Explore Texas / Explore The Outdoors

Hiking the Chain Trail at Hueco Tanks near El Paso

Chain Trail in Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site near El Paso, Texas, is aptly named.  As you ascend North Mountain, you hold on to a chain.  It’s short and steep with a wow factor when you reach the top.

I had spent a couple of hours on a Rock Art Tour with a volunteer guide at Hueco Tanks.  I highly recommend booking in advance a tour to see some of the 3,000 pictorgraphs including some of the 200 ceremonial mask paintings, which is more than anywhere else in the country.  My guide Bob White suggested I hike the Chain Trail since I had about an hour after tour to explore the park a little more.

To get to the Chain Trail trailhead, I drove from the visitor a short distance to a parking area.  I walk on a flat trail that connected to the Pond Trail.  Since it was late morning, I was keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes soaking in the warm sunshine. 

I connected to the Chain Trail and climbed the first section of steep slick rock.  I was pleasantly surprised by the lush flat section filled with colorful desert flowers.

That’s where I saw why it’s called Chain Trail.  There’s a chain link fence snaking up the steep slick rock.  It’s only 0.14 miles long but it’s fully exposed to the sun and wind along with being steep. 

I did the climb up pretty quickly since I was on a time constraint.  I did hold on the chain a couple of times on the way, especially when I stopped to admire the blooming ocotillo.

From the top, I took in the panoramic view of Hueco Tanks.  On this trail you can also see the huecos, which means hollows in Spanish.  About 35 million years ago, hot magma from an underground volcano didn’t quite make it to the surface and cooled under a layer of limestone.  Erosion and weathering caused the rock basins to form.  They collect and retain water, making the hills of jumbled boulders at Hueco Tanks, an oasis in the desert.

The wind picked up some as I was heading down making me thankful there was a chain to hold on to as I enjoyed the view.

I was on the trail on a Wednesday morning and only saw a father and son hiking along with a family of four getting ready to head up as I was getting back to the Chain Trail/Pond Trail junction.  I would imagine this trail is busy on weekends.  I would suggest going early to beat the heat.  Make sure to take water, wear sunscreen and wear shoes with good traction.   

Author Jennifer Broome did the Chain Trail hike during a 3 Day Adventure in El Paso. Check out that blog along with the blog on the Rock Art Tour at Hueco Tanks. If you want more West Texas adventures, check out blogs Hiking in McKittrick Canyon, One Night in Marfa and Girls Weekend in Big Bend.