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For beautiful outdoor drives or outdoor parks, Franklin Mountains State Park make El Paso on of the few cities that has thousands of acres of state park right in the middle of it. The Franklin Mountains run right between east and west El Paso, and a quick drive up into the mountains on the Trans Mountain Road provides gorgeous views and picnic tables. This 24,000-acre park contains virtually the entire Chihuahuan Desert mountain Range, including North Franklin Peak with an elevation of 7,192 feet. There are various hiking trails you can explore, as well as caves to invade. You’ll see springs, cacti and reptiles.

For wonderful panoramic view of El Paso from UTEP downtown and over Juarez, and even a bit of New Mexico, head up to Scenic Drive Park, a city park that provides binoculars to examine the view. From downtown, take Stanton, then turn right on Rim Road.

In the middle of the Franklin Mountains is McKelligon Canyon Park Amphitheater, the spot for many concerts and other festivities including Viva El Paso. Here too, there are hiking trails as well as picnic areas and an amphitheater.

Hueco Tanks Historical Park is only 20 minutes east of El Paso. It is an 868-acre park filled with dramatic terrain, history and outdoor activities. A drive or hike through this park will reveal beautiful yet strange rock formations that look like giant pieces of swiss cheese.

For 10,000 years people have been stopping by here for a drink because the rock formations act much like giant wells holding the area’s sparse rainfall. In fact, that’s how the park got its name. Hueco means hole in Spanish. Ancient Indian dwellers left more than 2,000 pictographs behind. Tours are available to show this artwork and a visitor’s center provides maps and a park display.

The park’s colorful igneous rock formations are world renown and popular with rock climbers from the novice to professional because of the mild winters and challenging upside down climbs. This is a good park for hikers too. Take Montana east toward Carlsbad and turn left at Hueco Tanks Road.

Feather Lake Wildlife Refuge is a man made lake spanning 40 acres. It is home to various wetland species including 160 different types of birds. When you first arrive stop off at the visitor’s center to get an outline of the park. There will be volunteers to answer your questions for you to get an up close view of the wildlife. There’s also an easy 1-mile self-guided tour.

Ascarate Lake City Park is a 44-acre manmade lake right in the middle of El Paso that’s set up for all kinds of water sports. Although swimming is not permitted in the lake itself, there’s a nearby Olympic size pool.

The Fray Garcia de San Francisco Monument is the first step in a planned 12 statue sculpture walk inspired by and intended to honor the men and women who shaped the history and culture of the area.

The bronze shows Fray Garcia holding a viga in his right arm while beckoning the Indians with his left. A carving on the viga reads “Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, 1659,” similar to one such viga in the mission today. A Basket of grapes at his feet represents the introduction of wine, viticulture, agriculture and irrigation.