If you’ve ever wondered what life was like in a Texas fort then you should consider heading out west. It’s home to one of the most fascinating, historic forts. It’s a place that represents some amazing history in a relatively short period. Fort Davis National Historic Site is a great place to visit, so here’s what you can expect on your trip out west.
Fort Davis is a fairly small mountain town. Surrounded by the Davis Mountains, it feels like a community of hard-working folks that enjoy the small things in life.
Entrance to the park
The Main Street runs for about a mile and begins with the county square, and ends at an elementary school. In between, you’ll find great shops built into some historic architecture.
The main office is open daily from 8 am- 5 pm, and admission ranges from $10/person to an annual pass for $35. Like most national sites, entrance fees are good for seven days. You’ll pay in the headquarter building that also offers some fantastic souvenirs.
Just outside of the hustle and bustle is the entrance to the Fort Davis National Historic site.
At the headquarter building you can watch a 15-minute history video, or grab a map and set out on a self-guided tour.
The park brochure says to allow for 1-2 hours to walk around, and just note, grab some water and use the restroom before you set out on your hike, there aren’t any fountains or facilities after you leave the main area.
There is no set pathway or direction on which you should walk but keep to a circular motion to ensure you’re getting a good look at all of the buildings original and refurbished.
If you’ve been fortunate to visit any other forts some of these buildings will be familiar: commissary, barracks, officer’s quarters, etc, but all of these things will have a spectacular mountain backdrop.
There are plenty of informative markers to learn more about the buildings, and some of the rooms have been staged to show what life would have felt like in the 1800s.
One of the highlights is the section from the original Fort Davis just behind the row of officer’s quarters. The sign here shows how they were lined up to north vs. true north, and you get a sense of what goes into designing these forts.
This fort does offer a bit of hiking besides the tour itself.
There are four miles of trails here with varying degrees of difficulty, but one of the neatest adventures is hiking from here to the Davis Mountain state park.
- Photographers Trail (1507 meters, that’s all it shows)
- Tall Grass Loop Trail (.8 miles)
- Scenic Overlook Trail (1590 m.)
- Hospital Canyon Trail (.7 miles)
- North Ridge Trail (.3 miles)
- Cemetery Trail & Historic Pump House Trail (.2 miles)
- Historic San Antonio- El Paso Road
The trails here, and the park itself, is wide open. No shade except for an occasional tree here and there, so bring plenty of water if you plan on doing any of the hikes.
On my visit, I ventured out into the Hospital Canyon Trail. After walking the grounds of the fort, it was really what was left in the tank before heading to the state park. The placement of the fort near the canyon was strategic as it was for pure visual enjoyment. There are signs pointing to an original fort site just near the current-day picnic area.
The desert terrain is really neat in this section. Native plants and even wildlife can be found among the trees and boulders. If you’re lucky you may see an occasional Aoudad creeping in the North Ridge just above you.
The end of the Hospital Trail will lead you into the North Ridge Trail if you want to add some extra strenuous miles. Venture into some good elevation and circle back to the other end of the fort, or make your way into the state park which is a little over two miles from the fort, but will offer some amazing views.
Because this is a self-guided tour of the grounds you can really take as long or as little as you want to explore. I found myself going into every building that I was allowed to and tried to explore all of the details left behind.
In the hospital area, there were engravings of people’s names, maybe patients that were here, or maybe just vandals after the buildings were out of commission.
And even with a lot of the structures being off-limits, you still get a sense of fort life here.
The signs that are throughout the park offer great information into the different times in history this fort was utilized, and the San Antonio-Pecos road transports you and opens that world of wonder to imagine what the surrounding area would’ve looked and felt like.
If you’ve been what are your favorite things to look at?