Along the Texas Historic Commission’s Mountain Trail you’ll find numerous small towns that offer a bit of history, tourism, and lush landscapes. Fort Davis happened to be my favorite of the lot, and so the last stop on the epic west Texas road trip just happened to be a lovely state park tucked away in the mountains. Here’s what to expect at Davis Mountains State Park.
Fort Davis in itself felt like a mountain town despite Alpine looking more like a mountain town. A lot of the buildings had that wooden facade that gave it a lodge-town vibe. And despite Alpine, it’s really only one street that cuts through town, but still offered plenty in terms of shopping, accommodations, and history.
Don’t miss these other points of interest to hike:
I highly encourage you to visit the Fort Davis Historic site when you visit. It’s a vast representation of one of the forts that served as an important west Texas respite for soldiers of the various Texas histories. Here you’ll find the refurbished buildings, the ruins of the original fort, and even the location for the original designation of buildings framed perfectly between the mountains.
Not including the self-guided walking tour of all of the buildings, there are two trails at this fort. One loops around, and one actually connects you to the state park. I will link the visit recap here.
There is also a scenic loop that takes you around some of the most breathtaking parts of this area. For two hours you’ll drive up and around the mountains, and through different landscapes that can be found out here. Quite breathtaking. Information on this loop can be found at the Fort Davis Chamber site.
The nearby Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center features a botanical garden, cactus museum, and trails to hike as well. I will link the full recap to this place here.
The Park at First Glance
You drive through town, and after a few winding roads are greeted by the entrance gate to the park. Alongside the normal park sign, you’ll see signs for the Indian Lodge and its accompanying restaurant, The Black Bear.
The desert feels more ranch-y at this park right off of the bat. The trees look sharper, the plants on the ground have more points, but despite all of that you have the epic view of the mountains behind all of it.
The headquarters at the entrance is really just a booth. This is where you’ll check in to the park, so if you’re here for souvenirs you’ll actually purchase them at the gift shop located at the Indian Lodge. More on that later.
The park is lush but feels open. There were a ton of campers here and you could see them all in the same general area. Only partially hidden behind the backdrop of trees.
The park had a campsite makeover a few years back, and they took a lot of care in sprucing up the sites; that definitely felt like the case.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s as part of F.D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the signs of CCC creativity and construction are seen throughout the park, especially so at the stucco Indian Lodge.
This 39-room hotel is the only hotel run by the Texas Parks & Wildlife, and it is where I ahem, camped, for the night. Definitely look into the original rooms here. You can see the handy work of the CCC in the beams, the furniture, and even the walls themselves.
In the late 1960s, the TPWD added 24 rooms to this property, added an additional eating area, and the luxe swimming pool. (The pool also has the best cell service. There is no service behind the 8-inch adobe walls in your room, and wi-fi is unreliable).
The other notable CCC additions are the various stone buildings and the skyline road that offers some of the best views in the area.
You can hike it, or drive up from the main RV section to the top. The winding road was blown out on the side of the mountain, so you have panoramic views all the way to the top. This is also where you’ll find more CCC structures including picnic areas, the overlook/water tank, and a resting cabin made of stone.
Besides the lodge, there are plenty of camping options at Davis Mountains State Park. You can pull up in your RV or camp in one of the 93 sites that are available here. You can also hike across the street and stay in one of the primitive campsites.
This park, and really a lot of the parks in this area, also have accommodations for bringing your horse to camp and/or hike.
All of the camping is along the main Park Road 3 which serves as the main artery of the park. On my visit, it seemed fairly popular with a great mix of both RV’s and tent campers. But despite the recent renovations, there are some sites that feel really close to each other and open. Especially at the water-only campsites.
The sites are all relatively close to trails, but there isn’t anything else for the kiddos with the exception of the really nice bird blind.
Hiking at Davis Mountains State Park
The map notes seven trails that you hike at the park, and on my visit, I only did the Indian Lodge Trail (1.5 miles) and the Montezuma Quail Trail (.9 miles).
This trail started at the Lodge and went up into the tops of the rolling hills that surround the park. I opted to hike later in the day to see the sunset, and once you get to the top you’ll be rewarded with amazing scenery, and if you’re lucky, some wildlife roaming around.
After hiking the Guadalupe Mountains earlier in the week I was hoping for some flat-track hiking, but you quickly ascend into the sky from the parking lot of the lodge to get to the scenic viewing, but once on top, you can look at the McDonald Observatory off in the distance and wish they were open on Monday/Tuesday’s when you’re in town. (Pro tip: they are not).
From the top, you can look down and great amazing views of the Lodge down below, and as you come back around, large sections of the campers below at their sites.
The terrain can be tricky if you’re not watching your step. The loose gravel becomes more of an issue when you’re on the Montezuma Quail portion and are making your way down. From this trail you can continue on to the Headquarters Trail (.3 mi), or to the Emory Oak Wildlife Viewing Area which boasts as being, the fanciest little bird blind in Texas.
I stopped to look at birds and saw two that were new to me: The Summer Tanager, and the Black-headed Grosbeak. Davis Mountains State Park is recognized as a top birding spot, so if that’s your thing you’ll definitely want to spend some time here.
Other Notable Trails
I opted to drive the Skyline Trail, but if you want to hike it’s a great way to get in some miles and see some amazing views at the scenic overlook. It’s 2.6 miles one-way, but you can also hop onto the Old CCC Trail (1.6 mi. one way) and really see some of the historical CCC artifacts.
Both trails start in the camping area, so you can just leave your tent and start hiking!
These trails end at the park boundary, but you can continue on to Fort Davis National Historic Site from here and visit that location during open hours. You’ll basically go over one of the smaller peaks to get there, so that could be a fun way to extend your outdoor experience, and learn a bit of history along the way. There are some great signs that give additional pieces of history and park information in this area.
If you’re doing primitive camping you’ll need to get a gate code from headquarters to hike across the street. Here is where you’ll find the Limpia Creek Trail (2.5 miles one way), and the Sheep Pen Canyon Loop (5.6 mi).
Both rated as moderate, but away from the entire camping area. Additional vast views of the mountain landscape and a change in terrain give you that primitive hiking/camping vibe. The park’s highest point in elevation is off of the Limpia Creek Trail, and it will take you along a 700-foot ascent into the sky. So bring plenty of water, snacks, and your camera.
Fort Davis is a small town that has just enough accommodations to serve the nearby campers. The Lodge gave a list of places to eat/shop, but I went to the Drugstore for lunch and it was delicious. The next morning before I left I stopped at the Stone Village Market for a taco and coffee and it served me just right.
You can also bop around and do some shopping in a handful of stores that offer clothing, knick-knacks, and art.