“A rocky singletrack through Palisades Canyon.”
— Brendan Ross
According to the sign at the trailhead, Palisades Canyon is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. With no clearly defined boundary between the Palisades area and State Park property, it's unclear where the restriction is supposed to be applied, and it is not enforced anyway.
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. Also be mindful of mountain bikers using the trail. It can be difficult to give way to runners while finding a good line, so the best option may be to make room for them to pass.
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 will be.
Monk's Trail is the primary route through Palisades Canyon, leading to the southern end of Franklin Mountains State Park.
The trail starts shortly after the access gate into the canyon, branching off from Palisades Canyon Access Road
. Look for a singletrack to the right after the dirt road splits. An easy, gradual climb for the most part, the challenge comes from the rugged condition of the trail. Runners will find themselves needing to pay close attention to their step, as large rocks are a constant presence on the trail. This can be particularly bad after thunderstorms; Palisades Canyon was purchased as public land in part to protect it as a runoff area.
Monk's climbs out of the canyon near the intersection with Palisades Canyon Loop
, which can be easy to miss. It then enters a steep segment, winding as it climbs a ridge overlooking the sandy wash below. The rocks and grade make it a tough climb, but it doesn't last long. As the path begins to level out, it enters an area thick with plant life. The ocotillo, creosote bushes, and cacti look particularly nice in the summer, becoming colorful.
The trail crosses connectors to the Loop, East Monk's, and the access road again around the half-mile point. From here on out, the trail is fairly uniform, making a steady climb north. With the hills surrounding the trail on either side, there's a nice feeling of solitude here.
As Monk's nears the one-mile point, it crosses a few more paths leading in various directions. It ends at an intersection with Vertigo Ridge
and Thousand Steps Trail
, providing plenty of interesting options to continue a run.