Fort Davis is a small town with a whole lot of personality! It may have fewer paved streets than the other major cities in the Tri-county area, but Fort Davis is a wonderful place to live and an even better place to visit. From the world-renowned McDonald Observatory to the National Historic Site, this friendly town will keep you busy.
Fort Davis is the highest town in Texas, but it seems to almost be nestled inside the Davis Mountains. This small town, population 1,050, is rich in history. The El Paso-San Antonio stretch of the Butterfield Company’s Overland Stagecoach Line road, or Overland Trail, ran through town in the 1800’s. In fact, the only existing unpaved portion of the original trail is still in use by residents today.
Hiking, biking, bird watching and other recreational opportunities are available from one end of Fort Davis to the other. The Davis Mountains State Park, H.E. Sproul Ranch and The Nature Conservancy of Texas all offer space for you to get out and play.
The following are the top five things that you shouldn’t miss out on in Fort Davis:
1. The McDonald Observatory
The McDonald Observatory brings visitors from around the world. Driving up the winding roads that lead to the observatory is almost as breathtaking as the views that guests are treated to when they peer into one of the huge telescopes that are on display. The observatory’s three largest instruments are the 362″ Hobby-Eberly telescope on 6,600-foot Mount Fowlkes and the 107″ Harlan J. Smith and 82″ Otto Struve telescopes on Mt. Locke. The observatory offers star parties every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night for thousands of visitors every week. The Frank N. Bash Visitor Center includes a gift shop, interactive displays and snacks at the StarDate Café.
2. Fort Davis National Historic Site
3. The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens
Located on a 507-acre ranch, The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Center (CDRI) is home to a visitor’s center, an arboretum and a cactus and succulent greenhouse with over 200 species of cacti. There are also several hiking paths that keep visitors busy and offer an up close look at the natural beauty of the region. The CDRI is open Monday through Saturday from 9-5.
4. The Scenic Loop Drive
If you really want to see the natural beauty of West Texas, you shouldn’t miss out on the Scenic Loop Drive. This 75-mile drive leaves from Fort Davis and travels on Highway 118 through Limpia Canyon past Locke and Fowlkes Mountain and the McDonald Observatory and then into Madera Canyon. After a turn onto Texas 166, the road passes Mt. Livermore and Sawtooth Mountain. Other notable views include the Puertacita Mountains and Miter Peak. This winding drive will take about an hour and half and you should plan to stop at one of the numerous picnic areas along the way and enjoy a sack lunch in an amazing setting.
5. The Overland Trail Museum
Located on Fort Street, the Overland Trail Museum contains artifacts and other unique items that depict the early life in West Texas. Notable items include artifacts from the original Valentine Post Office, vintage photographs and a restored pioneer kitchen. The Fort Davis Historical Society owns and operates the Overland Trail Museum. The Museum is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.