Modern life has its conveniences, but it also has its fair share of stresses. Chances are your phone is constantly buzzing with news, work emails, traffic alerts, and more. And even if you’ve only occasionally glanced at your phone, the stress of so many alerts and updates may have left you feeling a little drained. An escape from the hubbub of city life could probably do you good.
Short of throwing your phone out the window (we can dream), you better bet an escape travels so far from civilization (and its cell service) your phone, and world events that it won’t stop no ringing again and again about, stop bothering you.
Enter Fort Davis, a sparsely populated city in West Texas, perched high in the breathtaking Davis Mountains. The scenic destination is near several must-see West Texas attractions, including a beautiful state park, historic military post, world-class astronomical observatory, and the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. Oh, and as if you needed another reason to visit, Fort Davis has the coolest average summer temperatures in the state.
State the obvious for any new Texas transplant: be warned, Houstonians – Fort Davis is not a good destination for a weekend getaway. It’s quite a distance from the Houston area. And when we say far enough, we mean it’s literally across the state. A hike to any of these Fort Davis attractions will take you at least nine blissful hours. So if you want to visit the highest city in Texas (it’s located about 5,050 feet above sea level), plan to book a few days of vacation, download a solid road trip playlist, and get ready. you have to travel a few kilometers on the road.
Here are some of the must-see Fort Davis attractions for your travel itinerary:
Fort Davis National Historic Site, Fort Davis
By the mid-1850s, as settlements in West Texas grew, raiding into Mexico and along the San Antonio-El Paso Trail became a way of life for Apaches, Kiowas and Comanches, according to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. To protect the settlers in Texas, U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (who later became President of the Confederacy) ordered the construction of the military post at Fort Davis, which operated from 1854 to 1891.
In 1961, the federal government declared the ruins of the fort a National Historic Site in 1961. The National Park Service has since restored and preserved the fort, which is considered one of the best surviving examples of a military frontier post from the Indian Wars. in the southwest.
Visitors have access to six furnished buildings restored to the 1808 era, 20 additional buildings, and around 100 ruins. Occasional bugle calls add to the ambiance.
Many hiking trails on-site features views of the fort and connects to Davis Mountains State Park.
Davis Mountains State Park, Fort Davis
Davis Mountains State Park is in the Davis Mountains (we know, shockingly enough), the most extensive mountain range entirely contained in Texas. At one mile above sea level, the park’s terrain, flora, and fauna differ from the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert below. Increased rainfall and cool mountain temperatures encourage greenery and support abundant wildlife. The 2,709-acre park offers a plethora of activities. Here visitors can hike, backpack, mountain bike, ride their own horse, take a scenic drive through the mountains, go camping, stargaze, geocache, and study nature.
Davis Mountains State Park was one of the first projects built by the Texas Civilian Conservation Corps, according to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. Between 1933 and 1935, the CCC built many facilities still used in the park today, including the Indian Lodge (more on that later) and the scenic five-mile Skyline Drive, which ends in a structure in stone with the iconic “windowed photo.”
Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis, TX 79734. For more information visit tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/davis-mountains or dial (432) 426-3254.
Indian Pavilion, Fort Davis
Are you coloring a weary West Texas traveler in need of a break? Take refuge at the Historic Indian Lodge, a secluded oasis in Davis Mountains National Park where guests can put down their screens (unsurprisingly, cell service is less than stellar in the middle of nowhere), stretch their legs , breathe fresh air and rejuvenate in the natural world.
Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps to attract early automobile tourists, the mountain lodge resembles a multi-tiered pueblo village and is reminiscent of native Southwestern architecture — think thick adobe walls, ceilings rattan and log, hand-carved cedar furniture (built by CCC in the Bastrop State Park shop), river cane latilla ceilings, and a piazza-like outdoor courtyard. Additional bedrooms and a sparkling turquoise pool were late sixties.
As if its stunning architecture wasn’t alluring enough on its own, the quaint villa is perched atop a canyon, offering sweeping panoramic views of the Davis Mountains.
