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Take a Hike

Mountain Oasis

West Cottonwood Springs Trail/ Agave Loop in Franklin Mountains 

Distance: 3 miles • Difficulty Level: 3/5 • Approximate Time:  2 hour

Water is life in the desert. Anywhere you find it becomes a haven, and West Cottonwood Springs in Franklin Mountains State Park is just such a place.

Join countless others who have made the pilgrimage to this natural watering hole over the years. Every season offers a new scene and fresh views. Taking the hike in the springtime could bring you to an explosion of wild plum blossoms. The tall cottonwood trees offer a welcome respite from the blistering sun, the leaves murmuring softly with the slightest breeze. Autumn brings with it a burst of gold before the leaves fall, leaving the typically shady spot open to the sun all winter.

In all seasons, keep an eye on low branches to spot small birds flitting around, glance up to look for hawks, and check mud around the small area of standing water for animal prints. Deer and javelina prints are most common, but look for evidence of coyotes, bobcats or even mountain lions.

This hike begins at the West Cottonwood Springs trailhead and is a 3-mile loop when connected with the Agave Loop trail. From the trailhead, take the right fork onto the Agave Loop to work your way up the hillside to an overlook of El Paso, Mexico and New Mexico. This spot is also a paragliding launch site, so be sure to stay well back if there are paragliders setting up.

Later, take the upper West Cottonwood Springs Trail, marked with a wooden park sign, to enjoy a meandering hike up the mountainside. Watch your footing when crossing old rockslides, but also take time to marvel at the tenacious lichens and flowers that grow on these slopes. One last steep climb will bring you to the spring itself.

The benches under the cottonwood tree make a great lunch stop. When you are ready to head back, you can retrace your steps or continue down the rockslide to connect with the north half of Agave, a shorter route covered in loose scree that proves to be a challenge for some hikers. Too short? Continue above the spring to find a connector trail to Mundy’s Gap. 

 Lydia Pagel;  Sonja Sommerfeld | TPWD

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