On-line guide to problems and routes
Non-Guarded vs Guarded Access
"How do I get in to climb?" - Restrictions, Rules, Pets
Camping/Lodging (other than at Hueco), Food, Guidebooks, Guide Services, Internet
Camping (at Hueco)
Huecotanks HQ phone number
Other Nearby Climbing Destinations
Hueco Climbing History Timeline
Directions to Hueco:
The turnoff to Hueco Tanks is about 25 miles east of El Paso, TX. There are only two approaches; from the east or west on US 62/180. In the spring of 2001, TXDOT completed a major road construction project that extended the four-lane controlled access highway all the way from El Paso to the turnoff road, FR2775 (marked by the white Jupiter-2 spacecraft building). Traffic on US 62/180 has greatly increased over the last few years - now even more than in the past, your greatest danger on a climbing trip to Hueco can be the drive. Watch out for State Troopers with radar, particularly on FR2775 Hueco - it is no longer a deserted country road, and the speed limit is a paltry 55 MPH - a stark contrast from the 70 MPH on the easternmost part of 62/180 after you finally fight your way through the third-worldish sprawl that has spread all the way to Red Sands.
6900 Huecotanks Road, #1
What do I have to do to get in and start climbing?
First - VERY important! Obtain reservations for North Mountain access (see Restrictions Summary below). After you have reservations, consider obtaining a Texas State Parks Pass (TSSP) if it makes economic sense for your length of stay. In 2005, the price of a TSPP went up by $10.00 to $60.00. A TSPP feature allows you to purchase additional add-on users for a small extra fee. The best thing about the TSPP is that it can be used for an entire car-load of climbers, if the driver is a TSPP holder! But, before you get too excited, remember that unless you have a reservation, you won't be able to get into North Mountain during the peak season, and reservations are $5.00/day/person, refundable only if the person with the reservation is a TSPP holder.
Before entering the Park, you must possess an updated disorientation card. To obtain a card, you will have to watch a 20 minute disorientation video. You will then be able to travel unescorted anywhere in the North Mountain zone. If you wish to subject yourself to the Guarded Tours system, you can sign up for a free bouldering tour, which may be led by either a volunteer or a member of the Park staff. You also have the option of paying for the Hueco Rock Ranch to take you into the Park for a fee (see below).
I'm here for my vacation, but the Park is full and I can't get in! Arrgh! What now?
Don't panic! The Park allows the first 10 people who show up at the gate in the morning to get in without a reservation. Also, in the late afternoon, you can usually get in even during climbing season. On weekends year-round the park will be at the 70/day limit, but unless it is a holiday or the peak of the season (November, December, January, February, March and early April), you can often get in on a weekday without a reservation. Commercial guides are not subject to the stupid restriction that prevents volunteer guards from climbing with the group. Commercial Guides can also take you on a commercial tour of the North Mountain. In the past, you could pay the Hueco Rock Ranch to guide you, which was not a bad option as the rates were reasonable and the guide was able to give you beta on the new problems going up in the Forbidden Zone. However, in recent years the Rock Ranch has seen hard economic times.
Scroll down to the Camping/Lodging section of this page the latest news regarding the Rock Ranch and an alternative guide service.
If, like us, you don't want to admit defeat and stoop to being guarded to access public land, have a car and are willing to drive a few hours, there are several other crags within four hours of Hueco/El Paso:
The Tunnel Area on NM Highway 82 between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft features steep, sporty, well-bolted routes on fairly nice , but polished limestone. Access is great (200 feet from the road) and it is interesting. Shade or Sun can be selected to compensate for season. Outdoor Adventures in Alamogordo can provide beta and gear.
City of Rocks in New Mexico between Demming and Silver City is worth a couple of days of your time if you are into bouldering. It is a small area with rock that is not up to Hueco Standards, but it is still OK. Its a New Mexico State Park, so all the typical camping arrangements are possible. The staff is cool to climbers. There are a few photos of City in the Gallery.
The Organ Mountains, New Mexico - Look up "trad" the dictionary, and you will see the Organs. Be prepared to bushwhack and hike a long, long way to reach the rock, which varies from bullet granite to dangerously loose at many scales. Even if you choose not to climb, it is worth the drive. The Organs are unique and beautiful, quite different from the surrounding desert. There is also excellent, uber-cheap camping at the Aguirre Springs campground, but the gate is locked very early. Travel time from Hueco to the Organs is about 2 hours.
