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Texas Stops on the Way to the Grand Canyon

Adventure Land in El Paso, Texas

Discover some of the nation's most diverse recreation areas in this historic town near Guadalupe Mountains and White Sands national parks.

Travelers have stopped in El Paso, Texas, 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. There’s a fusion of vibrant cultures, rich history and diverse landscapes that collide to make the city the place it is today. We’ve picked out outdoor adventures, boutique hotels and trendy restaurants for you to explore.

El Paso Boutique Hotels

Downtown El Paso
Downtown El Paso (Photo: Visit El Paso)

Stay in one of the city’s newest downtown hotels like The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park, Stanton House and Hotel Paso Del Norte, Autograph Collection and head out to eat at nearby restaurants. You can reach some by riding a vintage streetcar for a free, 4.8-mile loop around downtown and uptown. Vegans will enjoy Lick It Up El Paso, which has been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Elemi Cocina sources organic and local produce, as well as heirloom varieties of native maize in Mexico for its inventive and flavorful tacos.

Local legend has it that the margarita originated in the area, although other towns in Mexico also make the same claim. Along El Paso’s Margarita Trail, you’ll find the Jalapeño Margarita with cilantro at Julio’s Mexican Restaurant. L&J Cafe, a longtime local landmark, serves classic margaritas with legendary Tex-Mex enchiladas. Cantina Malolam puts fresh mint, hibiscus and limes in its Mint Jamaica Margarita.

Franklin Mountains State Park

Hiking the Aztec Trail in Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso
Hiking the Aztec Trail in Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso (Photo: Visit El Paso)

Next, get a bird’s-eye view of El Paso, Texas 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 easy 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 MissionVisit El Paso
Socorro Mission in El Paso
Socorro MissionVisit El Paso

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 ParkCourtesy Visit El Paso

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, Texas

ATV in Red Sands near El Paso, Texas
UTV Off-Road Adventures at Red SandsVisit El Paso

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.

Vineyards and Museums in El Paso

Zin Valley Vineyards in El Paso, Texas
Zin Valley VineyardsVisit El Paso

El Paso’s first vineyards were actually planted nearly 400 years ago by Spanish Franciscan priests. 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.

Cool down in the El Paso Museum of History, which tells the border area’s rich, multinational and multicultural history. Check out 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 Visit El Paso

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 2022, the races will be held Jan. 15-16. Need time to train? Make it a goal to complete one of the courses next year. Each course will ride to the far north end of Franklin Mountains State Park.

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. The El Paso Marathon is also in February. In 2022, it will take place Feb. 13-22. This Boston qualifier begins on El Paso’s east side and travels through various parts of the city. Runners will catch a sunrise over Hueco Mountain  and views of the Chihuahuan Desert.

On April 23, 2022, Mighty Mujer Triathlon will take place. It’s an all-female triathlon with several different options, including a virtual component, that starts with a 300-yard swim in an indoor pool. The 15k bike course is followed by a 2-mile run in the Memorial Park area in Central El Paso.

The Sun City Crit happens May 2022 and attracts national athletes, Olympians and more.  This unique form of cycling is all about high-speed racing and take place in downtown El Paso.

Learn more at or at the Visitor Information Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza, El Paso, TX 79901. The Airport Visitor Information Center is inside the El Paso International Airport in the main lobby.