Dubbed the last of Texas' wildest cities, El Paso is a nature lover's paradise. From mountain biking and trail running through its three state parks to visiting the 35-acre El Paso Zoo, or even cooling off this summer at one of four water parks, there is no shortage of al fresco activities in this West Texas town.
Hundreds of trails twist through Franklin Mountains State Park, starting from central El Paso to New Mexico. When trekking through these mountains, set aside at least a half day — this is the largest urban park in the U.S. The limestone and granite range of the Franklins houses such wildlife as mule deer, sheep, mountain lions, and an array of species of birds and reptiles ranging from rattle snakes to golden eagles. A painting of the Franklins by native El Pasoan Tom Lea even hung in the Oval Office with President George Bush.
Seen as a paradise for world-class climbing and archeological research, Hueco Tanks encompasses three low mountains that rise 6,787 feet above sea level. Its structure once sheltered tribes such as the Jornada Mogollan People, Mescalero Apaches, and Tigua Indians, giving them a stronghold. Here, thousands of rock and cave paintings of masks and stories can be observed. The famous structure of this arroyo provides unique hollows, or huecos, that capture rainwater. Known as the best spot in the world for bouldering, the ideal time to visit is November through March when it is not as hot.
Just west of Hueco Tanks sits Red Sands, which consists of 21 miles of off-roading opportunities. Thirty four million years ago, the entire area used to be under an ancient sea — today, you'll come across plenty of fossils. The park is open year-round and you can rent an ATV or arrive in your own 4x4 vehicle for a day of grilling and hanging out with friends and family.
El Paso Zoo
Locally recognized as the best place to take the kiddos, the El Paso Zoo sits on 35 acres of fun and adventure. This expansive green space is home to exotic animals from around the world and features family attractions such as the African Star Train, the Hunt Family Desert Spring water feature, and the Foster Tree House Playground.
Get ready for May: That's when El Paso's four water parks open their pools for the summer. Each site is a one-of-a-kind aquatics destination featuring unique themes mixed with spiraling water slides, relaxing lazy rivers, spectacular kiddie playgrounds, refreshing leisure pools, climbing walls, lounge chairs, private cabanas, and much more.
Opened in summer 2021 and located at the foothills of the majestic Franklin Mountains in Northeast El Paso, Camp Cohen is your base camp for an adrenaline-packed sporty adventure. Thrill seekers can lap swim in Endurance River, climb the Warrior Wall, or ride high-octane Thunder Run, Lighting Bolt, or Monsoon Plunge slides. Little ones will enjoy their own aquatic adventure at the Poppy Island water playground within the Wild Lagoon.
Life is party at Chapoteo, a fiesta-themed water park. Zooming slides at the Calavera Plunge sends guests twisting and turning while the calm Rio Sereno offers a soothing lazy river experience. Looking to chill out? Las Casitas cabanas and the Marigold Plaza are great places to unwind while you savor a snack from La Olla cafe.
Immerse yourself in the ancient ruins of Lost Kingdom, where adventure chasers will enjoy zipping and twisting water-slide thrills at the Temple Drop, home to the Sun Temple and Moon Temple water slides. Challenge yourself on The Ruins climbing wall and the Mayan Lanes or splash around in the Macaw Lagoon surrounding the Jaguar Jungle, outfitted with interactive water features for endless hours of playtime.
Oasis, El Paso's newest and largest park, is located at Eastside Regional Park and is your summer retreat for family fun. Featuring El Paso's only surfing machine, Oasis also lets you kick back and cool off in the Driftwood Channel or spiral down the signature Tumbleweed slides. Take a break at the cabanas in the Hueco Dwellings after enjoying the Sunset Lagoon leisure pool and the Adventure Pointe water play area at the Rain Puddle kiddie pool.
Bonus: Cyclo de Mayo
Not quite ready to put your bike away? Head to downtown El Paso on May 7 for this family-friendly day of races that includes cash prizes for some categories. You can register online here through May 4 at 5 pm.