Best Things to Do in the Davis Mountains

The Davis Mountains are located in the Big Bend Country of Texas, near Fort Davis.  This mountain range is 60 miles wide, and receives more rainfall than the desert lowlands in the western part of the state.  The highest elevation is 8,378ft atop Mt. Livermore, while the lowest is around 5,000ft.  Fort Davis has an elevation just over 5,000 ft and is recognized as the highest community in Texas.  It’s also a great central base camp for those seeking to explore the Davis Mountains and other nearby attractions; Monahans Sandhills, the Guadalupe Mountains, and Big Bend National Park are just a few of the magnificent places within a three-hour drive.  Ride in, set up camp and explore the places in this article during your adventure.

The Indian Lodge is quite an oasis in the Davis Mountains of Texas
Indian Lodge pool in the Davis Mountains

Davis Mountains State Park

Address: TX-118, Fort Davis, TX 79734

Hours of operation: park open 24 hours, visitors center 8am – 5pm daily

Fees: $6 without a Texas State Parks Pass

The area north of Fort Davis has been a state park for almost 100 years.  It’s very popular and reservations are recommended.  You can camp in a tent, RV, or stay at one of the rooms inside the Indian Lodge, which has a swimming pool and restaurant.  Hike, or drive, through Davis Mountains State Park and explore the beautiful landscape.  The hiking trails are dog friendly and will take you to heights about 6,000ft above sea level.  

The Skyline Drive Trail receives the most foot traffic for good reasons.  It’s the longest trail south of HWY 118, and boasts multiple scenic views on every side of the park.  You can hike this exciting trail with your dog, or follow one of the park roads to various points of interest.  From elevations well above 5,000ft you can see the Indian Lodge, the Blue Mountains, Mt. Livermore, and McDonald Observatory.  If you begin the trail near the HQ, it will lead you to Fort Davis Historic Site after 2.6 miles.  The most incredible views are near the CCC Trail and Fort Access Trail connection, in my opinion.  

Skyline Drive Trail has miles of scenic views throughout the Davis Mountains
Skyline Drive Trail at Davis Mountains State Park

Check us out on the dog friendly Skyline Drive Trail in the video below from Davis Mountains State Park

McDonald Observatory

Address: 3640 Dark Sky Dr, Fort Davis, TX 79734

Hours of operation: 1pm – 4pm, Tuesday through Saturday

Fees: $3 – $35 depending on type of tour

This observatory is nearing its one-hundredth year in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.  It rests at an elevation close to 6,700ft and has five telescopes which act as windows to the universe.  You can visit McDonald Observatory five days per week (Tuesday – Saturday), but hours are very limited.  The observatory is open only between the hours of 1-4pm for touring.  Evening events take place on the weekends and reservations are required for every visitor.  

You can tour McDonald Observatory yourself for the low price of $3, or take a guided tour for $10, during visiting hours.  Additionally, evening star viewing events are available at a starting price of $25.  Find out how good the night sky looks from the Davis Mountains, at an elevation above 6,000ft.  The best time to visit McDonald Observatory will be a clear night when the moon is less visible.  At such a time you can see light from the furthest stars and the Milky Way Galaxy.  My device does not take adequate dark sky photos, so this is something you need to see for yourself in Big Bend Country.

The entrance to McDonald Observatory and visitors center
The entrance to McDonald Observatory

Madera Canyon Trail

Address: TX-118, Fort Davis, TX 79734

Hours of operation: 7:30am – 5:30pm daily

Fees: none

This is a free, 2-mile loop trail located 10 miles north of McDonald Observatory.  The trail crosses Madera Creek, which will be dry during spring and summer, but may have strong flowing water in fall or winter.  It climbs nearly 200ft, providing views of Mt. Livermore at one point along the loop.  Hike the trail in a clockwise direction and you will see the mountain peak directly in front of you heading south.

Madera Canyon Trail is dog friendly, but you may find venomous snakes, or sky island species while hiking.  This will be a fairly easy hike in comparison to other mountain trails (if you can handle the elevation), and far less populated.  The elevation is around 6,000ft, and overnight parking is allowed in the picnic area.  Consider hiking this trail near sunrise, sunset, or while the stars are shining overhead.

Hike the Madera Canyon Trail with your dog in the Davis Mountains for free
Madera Canyon Trail is dog friendly

Hike Madera Canyon Trail with your dog in the Davis Mountains

Fort Davis Historic Site

Address: Fort Davis, TX 79734

Hours of operation: 8am – 5pm daily

Fees: $10 per person, or $20 per vehicle for one week

Buffalo Soldiers, trade routes, and bugle calls are a few bits of history you will find here.  This historic site was previously used as a military fort in the 1800s.  To this day, it has been well maintained and offers important historical information to visitors.  You can tour the buildings, view artifacts and hike a trail up the mountain, which leads to Davis Mountains State Park. 

The historic site is open daily and can be accessed from HWY 118 in the small town of Fort Davis.  There is a wealth of history to be found in this place if you don’t mind paying for admission. Dogs are welcome, kids might enjoy the visit, and it will only take a couple of hours or so to see all this old fort has to offer. You can even see it from above if you hike toward Davis Mountains State Park.

A view of Fort Davis from the trail leading from Davis Mountains State Park
Fort Davis National Historic Site

Mt. Livermore

Address: Davis Mountains, Texas 79734

Hours of operation: N/A

Fees: none

This is the most isolated, and fifth highest peak in Texas.  Hike to the top for spectacular views from an elevation of 8,378ft.  Surprisingly, hikes to Mt. Livermore (aka Baldy Peak) are few, and they are only possible during public use days.  Furthermore, explorers wishing to reach the peak will need to drive a 4WD vehicle with a high axle.  

The trailhead is accessible from Madera Canyon Road, at the cat tank turnoff.  If you can make it to the turnoff, you can hike the challenging 3-mile trail to the fifth highest peak in Texas.  Look to the north from Mt. Livermore, and you may be able to see the highest peak in Texas, inside the Guadalupe Mountains.  The beautiful views atop this peak are some of the most solitary in the state and you will only see them in the Davis Mountains.  

One of the highest viewpoints along Skyline Drive Trail provides a look at the mountains and Indian Lodge
The mountains and Indian Lodge from a scenic viewpoint along Skyline Drive Trail

I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it. We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site. Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly.  I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.

David Earley


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