Try this: Located nearby, the lodge’s namesake trail, Indian Lodge Trail, offers a short but challenging climb. The view from the top is well worth the hard work.
Indian Lodge is located at 16453 Park Rd. 3 inside Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis, TX 79734. For more information, visit tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/indian-lodge or dial (432) 426-3254.
See the ‘night stars’ of the Lone Star State through some of the world’s largest telescopes
McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis
Located high in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, just northwest of Fort Davis, the McDonald Observatory offers astronomy enthusiasts daily tours, evening viewings and weekly star parties at the using huge telescopes. Built in the 1930s, the observatory is operated by the University of Texas Department of Astronomy. It has several powerful telescopes that allow viewers to look deep into the night sky. When it comes to stargazing in Texas, you really can’t get any closer.
Oh, and a word of warning: if you’re attending a star party, bring a sweater. Yes, even in summer. It’s quite cold up there.
The McDonald Observatory is located at 3640 Dark Sky Drive in Fort Davis, Texas. For more information, visit mcdonaldobservatory.org or call (432) 426-3640.
Calling all train enthusiasts and ice cream addicts! Hop aboard Herbert’s Caboose for a tasty journey
Hebert’s Caboose Ice Cream Shop, Fort Davis
All aboard who comes aboard! Has the West Texas heat made you crave something sweet? Climb aboard Hebert’s Caboose ice cream shop. The converted caboose serves soft scoops of Blue Bell ice cream daily from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the summer.
Hebert’s is near the entrance to the Fort Davis National Historic Site at 1250-CN State Street, Fort Davis, Texas 79734. For more information, visit the Ice Cream Shop Facebook pager or dial (432) 426-3141.
Cool off in the largest spring-fed pool in the world
Alright, so this literal watering hole in West Texas isn’t technically in Fort Davis BUT it’s (sort of) nearby and well worth the trip.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the pool at Balmorhea State Park is a popular West Texas attraction. Texas’ treasured swimming hole, the largest spring-fed pool in the world, is up to 25 feet deep, covers 1.3 acres, and holds 3.5 million gallons of water. According to the TPWD, it is also home to many species of aquatic animals, including two endangered small desert fish, the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish.
Besides its most well-known attraction, the historic park includes picnic areas, an outdoor sports area and a playground, 34 campsites and the San Solomon Springs CourtsCCC built retro motel style accommodation.
Those wishing to visit should note that some light construction is still underway in the pool area, according to TPWD. Additionally, the San Solomon Courts motel, campground and cienegas remain closed to the public.
Day passes are available for purchase on the Texas State Parks Online Reservation Center but are limited. Day passes can be purchased up to 30 days in advance. TPWD invites visitors to purchase advance passes online before heading to the park.
Balmorhea State Park is located at 9207 TX-17 in Toyahvale, approximately 32 miles north of Fort Davis in West Texas. For more information visit the park page on the TPWD website or call (432) 375-2370.
Davis Mountains Scenic Loop: An activity of choice for those who are not averse to covering more kilometers on the road. Seventy-five miles long, 1.5 to 2 hours road leaves Fort Davis on Texas 118, climbs Limpia Canyon past Mts. Locke and Fowlkes and McDonald Observatory, then into Madera Canyon. After a left turn onto Texas 166, the road passes Mt. Livermore and Sawtooth Mountain, then gradually descends, with wide views of the Sierra Viejo mountains along the Rio Grande to the south. When you return to Fort Davis on Texas 166, the Puertacita Mountains and Miter Peak are straight ahead. The highest elevation on the loop is around 6700 feet.
Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute and Botanical Gardens: An enticing place for those who want to stretch their legs, immerse themselves in nature and not worry about the Texas heat. Here, visitors can stroll through the gated botanical gardens or take an adventurous hike on one of the many hiking trails – which range from the challenging Modesta Canyon trail that leads to a hidden canyon with a year-round spring to the moderate Clayton’s Overlook Trail which offers 360 degree views of the hill.
Looking for more things to do in the Lone Star State? Visit our things to do page.
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