Travelers have stopped in El Paso for more than 10,000 years, leaving behind ancient art, gorgeous missions and a vibrant hole-in-the-wall culinary scene that blends authentic Mexican recipes with fresh chiles and sauces.

Start your day by heading to H&H Car Wash and Coffee Shop to get your car hand-washed while you enjoy a typical El Paso-style breakfast. With turquoise countertops and tables and bright red stools, this vintage diner hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1958.

Franklin Mountains State Park

Franklin Mountains hiker overlooking El Paso

Franklin Mountains hiker overlooking El Paso

Next, get a bird’s-eye view of this city when you hike in Franklin Mountains State Park. Little known fact: the park is the nation’s largest urban park. At the top, enjoy stellar views of Texas, Mexico and New Mexico.

You'll explore the Chihuahuan Desert landscape dotted with cacti, calliope hummingbirds and golden eagles when you visit Franklin Mountains State Park. Put on sturdy walking shoes and explore amazing hiking trails, including the 1.2-mile out-and-back trail to Aztec Cave, which you can stand in. 

Very experienced hikers will enjoy El Paso’s most challenging hike: the half-day trek past two caves on the Ron Coleman Trail via McKelligon Canyon. At the top, you’ll see into two countries and three states. Hike from south to north to use the chain assists on your uphill rather than your downhill on a near-vertical rock face. 

Explore the El Paso Mission Trail

El Paso's Ysleta Mission

El Paso's Ysleta Mission

Socorro Mission in El Paso

Socorro Mission

The nine-mile El Paso Mission Trail connects two of the nation’s oldest continuously operated missions: Ysleta Mission built in 1682 and Socorro Mission built in 1691. 

Amid fire and perennial flooding from the Rio Grande floodplain, Ysleta Mission is one of the nation’s longest continuously occupied religious buildings. It’s filled with symbols of the Tigua Indian community that settled in the area after the 1680 New Mexico Pueblo Revolt. Look for the statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, the Catholic Church’s sole Native American saint. Don't miss San Elizario Presidio Chapel where the presidio, a Spanish fort, was built in 1789. Call ahead to each mission for hours of operation as they differ.

Visit Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site

Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site near El Paso, Texas

Hueco Tanks State Park

Afterwards, visit Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site, home to world-renowned bouldering and ancient paintings and carvings. This gorgeous state park is world-renowned for its bouldering [a form of climbing large boulders without ropes] and ancient rock paintings. 

It’s well-worth visiting to watch the climbers and to see the park’s Native American art. Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans sought water in the boulder’s huecos [naturally occurring holes]. Because the park limits the number of people who enter the North Mountain area every day to 70, call ahead up to 90 days in advance to reserve your spot, especially during peak climbing season that runs from October through February. The permit phone number is (512) 389-8911.

Explore Red Sands near El Paso

ATV in Red Sands near El Paso, Texas

ATVing at Red Sands

Thirty-four million years ago, an ocean covered the Red Sands area west of Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site. Today, it’s a fantastic off-road desert riding area. Stop by Rent A UTV Off-Road Adventures located at the Red Sands entrance to rent a UTV or to go on a 1.5 or 2.5-hour guided tour. 

Afterwards, have some of the best steak in the region at the family-friendly Cattleman’s Steakhouse at Indian Cliffs Ranch. It’s on a working ranch in the Texas desert, but you can also spend time at the petting zoo, see horses, bison and longhorns and go on a hayride while you’re there. 

It’s just 35 minutes back to one of downtown El Paso’s hip, boutique hotels, including The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park, Stanton House and Aloft El Paso Downtown.

Vineyards and Museums in El Paso

Zin Valley Vineyards in El Paso, Texas

Zin Valley Vineyards

Don't miss visiting a local vineyard while you are in the area. Sip wine at Zin Valley Vineyards where local musicians play tunes while visitors picnic on Sunday afternoons. El Paso’s first vineyards were actually planted nearly 400 years ago by Spanish Franciscan priests.

Cool down in the El Paso Museum of History, which tells the border area’s rich, multinational and multicultural history. Don’t miss the DIGIE, a giant 3-D touch-sensitive TV screen filled with photographs and videos of the area’s past and present.

Museum of History in El Paso, Texas

Museum of History

Lastly, arrive hungry at Kiki’s Mexican Restaurant where the unofficial slogan is “Pig out! We’ll make more.” Try Kiki’s Famous Machaca, which is chicken, brisket or crab with tomatoes, green chiles, green sauce and cheese.

Events in El Paso

For those looking for adventure, check out the El Paso Puzzler, a mountain bike race that offers 50-mile, 35-mile and 15-mile courses through rocky terrain, single-track and some roads.  In 2019, the races kick off Jan. 20 from Bowen Ranch Round House. Need time to train? Make it a goal to complete one of the courses next year. 

In February every year, climbers from all over descend on Hueco Rock Ranch for the Hueco Rock Rodeo. The climbing festival features a bouldering competition, clinics, dance parties, artists market, gear demos and more. The clinics and climbing competitions will take place inside Hueco Tanks State Park.  

In the summer, stop by the El Paso County Fair, which includes equestrian events, auto races, live music, food and a rodeo. The first county fair was held in 1905 with travelers arriving by wagon to the festivities. Over the years, the fair has grown and modernized to today's 7-day action-packed festivities. 

Horizontal rule

Learn more at visitelpaso.com or at The Union Depot Visitor Information Center, 400 W. San Antonio. The Airport Visitor Information Center is inside the El Paso International Airport in the main lobby.

Related

Sunset hiker in White Sands National Park in New Mexico

Space to Roam in Alamogordo, N.M.

Just minutes from White Sands National Park, Alamogordo has some selfie-worthy attractions.

Slaughter Canyon Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Uncrowded Park Gems near Carlsbad, New Mexico

Two world-class national parks and a natural swimming pool under a waterfall surround Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces, New Mexico

11 Hot Spots in Las Cruces, N.M.

Once part of Mexico, the area offers an incredibly rich culture woven together with strong strands of traditional Mexican influences. Here are the top 11 things to do.

Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico

New Mexico to Grand Canyon Road Trip

Stunning landscapes, culture and adobe villages await on this 1,729-mile adventure.

Catalina State Park bordering Tucson, Ariz.

Starry Nights in Tucson's Catalina State Park

Explore the great outdoors at Catalina State Park, a museum that is 85% outside, and Biosphere 2, an enormous glass terrarium.

Hiker in Walnut Canyon National Monument near Flagstaff

7 Stops in Phenomenal Flagstaff, Arizona

Two hours from six national monuments and Grand Canyon National Park, Flagstaff is a thriving mountain town with a charming historic downtown. Here are seven things to do.

Concert at Tuacahan Amphitheatre near Zion National Park

Beyond Zion in Springdale and St. George

Zion National Park's beauty does not end at the park boundary. Here are six ways to experience the area and escape the park’s crowds.

grand-canyon-salt-lake

11 Things to Do in Salt Lake City, Utah

Gateway to national parks and home to Temple Square, Salt Lake City offers endless options for outdoor enthusiasts, cultural art lovers, families and history buffs.

Tucson surrounded by mountains

Insider's Tips to Tucson

Geoffrey Campbell, assistant general manager of Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort in Tucson, Ariz., shares insider tips on what to do and see in Tucson.