After leaving Big Bend National Park, we decided to stop over at the Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis, Texas before heading west towards Arizona. We love this state park and the surrounding area. It’s a great place to hang out for a couple of days after boon-docking in Big Bend. We can connect to shore power and re-stock supplies and it’s an easy 3-hour, 140 mile trek from Big Bend.
Since this was an abbreviated visit this year, we only stayed for a couple of days and I accomplished one solo major hike while here. The reason for the solo hike was that my husband decided he needed to do some maintenance on the truck while parked here. He wanted to get the oil changed before proceeding with our journey. We visited the fuel station in Fort Davis to see if they could do this quick service but he was booked solid. He did sell us the necessary supplies and Jim decided to do this at the campsite. Now, I’m sure that changing your oil at a campsite here is probably discouraged (if not prohibited) and, while I knew that my husband is extremely careful, I did not want to be around while he was doing it! So, I chose a long hike and proceeded on my way!
The Skyline Drive Trail is a 5.2-mile round-trip hike that takes you to the top of the hill overlooking Fort Davis and the surrounding valley. I had not completed this hike in our previous visit to this park so it was fun to explore a new trail. It was a beautiful, clear blue sky day and the temperatures were moderate albeit a tad windy!
There are a series of switchbacks that take you up the steepest section of the trail. At one point, a trail sign was damaged and pointed in the wrong direction. I took the wrong trail at this point but it still brought me out in the same place at the top of the hill. I discovered this when descending back down the trail! Once on the ridge, there are a couple of great overlooks that look down onto Keesey Canyon and towards the Davis Mountains.
Indian Lodge is an historic, full-service hotel located within Davis Mountain State Park. The original section of the adobe structure was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. Renovations and additions were made to the lodge in the 1960’s. More information can be found here and also here. So, if you are not a camping enthusiast you can still enjoy the area in absolute pampered comfort!!
From the overlook on the ridge, the McDonald Observatory is also visible. On our last visit, we signed up for a night sky astronomy program at the observatory. I highly recommend visiting this observatory that is connected to the University of Texas at Austin. The observatory is positioned on two mountain summits – Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes – where it can take advantage of some of the darkest skies in the country! Visit their website for more information on signing up for one of their year-round programs and brief “about” page describing its telescopes and mission.
I took advantage of the elevation on the ridge where I could pick up a cell signal and connect with family. Near the top of the trail is a picnic area located off the Skyline Drive car access road. I sat down to eat my snack and called mom to get caught up with her after being without cell service in Big Bend. It was a very relaxing hike with minimal pedestrian traffic on the trail. Some of the views at the top and descending:
The sun was starting to disappear behind the hills on my descent back to the campground. The colors of the grasses were lit up with the late afternoon light.
I highly recommend visiting Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains. We have easily spent an entire week here exploring the park and surrounding attractions. The Fort Davis National Historic Site is adjacent to the state park and provides a fascinating look into frontier life in this area. You can walk to the site from the state park. Another worthwhile side trip, the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center is a short drive from Fort Davis and offers a comprehensive guide to the diversity of the desert environment. Check out the visitor center, botanical gardens and museum here!
The town of Alpine has lots of shopping and a university museum called the Museum of the Big Bend. The mission statement of the museum: “The Mission of the Museum of the Big Bend, a Department of Sul Ross State University, is to serve and educate the public by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting the cultural, historic and natural materials that relate to the prehistory, history and cultural diversity of the Big Bend region of Texas and Mexico.” This will be added to my to-do list on our next visit!!
For those adventurous types, a trip to this area is not complete without a stop at the Marfa Lights exhibit. On our last trip here, we spent the night at the Marfa Lights parking area. We did not see any unusual phenomena but it was still fun!!
One final note! I need to put a plug in for the awesomeness of small town public libraries. Since there is no cell service in the state park, I visited the Jeff Davis County Library in Fort Davis to use their free internet access. Libraries are by far the best resource for internet access while traveling on the road. (and I’m not just saying that as a former librarian!) The staff was friendly and welcoming. I also seek out libraries when I’m in need of new reading material. While checking out books is not an option since I’m on the move, libraries often have on-going book sales and it’s possible to pick up cheap, discarded books! I perused the selection on the library book sale table and was able to purchase some great reads for 1.00 each!!