Bishop Cap, New Mexico - a beautiful unregulated area halfway between El Paso and Las Cruces. Worth a day or two, even though you have to be somewhat cautious of loose rock and pick your problems carefully.
Granite Gap - If you like dry empty desert, desolation and dark night skies, this little chosspile is worth a day's exploration. The rock is "failed" hueco syenite, reminds me of the crumbly parts of J-tree.
Cochise Stronghold is becoming more popular, with frequent pictures and articles in climbing magazines. In many ways, it is like a bolted, accessible version of the Organs. Highly recommended, but the official campsite is small and tightly packed. There are BLM camping areas nearby that are starting to see more use by climbers.
"Hueco II": The location is secret, please don't ask - a hint is that it is within 150 miles of Hueco and takes 3.5 hours in a good 4x4 to get there. While most of HII is on BLM land, the nearby rancher who owns a sizeable portion of the rocks is a deputy and might call the sheriff if you piss him off. You will then have to explain to the Sheriff what you are doing, show him that you are on public land, etc. BTW, huecotanks.com likes the rancher and approves of his attitude. If you don't get along with and understand ranchers, we suggest you avoid HII. Don't attempt to access the BLM portions of HII without contacting the rancher. Good Luck!
Aerial Photo of "Hueco II"
Camping/Lodging, Guide Services, Wireless Internet , Food & Guidebooks:
A new option for Hueco Tours is the Wagon Wheel Co-opt (http://www.wagonwheelcoopt.com/park_info.php) , loosely run by Adam and Melissa Strong from Estes Park Colorado, who have been wintering at Hueco for a few years. From their website: "... A spot on an open tour is $20 per person, $10 for park fees plus $10 for your guide (tips are accepted and appreciated). The first person to request an open tour is the Primary member of the tour. The Primary gets to pick the main destination. All other participants will also get to voice where they would like to go within reasonable proximity of the Primary's original destination. Private tours can be requested. Fees for private tours are 10$ to the park and the guide fee is negotiable with the guide. When you request a tour, depending upon guide availability, a Wagon Wheel guide will contact you to arrange further details."
The Hueco Rock Ranch has been bought by the American Alpine Club! This is a great development in almost every way, withh the possible exception of the "no dogs" rule ... I personally really enjoyed all the friendly pups that used to greet us at the ranch.
From April Goldman, agoldman *at* americanalpineclub.orgn , sent in November 2012:
"The American Alpine Club purchased the Hueco Rock Ranch in July 2012, and the ranch will open for the 2012-2013 season beginning November 1st. There will likely still be renovations in progress on the barn, but the ranch house and camping will be open to the public. The house has been renovated, featuring new plumbing, carpet, beds, linens, appliances and most everything else. The campsites have been cleaned up, numbered, and delineated. Construction on the barn is planned to begin in early November and will include new bathrooms, kitchen, lounge and guiding facilities . Another change at the ranch is the new no pets policy. This is for many reasons including liability, sanitation, and the safety of both pets and guests."
New phone number: 915-856-7181
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some recent photo's of the Ranch provided by April:
Shortly after the 1998 PURP went into effect, Robert Rice established the "Hueco Rock Ranch". Ever since the demise of Pete, the Ranch has unquestionably been the best place to stay if you are a climber - most climbers vastly preferr it to the Hueco campground. Here's a view of the Ranch from North Mountain. Some of you may remember the place when it was Todd Skinner's dream training camp at Hueco, built to his specifications by local climbers working as carpenters. Todd refused to set foot inside Hueco from the time the stupid PURP took effect; he stuck to his principles until the day he died. He sold the place to Rob, and kissed Hueco goodbye. For many years business boomed for the HRR. The HRR is not on the main road to the 'Tanks, so it is a scenic and relatively quiet (except when wild parties are happening ;-) ) place to stay.
However, in 2011 and early 2012 there were problems at the Ranch. The phone to the ranch was disconnected . When we went to the Ranch at ~ 7:00p on 10/18/2011, the light in the house was on and there was someone there to accept payments, but we saw no lights in tents, and although there was a light on in the barn, there seemed to be little activity and no customer cars were evident. We were told that without any internet hookup, the email at email@example.com could not be answered from the Ranch. The proprietor could not provide any information about the Rodeo in February, but did confirm that Rice was still the owner. We received a detailed report from a Dallas climber who stayed at the ranch from 10/16/2011 through 10/19/2011. The water tank is being filled, and the showers work. Trash is being picked up. Only a few people were camped out. TV, phone and internet were not available. The proprietor is on duty in the morngings and evenings to accept fees.
