Birding · Views · Wildflowers
Pipeline Road passes through Bowen Ranch, a well-known landmark that is mainly used as a starting point for area cycling events (the ranch itself is 88,000 acres; the small pens and roundhouse here are no longer used for cattle). While this private property has long welcomed runners, hikers, and cyclists, it is still private, so respect the owners by being a good trail user. Pack out any trash, such as energy gel packets.
Stretching across a large portion of the northeast Franklin Mountain system and connecting to eleven trails, Pipeline Road is a common connector. As the name implies, the road was once used for routine pipeline inspection by El Paso Natural Gas, a job now done by low-flying aircraft. It is now used most often by cyclists, although Bowen Ranch staff can be seen traveling through from time to time. If one passes by, say hello, as it is thanks to their generosity and kindness that several of the east side trails on their land are open to the public.
The trail begins on the south end at Levee Loop
, across from a detention pond gate. The entirety of the trail is a dirt road, with conditions moving from good to mediocre as it proceeds north; this initial segment is the best section and has few rocks to contend with. The orange Spanish tile roofs of Bowen Ranch are immediately visible a mile away. The path has some very gentle ups and downs but is generally flat and very easy. Creosote
bushes grow thick here, and given the good trail condition and denser vegetation, this is probably the nicest segment of dirt road to hike in the entire Franklin Mountains trail system.
Pipeline Road passes the west side of Bowen Ranch, where five trails converge. It continues north through an open gate in a straight line. It gradually becomes more rocky as it proceeds, passing turnoffs to Bowen Loop on the right and shortcuts to Tu Madre
on the left. Just before the two-mile point, a small rock cairn marks the entrance to Down Under
on the right but not Tu Madre
directly across. The trail then comes to a locked gate, which it passes around on the right, and an unnecessary pay station miles from any parking area. The trail is now in Franklin Mountains State Park land. Rocky Road
turns off to the left shortly thereafter.
The remainder of the trail continues to become more rocky and uneven, making a steady but mild climb as it crosses a few dry riverbeds. An outhouse maintained by the park is located near the end, with the unmarked but visible intersection of Hitt Itt
and Down Under
directly after. The trail ends at the southeastern corner of Hitt Canyon Loop
; the road continues north as part of that trail's eastern segment. While the former road actually goes beyond Hitt Canyon Loop
, it is severely degraded and doesn't lead anywhere, and is thus not marked here.
Flora & Fauna
Desert plants tend to bloom in waves in the 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. The northeast area of the Franklins features a greater number of lechugilla than other regions.
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, though they leave visitors 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.
Shared By: Brendan Ross