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Explore El Paso’s Natural Surrounds

Read ahead for our next installment in our El Paso for SMART Airports series. To read the previous article, click here.

Attend SMART Airports July 22-24 to learn how El Paso’s airport connects with community to drive economic development while implementing the latest innovations and technology. Staying a few extra days? Here’s a guide to some of the best parks and outdoor areas around El Paso!

Did you realize you can experience the desert in El Paso? Take in the bold colors, the dramatic silhouettes, and the fascinating geology among this spectacular landscape. El Paso sits inside of a region called the Chihuahuan Desert, the second largest desert in North America. Nature lovers can rejoice in all the national parks, state parks, scenic drives and overlooks their heart desires just a short drive from the city’s center. Whether you prefer to explore by driving, hiking, horseback riding, camping, rock climbing, or sledding, be sure to set aside some time during your trip to be one with nature and take in some of what the Chihuahuan Desert has to offer.


Chihuahuan Desert Gardens

Distance from downtown El Paso: 2 miles

If you don’t have time in your schedule to travel out to one of the parks but would still like to experience desert life, visit the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens located right in the city at the University of Texas El Paso. Here you can walk the paths of the botanical gardens and look at the over 800 species of plants that inhabit the region.


Hueco Tanks State Park

Distance from downtown El Paso: 38 miles

This sacred desert sanctuary sits close to El Paso and has tons of activities for adults or kids of all ages. The rocks here are covered in huecos, or natural forming basins, that provide a beautiful and unique land formation. Thrillist even lists it as one of “the most beautiful places in Texas you didn’t know existed.” The park also contains pictographs and petroglyphs on the rocks left by ancient people who inhabited the region more than 1,500 years ago. Bring a picnic with you for lunch at the park after you hike the trails and climb the rocks. If you would like to go, make sure to call ahead to make a reservation for a guided or self-guided tour.


Franklin Mountains State Park

Distance from downtown El Paso: 17 miles

Franklin Mountains State Park is the largest urban park that resides completely within city limits! For a short drive, you will be rewarded with beautiful mountains and a large variety of trails to hike or bike for people of all ages and abilities. Stay for sunset to see beautiful desert colors over the mountains. Children 12 and under are free, but adults 13+ have an entrance fee of $5 per person.


White Sands National Monument

Distance from downtown El Paso: 96 miles

Over the border of Texas into New Mexico lies 275 square miles of pure white sand, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. Build extra time into your trip, and travel over to this National Monument. If you’re bringing kids, go grab a free adventure pack from the visitor center on your way in to help them learn about the animals that inhabit the White Sands. Otherwise, enjoy this desert with activities like camping, biking, scenic driving, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, or a fan favorite, sledding.


Aguirre Springs

Distance from downtown El Paso: 67 miles

Aguirre Springs is a recreation area with plenty of campground sites as well as beautiful scenic trails to hike, overlooking the Organ Mountains as well as the White Sands. Be prepared for some areas with a bit of a steep elevation, but you will be rewarded with streams and springs along the way! This is also a great option if you have time to make a stop on your way to White Sands.


Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Park

Distance from downtown El Paso: 52 miles

The organ mountains are known as “the crown jewel of the southern Rockies,” and earned their name because of their steep and dramatic silhouette resembling an organ. Also on the way to White Sands, this beautiful mountainous area provides spectacular views and land for hiking, biking, photography, and more. During your visit, watch for fossils, petroglyphs, wildlife, and even historic ruins along the Dripping Springs trail.

For more ideas on what to see and what to do, head over to Visit El Paso. If you come to visit, make sure to let us know! Post your photos on social media using #itsallgoodep and #SMARTAirportsElPaso and share your experience at the conference.

Next step? Register for SMART Airports click here.

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