With a modest population of around 1000 people, it’s easy to glance at Fort Davis, Texas, and assume it won’t take long to explore–but the best things to do in Fort Davis include not only one of Texas’ national historic sites and a beloved state park, but also one of the best observatories in the country!
In addition, Fort Davis’ mountain location gives it comparatively mild temperatures in Texas–for example, an average high of 89° in July, as compared to 96° in Austin and 97° in El Paso–making it a deservedly popular summer escape that tends to tempt visitors to stick around.
Here’s what to do in Fort Davis, TX!
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Best Things to Do in Fort Davis
Explore Fort Davis National Historic Site.
Active from 1854 to 1891, Fort Davis is set dramatically against the Davis Mountains and is recognized as one of the best-preserved frontier forts in the USA.
During its time as an active fort, Fort Davis was tasked with protecting mail deliveries, freight, and travelers as they passed through the desert.
Today, the remains of more than 100 buildings can be seen at the site, with some having been rebuilt to reflect the fort as it stood in the 1880s.
Grab a meal at the Fort Davis Drug Store.
One of the best-known businesses in town is the beloved Fort Davis Drug Store, which is definitely one of the best places to visit in Fort Davis!
A combined restaurant, gift shop, and hotel, the charming building just begs you to sit down and enjoy an ice cream on the front porch on a sunny day–but for those with healthier options in mind, the Fort Davis Drug Store does also serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Go hiking in Davis Mountains State Park.
Of all the best things to do in Fort Davis, Davis Mountains State Park is probably at the top of the list–if for no other reason than that it’s what brings most visitors to town!
With 4.5 miles of hiking trails, plus excellent stargazing, mountain biking, birdwatching, and wildlife viewing, no trip to Fort Davis is complete without some time spent enjoying Davis Mountains State Park.
Stroll past the courthouse.
Like so many small towns in Texas, Fort Davis boasts a beautiful courthouse. This one happens to be the Jeff Davis County Courthouse, which was built between 1910-1911 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The surrounding lawn is beautiful, and as the courthouse is located just a couple hundred feet from Fort Davis attractions like the Drug Store, it’s worth taking a quick look.
Check out the Old Overland Trail Museum.
Before the railroad came to West Texas, traveling overland was the only option–and this small museum, located on the historic San Antonio-El Paso Road, tells the story of that time.
Featuring everything from historic medical equipment to the original Valentine Post Office, this museum is definitely worth checking out when visiting Fort Davis, TX. It’s also free to visit!
Go stargazing at the McDonald Observatory.
Without a doubt, visiting the McDonald Observatory belongs on any list of what to do in Fort Davis.
As one of the premier centers for astronomical research and public outreach in the world (fun fact: the Davis Mountains are home to some of the darkest skies in the continental USA), the McDonald Observatory is affiliated with the University of Texas.
Plan ahead if you have your heart set on visiting–but it’s well worth the advance planning in order to see the night skies as you likely never have before.
Spend the night at Hotel Limpia.
In order to combine your Fort Davis sightseeing with a place to sleep, check into Hotel Limpia!
Located in the heart of downtown, just steps from both the courthouse and the Fort Davis Drug Store, Hotel Limpia originally opened in 1912 and was promoted as a destination for wealthy cattle ranchers looking to escape the heat–but the Victorian-style building quickly became a community fixture, featuring a doctor’s office, drugstore, and plenty of local gossip.
If you’d like to stay inside a piece of local history during your Fort Davis vacation, you can’t go wrong with a stay at Hotel Limpia.
Drive the Davis Mountains Scenic Loop.
This 75-mile loop through the Davis Mountains starts and ends in Fort Davis and is one of the most scenic drives in all of Texas!
Consider stopping at Madera Canyon Roadside Park along the way: whether you choose to complete the 2.4-mile hike or just enjoy the views from the side of the road, you won’t be disappointed.
Visit the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute & Botanical Garden.
To learn more about the subtle beauty and complex ecosystem that makes up the Chihuahuan Desert, head to the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute!
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.
Grab lunch at Stone Village Market.
There is a lot of love about the wide-open spaces of West Texas, but easily finding groceries and nice delis during a road trip is not one of them.
At Stone Village Market, though, you can stock up on specialty groceries in the middle of the desert… and also grab a sandwich at the deli before you head off.
Where is Fort Davis, Texas?
Fort Davis is located in West Texas, about 25 minutes northeast of Marfa or northwest of Alpine.
It’s about 2 hours, 20 minutes north of the Chisos Basin Visitor Center in the center of Big Bend National Park, and about 3 hours southwest of El Paso.
Checking out some of the fun things to do in Fort Davis makes a fantastic addition to a West Texas road trip!