The day we drove to McKelligon Canyon, we found information at the Park Office for the Wyler Aerial Tramway. That’s when we decided to go up the mountain on the tramway to celebrate our anniversary.
On Sunday, November 12th, the day after our 11th anniversary, we drove up the steep, winding entrance to the tramway on the east side of the Franklin Mountains. It was a beautiful, clear day with low winds. It was also warm so we didn’t wear jackets.
The view from the parking lot, at an elevation of 4,692 feet, showed us just how high we had driven.
The parking lot also has telescopes, benches and a variety of plant life to enjoy.
The parking lot for the tramway is also the parking lot for the Directissimo Trail. This .88 mile strenuous trail takes you up and around Ranger Peak. You’re required to register at the Tramway office before starting your hike. The ranger told us that it’s best to walk up the trail and ride back down.
We decided to ride both directions.
We located the ticket booth, purchased our $8.00 round-trip tickets, and got in line for the trip to the top of Ranger Peak. The Swiss-made gondolas are small and only a handful of people can ride at a time. However, the line was not too long and there were two gondolas running, so the wait was fairly short.
While in line we watched the gondolas go up and down the mountain. We also watched the 51,000 pound concrete counterweight slowly move up and down as it controled the tension of the moving steel cables.
Soon, we were in our gondola and on the way up. The 4 minute ride was very smooth. It was a bit thrilling to watch the ground get farther away as we slowly ascended to the top.
As we went up, we watched the other gondola heading down.
A park ranger accompanies passengers in each gondola, answering questions and providing information regarding the tramway and the trails. On the way up we learned that the gondola travels 940 vertical feet up the mountain on a 2,600 feet long, 1 3/8” diameter steel cable.
Ranger Peak is 5,632 feet above sea level. On reaching the top, we stepped out into a large observation area. There are two levels, with railing all around so visitors can see a 360 degree view of El Paso. Juárez, Mexico and the surrounding area. There are several telescopes for use (for a small fee), benches, rest rooms and a gift shop.
Here is a view from the gondola as we reached the platform at the top. The platform also features 2 massive telecommunications towers.
We walked around the main level, trying to identify the landmarks indicated on the maps. As we continued walking, it got a breezier. And cooler. Which explained why some of the other riders had been carrying jackets. We hadn’t thought about the difference in temperature at that altitude.
However, we didn’t let the slightly chilly breeze stop us from climbing the stairs to the top level. Here we could see more of the western view towards New Mexico.
While walking around the platforms, we located the Ft. Bliss RV Park, where we are currently staying. The blue roofs in the upper right quadrant of the picture are in the RV park.
To be honest, we didn’t really spend a lot of time trying to identify the sites visible on the map we were given with our tickets. We just wanted to enjoy the view.
When we were done enjoying the views from the upper level, we headed down the stairs to check out the gift shop.
There were the expected souvenirs of shirts, hats and shot glasses. What we didn’t expect was the notebook containing many witness accounts, details and pictures regarding the 1953 B-36 crash site. There are still some artifacts along the trail. They can be seen from the B-36 overlook marked on the trail map.
After exploring the gift shop, we got in line for the ride down. While waiting we watched as the gondolas traveled up and down the mountain.
Here we are approaching the entrance on our descent.
After landing safely, we walked around the exhibits of earlier gondolas, took in the view of El Paso from one of the benches and just relaxed.
If you are planning a trip to El Paso, we recommend making the Wyler Aerial Tramway one of your stops. More pictures of the plants and views are posted on our Photography by Andreas FB page.
Click the link below for more information regarding the tramway. Wyler Aerial Tramway
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