The Ranch has always been more than just a place to stay, it has been the center of the Hueco Climbing Culture, your home away from home while visiting Hueco. All Commercial Guide Services at Hueco, are required by the TPWD to carry $500,000.00 worth of liability insurance, so don't complain about the cost of a commercial tour. In the past, the Hueco Rock Ranch also offered roped guide services, at the rate of 1 Person: $150 per day, 2+ People: $110 per day for multi-pitch climbing, $80 per person per day for top rope climbing, max of three people per guide. There was a minimum $150/guide/day requirement. For example, two people for lead climbing, or two people for toproping.
From the HRR website, retrieved October 2011:
" As some of you may have heard, there have been some changes recently at the Hueco Rock Ranch and we are excited to let you know about everything that is happening! As of November 1, 2010, the Hueco Rock Ranch management was transferred unto a group of investors, myself included, who bought the business and real estate with the intent of making it a positive campground for all who visit the Hueco Valley.
There is a new focus on making the Hueco Rock Ranch the best possible place to stay. In order to facilitate this idea, there are newly formed job positions- House Manager and Campground Host- both of which have specific tasks that make this the new standard for the HRR.
HRR is undergoing a facelift that includes weekly trash service, bathrooms and showers on the camper side of the barn, fresh coats of paint to the inside and outside of the house, RV dump station, RV hookups, and electric plug-ins at some tent sites. We strongly believe that all of these changes will improve your experience as a guest at the HRR.
With an HRR stay, Commercial Tours are still $20 a head. Tent camping is now $7 a night (up from $5), a night in the bunk-room in the house is $25 (up from $20), and a private room in the house is $35 (up from $30). These price increases help us bring the HRR to an exceptional standard that everyone will appreciate.
Please join us in thanking Charles Kelly, the former manager, for the service, time, effort and money he has put in the Ranch. We wish him the best of luck with his new job.
We know, hear and understand the public's concerns from the last few years and we are fully committed to making positive changes to the HRR that will enhance every guest's experience. Built by climbers for climbers.
Please feel free to call at 915-855-0142 or send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope to see you soon.
Owner of the Hueco Rock Ranch
It is really great that things are all better now! Come on out!
The Ranch has a nice view of Hueco and is "remote" and off of the main road. It's dark at night - not as wonderfully dark as it gets at the Cornudas 50 miles east, but you will enjoy the stars on a cloudless night. In 2007 there were two well-engineered slack lines about 30 feet long and anchored to massive railroad ties embedded in the ground. There are little rock-lined paths to all the campsites, a "barn" for climbers to hang out in, showers (not always hot) for a small fee, and other niceties. There was even TV and wireless internet! In late 2005, Rob made many improvements to the Barn, including paneling and insulation.
To find the HRR, head down the main road to the 'Tanks, pass the abandoned Pete's, and turn left (west) on Hueco Mtn. Road, the first paved road after Pete's. There is a "Hueco Rock Ranch" sign marking the turnoff. Turn north on Woodrow Rd. , which is the next paved road you will encounter. Continue north on Woodrow, enjoying the nice view of the 'Tanks on your right. Woodrow ends at Bettina Ave; turn left (west) and you will see the HRR about 1/2 mile ahead on the left (south) side of the road.
Here is a scan of the way outdated and retained for historical reference, 2001 brochure that described the HRR and RouteFitters: page 1 & page 2.
Pete's is no longer open; he died on August 2, 2006. We miss him terribly. The 1998 PURP destroyed his business, and his health started downhill shortly thereafter.
Bed and Breakfast: A bit upscale for the typical climber scum, but if you want pampering and have a car and the $$, check out Case De Suenos, in La Union, NM. Contact Marlene Eichner, Casa de Suenos, 405 Mountain Vista Rd S La Union, NM 88021 Tel: 575-874-9166 . And, if you stay there, you can enjoy the food and cerveza at the legendary La Union Station!
Motels: El Paso has a number of cheap (~$40.00) "Motel 6" style places, but there are no KOA or other campgrounds that we know of. The closest "suitable" BLM land for open camping is in the Bishop Cap area, about 1.5 hours away. we advise against camping East of the 'Tanks on the plains of New Mexico - it is BLM land but heavily ranched. we also advise against camping in the areas north of Bettina Ave or south of US 62/180. It may seem tempting, peaceful and empty, but all of it is private or military - and there are a lot of unsavory locals that use the areas at night for illegal activities; if you must risk it, be armed and wary ...
