Little known outside of local trail enthusiasts, North Franklin Ridgeline is a faster, more challenging, and in many ways, a more scenic route to the highest point in El Paso. The path starts at the back end of the cottonwood grove at the top of West Cottonwood Spring
. Look for a narrow singletrack cutting through the vegetation southeast of the benches. A few more of the log "steps" encountered on the climb to the spring help mark the way.
The trail exits the grove, passes a sheltered rock area, and begins to zig-zag up the mountain. The beginning climb is steep and very slippery due to a great number of loose rocks; because of this, hikers intending to descend this segment should use extreme caution.
Eventually, the trail reaches the ridgeline, with an amazing view on both sides for hundreds of miles. Mundy's Gap
and North Franklin Peak
trails are visible below. The remainder of the route follows the ridge to the south. Most of the ridge is steep and technical, with several portions requiring scrambling. The trail is generally easy to follow, and the ridgeline can help in tricky spots, as it never deviates from the highest point along the mountains. Be sure to take the time to enjoy the spectacular views on the way up.
After a short but challenging half mile, the trail ends at a hairpin on North Franklin Peak
. The peak itself is a short distance further.