There is a vast landmass in the West Texas high desert filled with rock and open skies. It’s a place where miles and miles of the road must be traveled between pockets of civilization. Every so often an oasis appears, found amongst the rattlesnakes and dust of the west–and one such oasis is Davis Mountain State Park near Fort Davis, Texas.
With its large basalt rock outcrops, seasonal clear water streams, and valleys that support a multitude of wildlife, the Davis Mountains are a must-visit for those who love adventure.
Thinking of visiting the area? To help you enjoy your visit, we created this guide to Davis Mountains State Park, complete with what to do, where to stay, and what else to see when you’re near Fort Davis!
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Best Things to Do in Davis Mountains State Park
Take in the view.
The park has some of the best views of the surrounding area. Overlooks designed by the park are accessible by hiking or driving. Sit atop a mountain and witness the town of Fort Davis below, or focus your eyes across the valley to the top of another mountain which houses the telescopes of the local observatory.
A short hike will also take you to another overlook where below you will witness the historical Fort Davis and listen to the still played sounds of the different cavalry bugle calls at the top of each hour.
Davis Mountains State Park has a unique feature that many parks do not share. They have built a small bird sanctuary with a running water system and feeders to attract some of the wonderful local birds.
An indoor viewing area (bird blind) is in place with large windows to keep you separated from the visiting animals. You’ll spend more time than you thought watching the interactions of the many varieties of birds and squirrels that use the sanctuary.
The small building also offers a respite from the hot weather during summer.
Go for a hike.
The scenic trail at the Davis Mountains State Park is considered moderate. The 4.5 miles of trails inside the park and the almost 2 miles of trail connecting it to the national park next door are full of adventure.
Over millions of years, water erosion through the rock has created part of the nature trail system where some of the larger boulders create walls along the path.
If taking the trail to the national park side, be prepared to walk almost all of it uphill (think stair climbing) for the trip back to the state park.
Enjoy the wild.
There are more than 80 state parks in Texas, with many near to urban centers. The Davis Mountains State Park is a bit different, like many of the state parks in West Texas, as it is still considered a much more wild area.
Rattlesnakes and mountain lions still make the mountains and valleys in this area their home. Javelinas and mule deer are seen in abundance, along with quail and rabbit.
Most wild animals are shy around humans and avoid us. Still, be aware that when hiking at the park, you are on your own for many hours of the day without other humans near you.
Watch dramatic skies.
There may be no better place to go stargazing in Texas than in Davis Mountains State Park. With little to no light pollution, you will be amazed at how spectacular it is when you raise your eyes to the sky at night in West Texas.
With the view of the sky so open, there is no wonder why the McDonald Observatory, only a few miles drive away and higher in the mountains was established here.
On clear nights, even the international space station is spotted zipping by overhead with the naked eye.
Enjoy a meal at the Black Bear Restaurant.
When tired of your own camp food, stop by the Black Bear Restaurant located at Indian Lodge (inside the park), for a home-style cooked meal.
The restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday each week. Order off the menu or enjoy the breakfast buffet each morning.
Hit the trails on a mountain bike.
The trails at Davis Mountains State Park are not only for hiking. Be sure to bring your mountain bike to take on the mountains.
Be advised that some of the climbs are as much as 800 feet at steep inclines, so they are not for the novice bicycle rider.
For those who have some experience, however, the trails provide hours of fun and great scenery from numerous vantage points along the trails.
Join the Ranger Program.
One of the benefits of visiting state parks in Texas is the friendliness and willingness to teach by the rangers who work at each one. The Davis Mountains State Park Rangers and volunteers are no different.
The park runs its Ranger programs that offer walks and programs on stargazing, birding, local history, geocaching, and much more.
More than once you will probably be asked by a Ranger if you need help or if they can explain something to you during your visit. These people truly love what they do and it shows in their willingness to share.
Check out the park’s event page to learn about upcoming programs.
Learn about the native plant life.
One of the delightful touches found while hiking the trails in and around the state park is the fact that someone has labeled many of the plants by name and a history of each plant.
Much of the information revolves around Native American and early settler usages for the different plants found in the national and state park.
These gems are spread out along the trails and not only give you a quick rest while hiking but are entertaining and informative on their own.
Tips for Visiting Davis Mountains State Park
Expect cool nights.
Even on warm days, temperatures can fall at night due to the low humidity levels and altitude. Be prepared for cool nights, no matter what time of year you plan on camping.
