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On Walkabout At: The Wyler Aerial Tramway

A really great way to spend an afternoon if visiting El Paso is by taking a ride up the Wyler Aerial Tramway that takes visitors to the summit of Ranger Peak that provides sweeping views of the area:

wyler tramway google earth

The tramway is located at the top of McKinley Street which zig-zags up to the side Ranger peak where the terminal for the tramway is located:


Of course there is a big Texas flag flying with the Stars & Stripes at the tramway station:


The tramway was first built in 1959 by KTSM radio to assist in the construction of a transmitter tower on the summit of Ranger Peak.  The project was managed by a man by the name of Karl O. Wyler.  The tramway first opened to the public as the El Paso Aerial Tramway and provided rides to the public from 1960 to 1986.  In 1986 high liability insurance costs forced the tramway to shut down public operations.  Before his death Wyler donated the tramway for public use and the Texas Parks and Wildlife accepted the donation in 1997 and renovated and re-opened the tramway to the public in 2001.

From the parking lot of the terminal there are some great views of Eastern El Paso:


This was just a preview of the even greater views to come at the top of the 5,632 foot Ranger Peak where the Swiss made gondolas drop passengers off at:

The journey to the summit takes visitor on a 2,600 foot journey that takes roughly about 4 minutes to complete:

Along the way to the top of the mountain there are some dramatic views of the steep, rocky walls of the Franklin Mountains:


At the top of Ranger Peak the Texas State Park Service has an observation platform setup that provides sweeping views of Texas, New Mexico, and Old Mexico:


The platform also offers even more great views of the Franklin Mountains:


The international border that separates the cities of El Paso and Juarez is easily recognizable due to the Rio Grande River that separates the two countries, as well as by this huge Mexican flag that dominates the Mexican-American border:


From the top of Ranger Peak this large Mexican mountain can be seen rising over Juarez in the far south as well:


To the southeast the sprawling city of El Paso can be seen with the extremely busy I-10 running east into the interior of West Texas:


The busiest highway artery in El Paso known as the Spaghetti Bowl where I-10 and US-54 meet is easily visible from the peak:


At the base of the Spaghetti Bowl the Concordia Cemetery where over 60,000  people including gunfighter John Wesley Hardin, Buffalo Soldiers, Texas Rangers, Civil War Veterans, early Mormon pioneers,  Florida (Lady Flo) Wolf, and Lawman John Selman are buried.  The cemetery was also formerly the first burial site for Mexican Revolution President Victoriano Huerta and numerous other civic leaders, pioneers, and war veterans.

Directly to the east US-54 that runs north to south through El Paso can be seen :


Also to the east the El Paso International Airport is visible:


For an airport that supports a city of about 750,000 it is actually one of the better airports I have ever flown through.  To the east the massive Ft. Bliss military base can also be seen:


Here is the northeast of El Paso where I live and if you look closely you can see the Sacramento Mountains in the distance to the north:


At the base of the mountain one of the most prominent buildings in all of El Paso, the William Beaumont Army Medical Center can be seen:


Right across the street from the hospital is the gigantic Jobe gravel quarry:

On the backside of the observation platform views of the west side of El Paso are also available:

The most prominent natural feature of the west side is Mount Cristo Del Rey which is considered one of the most dangerous hikes in America:


The most prominent man made feature on the west side is the ASARCO copper smelting plant:


What is unusual about this mine is that it is literally right next to downtown El Paso and in the very middle of the city.  The plant closed in 1999, but there has been recent talks about the plant reopening, but public and governmental opposition to the pollution the plant would make in the very middle of the city will make its reopening unlikely.  Another major man-made landmark on the west side is the Sun Bowl on the campus of the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP):


Of course views of downtown El Paso are also available:


The observation platform actually doesn’t provide the best views of downtown El Paso.  The best views of central El Paso can be found at the lookout on Scenic Drive.

All in all a visit to the Wyler Aerial Tramway makes for a nice afternoon out and a great place to take friends and family visiting the city for the first time to get them oriented to the city.  I have rode the tramway up to the top of the mountain three times over the past year and always enjoyed it.  Definitely worth checking out if visiting El Paso.

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