to the Overlook area on Ranger Peak Loop
, about a tenth of a mile further up. The final segment is extremely slippery thanks to loose rock, so use caution and move slowly to avoid a fall.