Texas Mountain Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hikes

We've identified trails with history attached...and so we introduce, "Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hikes!"  Head on out and discover Texas history! 

Photo by Eric Bollinger

Big Bend National Park

Sam Nail Ranch
An easy half-mile trail for birders and history buffs, the well-maintained path takes you to the adobe ruins of the homestead of Sam R. Nail.

"Sam R. Nail and his brother, Jim, moved to the area just east of Burro Mesa, in 1916.  The two borthers (sic), with little outside assistance, constructed a one-story adobe house following the building techniques of the native Mexican-Americans along the river. The house had a concrete floor, a vega-and-cane ceiling, and a corrugated metal roof. In addition, they dug a well, put in a garden, and constructed a small holding pen for a milk cow, chickens and to hold horses. 

The two brothers lived there along for two years, or until June of 1918 when Sam married Miss Nena Burnam.  They drove from the Burnam place to Government Spring to the Nail Ranch home near Burro Mesa in a surrey with fringe around the top.  The surrey was pulled by two young mules. 

Here the Nails lived, reared a family, and ranched seventeen sections which the owned, plus about an equal number of leased or otherwise used sections which were within their fence. The Nails, like most other ranch people of the area, produced much of their living on the ranch. They kept milk cows, had chickens and hogs for additional food supply, and developed a garden, in which they produced many types of vegetables, melons and fruits. 

Although life on the ranch was difficult at times, on the whole they loved the place, and while they were in sympathy with the  movement for the establishment of the park, they gave up their ranch with considerable amount of regret.  --from an interview with Mrs. Sam R. Nail, April 13, 1967.  (Soldiers, Ranchers, and Miners in the Big Bend, by Clifford R. Casey, 1967.)


Franklin Mountains State Park

Crazy Cat thru hike
Spectacular views of New Mexico, El Paso and Juarez reveal critical historic trade and transportation routes, including the Paso del Norte (Pass of the North) from as early as the 16th century, and the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach route from 1858-61.  Link to the Peak Fitness Challenge page for this trail!

Franklin Mountains State Park ocotillo in bloom

Directissimo to Thousand Steps
The wreckage you might see from the trail comes from a B36 Bomber left when it crashed into Ranger Peak on its final approach to Biggs Field in 1953. The B-36D Peacemaker (Intercontinental Strategic Bomber) was the biggest warplane ever to wear an American star. The last B-36D in the wing, assigned to the 492nd Bomb Squadron, was transferred to Biggs AFB, Texas, on December 11, 1953. Enroute to Biggs, AFB, the aircraft crashed into the Franklin Mountans while the pilot was attempting an approach in poor visibility, out of GCA radar contact and in a snow storm. The aircraft was completely destroyed and the crew of nine perished. Link to the Peak Fitness Challenge page for this trail! 

Rainbow cacti and mountain poppies in Franklin Mountains State Park

Old Tin Mine-Polecat Lollipop
The El Paso Tin Mining and Smelting Company operated here during the 1910-1911. It was the only tin mine in production within the continental United States. In the 1890’s, miners found tin on the east side of the Franklin Mountains. However, extraction of the tin was slow and the first shipment of tin didn’t occur until 1910. By 1915, only five years after the first shipment, profits sagged and the operation folded. The mine was briefly reopened in 1942, during World War II. Due to the thinness of the veins, it was once again shut down. The scars from this period of operation are still evident in the Tin Mine Unit.  Link to the Peak Fitness Challenge page for this trail!

Palisades Canyon Loop
Allow your imagination to cut through the city views of El Paso and Juarez. Historically important trade routes are below you, including the Paso del Norte (Pass of the North) from as early as the 16th century, and the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach route from 1858-61.  Link to the Peak Fitness Challenge page for this trail! 