Prepare for very hot days.
Bring plenty of water for hiking. Although the state park is cooler than some of the surrounding desert plains, it is still extremely hot during the summer. You can quickly become overwhelmed by the heat.
Signs that say only one or two miles left in your hike may not sound like much, but remember much of the time you are climbing for a mile at a time.
Each tree’s shade found in the mountains lowers the temperature by several degrees. Take the time to stop and catch your breath at each one.
The sun is relentless in the Chihuahuan desert that the Davis Mountains State Park is a part of. Although the park sees much more rain than the surrounding area due to its altitude and cooler weather, you will probably not have many cloudy days during your visit.
Most experienced hikers will wear a long-sleeved shirt and a hat to keep the sun off of their skin. Bring sunscreen for other exposed areas or you will find yourself with a nasty sunburn.
Avoid anything that stings (which is a lot of things).
Outside of heat and desolation, deserts are also known as places where just about everything that touches you will stick, poke, and sting. Whether it be the local insects, reptiles, rocks, or plants, this natural area is full of things that can make your skin very uncomfortable.
Be sure to watch your step and what you lean against or else you may find yourself full of needles from a local cactus.
To protect your feet from Texas snakes, plants, and insects, it is advised to wear closed-toed shoes or hiking boots. Walking sandals have become popular, but are not the safest choice for this state park.
Take your time.
While in the park and especially while hiking, take your time to enjoy nature. We can sometimes get caught up with what adventure we will do next or how far we have left on a hike, we forget to stop and take a look at nature.
With so many amazing sights within the park, it is easy to take a moment and reflect on the beauty around you.
Supplies are nearby.
Luckily, the park itself is relatively close to the town of Fort Davis with plenty of places to pick up groceries.
Instead of lugging in bags of food from home, support the local economy, and purchase the food and drink you need in town.
Where to Stay Inside the Park
The beauty of this state park cannot be fully appreciated with a short day visit, and those who want to experience the wild natural beauty of West Texas should stay a few nights if possible.
The park offers 80 plus campsites with full hookups for RVs, tent camping with water and/or electricity, and primitive campsites after a short four-mile hike up a mountain.
Each site has its own unique space and is for the most part private from the others with plenty of space between them.
Stay at the Indian Lodge
Indian Lodge was built within the confines of the state park during the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Expanded in the 1960s the lodge offers 39 rooms for those who want to enjoy the state park without setting up camp.
The lodge’s white adobe walls have become its trademark look in postcards mailed from here each year.
While staying at the lodge be sure and take a dip in the swimming pool to cool off from the desert heat.
A small gift shop offers the trinkets of adventure for those visiting the park. No reservation at the lodge is required to browse the gift shop.
One of the most popular things to do at the lodge is movie night, where snacks are served while everyone watches a classic movie.
Where to Stay Outside the Park
With the town of Fort Davis only a four-mile drive away there are plenty of hotel spaces in places like Hotel Limpia and the Drugstore & Hotel located downtown. These two are probably the most historic venues to stay, but there are many other rooms and houses for rent in and around town.
The towns of Alpine and Marfa are also only a few miles away and provide one of the most scenic drives around no matter which one you are traveling to.
What to See Near Texas’ Davis Mountains State Park
Visit the historic fort.
You can visit this authentic fort built in the 19th century either by hiking over the mountains from the Davis Mountains State Park or by driving into town.
The fort is now a National Historic Site and an incredibly interesting place to visit.
It is easy to spend hours in the interactive museum and taking a walk around the different buildings of the fort.
Support a research center.
With a short drive away from the state park you can visit the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute and botanical gardens.
The center is run by volunteers and for a small fee, you can walk among, and learn more about desert plants than you ever knew before. All proceeds go towards research and the protection of the Chihuahuan Desert.
Take a tour of McDonald Observatory.
While spending time at the park, take the time to travel up the mountain road and take a tour of McDonald Observatory.
Watching the stars at night with your own eyes is nice, but looking at Jupiter and far away galaxies through several different telescopes will be something you will never forget.
Best Time to Visit Davis Mountains State Park
One of the benefits of this state park being located in the high desert is that you can visit most of the year without worry. Summer days are hot and winter nights can be cold, but you can’t go wrong visiting year-round.
In summer temperatures range from 60F to 90F on average, while in winter you’ll find temps as low as 30F and as high as 55F.
Springtime brings out flowering plants and insects that you may miss during other times of the year and is always a good choice.