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(Courtesy of Visit El Paso)

Key Info

9065 Alameda Ave.

Price & Hours

Free
Varies by site

Details

Free, Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 3.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

El Paso's complex history can be experienced along the El Paso Mission Trail: a 9-mile stretch along the U.S.-Mexico border that passes by two mission churches and one presidio chapel. Each location has its own history and details the complex relations among the region's Native Americans, Spanish colonists and missionaries. The Ysleta Mission, which is closest to El Paso, has been in continuous use since 1682. Today, it is still an important religious site for the Tigua Indian Tribe. The nearby cultural center has a museum designed to educate visitors about the tribe's history. Come July, Ysleta runs a three-day music festival with live performances, games and delicious food.

The Socorro Mission has been immaculately restored. Its architectural details like cottonwood ceiling beams, adobe walls and a bell tower all represent the comingling of Spanish and pueblo cultures. The final site along the trail, the Presidio Chapel of San Elizario, began as a military fortress in the late 1700s. By the end of the 19th century, the chapel was constructed, cementing the location's role as an important religious site.

Reviewers praised the missions, though a few said that some of the structures are small and difficult to find. Travelers can easily spend a full day exploring the El Paso Mission Trail. While stopping at the missions is the prime reason to visit, visitors should also save time for checking out the various artisanal shops and restaurants along the route.

There is no fee to visit the missions. Each of the missions has its own operating hours and celebrates mass at different times. Be sure to call the missions before you go to arrange a time to visit; some of the sites may offer complimentary tours. The missions can be found within a 5-mile radius of one another. Ysleta, the closest mission to El Paso, is situated 12 miles southeast of the city center. While you can get to the missions via public transportation, you'll save time by driving yourself. For more information, visit the trail's website.

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#1 Franklin Mountains State Park

Sweeping mountain vistas await travelers who decide to hike through Franklin Mountains State Park. The park lies less than 18 miles north of the city center and provides visitors with a feeling of being worlds away from civilization. There are more than 100 miles of hiking trails across roughly 27,000 acres, plus rock climbing opportunities and multiple campsites. You can also partake in ranger programs, such as guided hikes, bike tours and art activities. Astute hikers may also see several species of birds or – if they're lucky –  mountain lions, among other animals.

Past tourists raved about the park. Many enjoyed their hikes and loved the views, adding that future travelers should try to time their hikes around sunset. Others warned that it can get particularly hot here in summer, so be sure to pack plenty of provisions.

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