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Trail of the Week: Lost Dog Trails, El Paso, Texas

Views of three states and two countries as you ascend West Texas mountains.

Our Trail of the Week feature is made possible through a partnership with Trail Run Project.

The Lost Dog trails are some of the most scenic and technically challenging of the southwest desert. Roughly 14 square miles in size and part of the Franklin Mountains State Park, the area is crisscrossed with a large number of trails. Twenty-six of those trails, along with seven segments, are brought together in this 14-mile loop that highlights the best that Lost Dog has to offer: scenic views of three states and two countries, plant life which can only be found in the Chihuahuan Desert, challenging climbs, quick descents, and of course, rocks.

Trails around the Franklin Mountains are notorious for being rocky and technical. Smooth sections are rare; runners will frequently need to navigate large rocks. It all adds to the challenge, but it requires a heads-down approach to running—look up to enjoy the scenery for long and you’ll trip. The rugged terrain, combined with low-lying cacti, mean that trail shoes with rock plates are a must.

There is very little shade on the Lost Dog trails. Come prepared with more water than you think you’ll need.Finally… Do. Not. Touch. The. Cacti. Other than the spines, many types of cactus are covered in glochids, tiny barbed hairs which can become embedded by the hundreds, causing skin irritation. They’re best removed by duct tape or spreading white glue over the area and removing it when dry, but whatever you do, don’t use your mouth. Larger spines, on the other hand, pull straight out. And make wonderful souvenirs.

El Paso is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The scenery is best in the late spring and summer when rain causes desert plants to bloom. Mornings are generally the best time to run as it avoids the heat or wind, depending on the time of year. Be sure to bring water, especially during the warmer months.

The Lost Dog area is maintained almost entirely by volunteers, so some sections may suffer from erosion after storms. The trails are popular among mountain bikers. Keep in mind that it may be safest to step off narrow sections of trail to allow them to pass, regardless of right of way.

A few areas provide opportunities to cut the route short, but runners willing to meet the challenges of this desert mountain trail will find it rewarding and fun.

The Data

Miles: 14.1

Runnable: 92 percent

Average Grade: 5 percent

Max Grade: 26 percent

Total Ascent: 1,900 feet

Total Descent: -1,900 feet

Highest Elevation: 4,863  feet

For a closer look, check out the interactive map, data, photos and virtual run simulator courtesy of Trail Run Project: