Recently constructed by trail enthusiasts, volunteers, and rangers, Northern Pass completed a link to trails on either side of the Franklins and allows for a large loop to be made via Mundy's Gap
The trail begins on the northern segment of the Bike Loops
, where the latter transitions from creekbed to singletrack near a water cache. The initial three-quarters of a mile is on a former dirt road, steadily climbing the northern end of the mountains. A number of softball sized rocks add some technicality to the path.
Just before the road turns north and ends, Northern Pass splits off to the left as singletrack and begins a series of seventeen switchbacks up the mountain. Sierra Vista West
turns off near another water cache on the way up. The climb isn't particularly hard, and it leads to a nice view of the western valley and New Mexico.
At the top, the trail generally heads east, winding along the southern side of Hitt Canyon. There are a number of short uphill and downhill segments. A connection to Sierra Vista Trail
, just before the two and a half mile point, is easy to miss; use the GPS track and look for where the route turns from north to east above a dry creek bed. The trail continues much the same for its remainder, ending at Hitt Canyon Loop
Desert plants tend to bloom in waves in spring and summer after the short periods of rain that El Paso experiences. Ocotillo
tend to turn green and blossom first, followed by barrel and claret cup cacti, and finally flowers and prickly pears.
Animals are mostly limited to jackrabbits, lizards, and small birds. Roadrunners will dart across the trail at times, and hawks circle overhead, looking for prey. Coyotes are hard to spot and tend to only come out after dusk, although they typically leave hikers alone.
Keep an eye out for snakes. They avoid the hot desert sun and are more common during the winter months. Most are harmless, but rattlers are a part of the local wildlife. Give them a wide berth, and if they're blocking the trail, tossing a few rocks in their direction tends to be enough incentive for them to leave.