Ron Coleman Trail
At the Transmountain end of the trail at Smugglers Pass trailhead, you’ll look back over Fusselman Canyon where Texas Ranger Charles Fusselman was killed in an ambush by cattle rustlers in 1890. On April 17 that year, a group of Texas Rangers pursued horse thieves into a canyon near North Mount Franklin. Texas Ranger Charles Fusselman, who was leading the posse into the canyon, was slain when the approaching party was ambushed by the horse thieves. The thieves took Fusselman’s body hostage; it was not until the next day that Fusselman’s body was retrieved from the thieves. Fusselman’s slayer, Geronimo Parra, was not punished for the murder until 1900, ten years later. The canyon where Fusselman was killed now bears his name, and also contains a large section of the Ron Coleman Trail.  Link to the Peak Fitness Challenge page for this trail!

Scenic Drive El Paso
Scenic Sunday

This walk offers the spectacular views of the urban cities of El Paso and Juarez today, but you’re also looking at what were once historic trade and travel routes. Beginning in the 1580s, less than a century after Columbus, Spanish conquistadors and priests passed through the desert below the Franklin Mountains to colonize Pueblo villages in what is now New Mexico. The Butterfield Overland Mail stage route passed through Franklin (now El Paso) to deliver the U.S. Mail and passengers from Missouri to California from 1858 to 1861.  Link to the Peak Fitness Challenge page for this trail!


Schaeffer Shuffle
The trailhead for this hike in the Tom Mays Unit of Franklin Mountains State Park shows Precambrian rocks dating 570 million years ago. They were formed when life on earth consisted of one-celled organisms. The mountains are made mostly of sedimentary rock, with some igneous intrusions.  Link to the Peak Fitness Challenge page for this trail!

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park's El Capitan

Guadalupe Peak
Not only is the hike to the highest point in Texas exhilarating, but the view of the desert below is about as spectacular as it gets. You’re at the highest point of the geological uplift of an ancient marine reef. A monument commemorating overland stage and air travel marks the summit. The monument was installed in 1958, before the Guadalupe Mountains became a national park. Link to the Peak Fitness Challenge page for this trail!  Geological History and Fossil Guide

McKittrick Canyon Trail, Guadalupe Mountains National Park

McKittrick Canyon to the Grotto
McKittrick Canyon is thought to be named after one of the first settlers to stay in the area, Felix McKittrick, who worked cattle in the area in the 1870’s. Distinguished oilman and geologist Wallace Pratt was taken by the beauty and geology of McKittrick Canyon, when he first visited the area in 1921. He built a cabin of local stone in 1930, at the junction of north and south McKittrick Canyons, and used it as a summer home until 1960. Wallace E. Pratt donated nearly 6,000 acres, which included McKittrick Canyon, to the National Park Service, forming the core of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Read more here.  Link to the Peak Fitness Challenge page for this trail!

The Pinery
This hike takes you to the ruins of the stagecoach station, where in September 28, 1858, the first coach carrying mail and passengers made a meal stop on its inaugural journey across the U.S. The Pinery, named for nearby stands of pine, was one of the best stops for the Butterfield Overland Mail Stage along the line from Missouri to California, because of abundant water. The stop was used less than a year, as the route passing through Guadalupe Pass was abandoned for a more southerly route through Fort Davis. 
Read more here.  Link to the Peak Fitness Challenge page for this trail!

Frijole Ranch at the Smith Spring trailhead

Smith Spring
At the trailhead is the Frijole Ranch, a residence for many families through the years. A center for culture the entire area, the ranch served as a community center and regional post office from 1916-1942. The Smith family arrived in the area in 1906, and operated a truck farm and orchard at Frijole Ranch for nearly forty years. The Smiths made a living by truck farming and had a 15-acre orchard and garden east and north of the house. Over the years, apples, peaches, apricots, plums, pears, figs, pecans, blackberries, strawberries, currants, and some corn were grown; the springs providing more than adequate water for at least two plots. Periodically, the Smiths would load up their wagons in the evening, covering the fresh produce with wet paper and linen. They would then travel for two days to Van Horn (65 miles south) where they would sell the fruits of their labor. They also raised cattle, horses, pigs, and chickens. Read more here.   Link to the Peak Fitness Challenge page for this trail!


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