Food: The explosive growth of east El Paso has produced a number of new grocery stores, convenience stores/gas-stations and restaurants within 10 miles of the Jupiter-2. Wireless internet is available in dozens of places around town. There are many new Mexican food places, and lots of Mom and Pop (and larger) grocery stores with great baked goods and fair quality produce. You might feel like you are in Mexico for the last 10 miles of the drive to Hueco! To get to the closest suburbs, with all pleasure and pain of civilization, head west for ~ 12 miles on 62/180, turn left on Zaragosa, and look for the neon glow about 5 miles ahead.
Many guidebooks exist for Hueco, ranging from pamphlets and on-line offerings such as SuperTopo.com to slick, expensive comprehensive books. We recommend two of the later: John Sherman's "Hueco Tanks, Climbing and Bouldering Guide, Second Edition", ChockStone Press (out of print and somewhat hard to find) and the new "Hueco Tanks: The essential guide to America's bouldering Mecca" by Matt Wilder, Wolverine Publishing (available at the Rock Ranch). Wilder's is in full color and has many "new" problems; although Sherman's is dated and in B&W, it also includes information on roped climbs and is very well written.
Summary of restrictions, fees, and access hassles:
In the summer of 2000, the TPWD modified the PURP, naming it the "Public Use-Restriction Plan 2000". You can download the full version (Adobe PDF format) if you would like to examine it. Here are some highlights of the new plan:
Oct.1 ... April 30: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. , seven days a week
May 1 ... Sept. 30: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; 8-6 Monday-Thursday
* Quick Summary of "How to get in to climb?!?"
During the peak climbing season, North Mountain is always "full"! (Meaning the ridiculously low limit of 70 people has been exceeded.) If you don't have reservation with Texas Parks and Wildlife, you probably will not be able to climb on North Mountain unless you wait until very late in the day at the gate. Get your reservations as early as possible!
The other "mountains" in the "verboten" zones are usually not full, but you can't go back there by yourself. No reservations are available for the forbidden zones; it is first-come, first-served.
You must be accompanied by either a volunteer guard (free), a TPWD Ranger (almost never available), or a commercial guide from the Rock Ranch ($20.00/day - this is the best option if you can afford it) to climb in the forbidden zones. When you use a Rock Ranch guide, you do not have to pay the $5.00 entrance fee.
There is no guarantee that a volunteer guard will be available - it all depends on who has volunteered. If you go back with the volunteer guard or a Ranger, you still have to pay the $5.00 fee. That fee does not get you access to North mountain, unless you have a reservation or North Mountain is not full.
* Reservations require a $5.00/day/person reservation fee to be paid at the time the reservation is made. In the (distant) past, Texas Conservation Passport (now Texas State Parks Pass) holders did not have to pay the reservation fee, but that changed in September of 2002 - everyone must now pay the fee. TSPP holders, who are exempt from the daily $5.00 fee to enter the Park, will be given a refund when they show up. Everyone must fork up the cash (or credit card) when making the reservation. Be aware that the TPWD is requiring that you pay the $5.00 reservation fee at the time the reservation is made. This means that if you are making a reservation for yourself and two climbing partners, they will expect you to also pay the $10.00 fee for the other two people. Reservations can't be made more than six months in advance. A single reservation can span more than one day, but cannot be for more than three consecutive days. For example, if you plan to spend a week at Hueco, you could reserve the first three days, then take a rest day, then reserve the last three days. To get a refund of the reservation fee, you have to cancel more than 30 days in advance. Children 12 and under are not charged an entrance or reservation fee, but must have a reservation to get in if the park is full. Under certain circumstances, you might be allowed to transfer your reservation to another person if you cannot make it that day. Call the Ranger office at Hueco for details.
* If you are placing a reservation for a date that is more than 24 hours in the future, call the Austin reservation service at 512-389-8900, (1 english , 1 TX Parks reservations, 3 Huecotanks). The Austin reservation service cannot make any reservations that are not at least 24 hours in advance - all those have to be made locally at the park. You can call the park on a Friday to make a reservation for Saturday, since that is less than 24 hours in the future. A possible alternative number for reservations is 1-800-792-1112-Option 3. The number for the park is 915-857-1135. There is also a new local park info number you can try, 915-849-6684.
Hypothetically, Hueco reservations can be made at the TPWD website. This direct link to the Huecotanks page on the TPWD site might be of help: www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huecotanks .The problem is that the automated forms are geared toward reserving campsites and don't let you specify North Mountain. However, you can e-mail them with a list of dates you want, and they will reply with the reservation numbers for the days that were available. Use email@example.com , and be certain to explain exactly what you are trying to accomplish and provide complete contact information. When I made my reservations for the 2005-2006 season, the e-mail method worked perfectly. I sent them email with the details, included my phone number; they called back the next day to report that my reservations were in place, took my credit card number, and I was in business!
* Overnight camping is allowed, limited to 3 nights-six bodies per campsite, camp host must be on-duty or no camping occurs. The park will not accept reservations if a camp host is unavailable. Lack of campground hosts has been an occasional problem since the PURP went into effect, so call the Park to confirm the campground is open if you are planning to camp at Hueco. Campground reservations DO NOT include North Mountain reservations; just because you are camping does NOT mean you can climb.
$16.00/night for 50A electric + water
$14.00/night for 30A electric + water
$12.00/night no electric + water
Each camper must also pay the $5:00/day entrance fee, if they do not have a TSSP. You can no longer walk from your campsite to the rocks and climb, with the exception of one or two boulders that are within a few meters of the campsites. Although this makes it way less attractive than before the PURP, camping at Hueco is still ok - it is dark and quiet, equipped with showers, and the locked gate cuts down on after-hours headlights disturbing your slumbers.
* Pets are allowed in the park. However, a number of complex, silly and arbitrary rules apply. Pets may be left unattended in a Department of Transportation (DOt) approved carrying "crate" in the back of a truck, but may not be exposed to excessive heat or cold (the rangers will make a subjective judgment regarding this). Pets may be left unattended in a motor-home or trailer at a campsite, but cannot be left in a tent. Pets cannot be left in the passenger compartment of a vehicle, even if the window is rolled down - this includes the camping area. Pets may be taken on walks in the camping and picnic zones marked in gray on the Hueco map, but must be on a leash that is held by a human - you cannot tie or fasten the leash to any object, and one dog cannot hold the leash for another dog. There are a few "gray areas" that include bouldering problems, most notably the Warm-up boulder area, but you will not be able to boulder unless someone else is with you to hold the leash. Pets are not allowed on guarded or commercial tours anywhere in the "backcountry". The picnic zone does NOT include Mushroom boulder. You cannot take your monkey or parrot with you on a roped climb. You must clean up all waste; the Park prefers that you have the pet go on the paved surfaces. If you leave the pet in the car you risk being ticketed for animal endangerment - although it has never happened, a Peace Officer or Game Warden has the right to break the window on your vehicle to "save" your pet. The Park rangers have issued numerous warnings, for example to the lady who carried her Chihuahua in her purse to the top of the chain trail, but as of 3.13.05, no tickets have been given. Don't be first. The Hueco Rock Ranch has a fenced-in area where you can leave your dog with other dogs - this may be a viable option for some of you - but we recommend leaving Fido at home.
* Bikes OK on paved surfaces only, in the camping and picnicking zones where cars are allowed. This means you can't ride your bike to Mushroom Boulder, even though it is paved all the way. Mushroom Boulder, the "heart of Hueco" according to Mike Head, is now closed forever. RIP.
* Firearms are allowed if you have a valid, current concealed carry permit. Hunting and target shooting are prohibited.
* Occupancy limits: a maximum 70 bodies/day at North Mountain, 230 bodies/day for the entire park. 10 slots per day on North Mountain are not reservable, so if you could not get a reservation, you can still get in provided you are one of the first 10 people at the gate when it opens. The Park asks that you be off the mountain by 1/2 hour before closing time (that is when they close the office). Please also check out when you leave, so that they can update the occupancy count and let in people who are waiting at the gate.
* Closed Climbs
It is your responsibility to check with the Rangers every day for the updated list of closed climbs. Although Huecotanks.com does not advocate violating the closures, we make no effort to maintain an updated list of closed climbs, for many reasons. Most of the closures are unwarranted, such as Mushroom Boulder, the Cave Kiva area, 45-degree wall and the Bimbos. We hope that someday in the distant future, a more reasonable managing entity - perhaps the National Park Service - will re-open these classic climbs. In the meantime, we are not going to support unethical and immoral closures by listing them.