If you are taking a West Texas road trip, chances are that you will spend some time at Fort Davis. Let me help you plan your trip by saying – spend a full weekend here because there are so many amazing things to do in Fort Davis!
Fort Davis is one of those small and surprising towns that sweep you off your feet. At least, that was how we felt. We loved spending every minute in this charming town. It remains one of our favorite West Texas destinations.
Although Fort Davis has a 1,099 population, there are so many things to do in Fort Davis. From hiking at a State Park to visiting a winery, partying under the stars, taking a scenic drive, and more.
Here are the best things to do in Fort Davis that you cannot miss!
About Fort Davis
At 5,050 feet elevation, Fort Davis is the highest town in Texas, bringing cooler temperatures than most destinations in the Lone Star State. This makes Fort Davis a lovely place to visit year-round.
The town is full of history, has scenic mountain ranges, the best stargazing, and a friendly community. It has been a part of the Southwest where American pioneers, ranchers, cowboys, Mexicans, Buffalo Soldiers, the Mescalero Apache, and the Comanche have all overlapped in this area at one point or another.
Fort Davis made its mark from 1854 to 1891 when it became a significant military post for the Southwest. Today, the town has preserved its history and evolved into one of the best places to visit in Texas.
Best Things to Do in Fort Davis: Places You Cannot Miss!
A visit to Fort Davis is one of the best things to do in West Texas because the town is rich in U.S. history, outdoor adventures, stargazing, scenic mountains, and floral. Here are 5 things to do in Fort Davis that you cannot miss!
Party Under the Stars at the McDonald Observatory
A trip to the McDonald Observatory is one of the best things to do in Fort Davis. You can visit during the day and night, but the evening is truly spectacular.
The McDonald Observatory is located on top of Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes in the Davis Mountains. It also has one of the darkest night skies in the continental United States.
During the day, visitors can admire stunning views of the surrounding region. At night, visitors can witness some of the best stargazing in the world.
If you can only visit the McDonald Observatory during the day, you are still in for a treat. On a 90-minute guided tour, guests visit the telescope park and learn about the Observatory’s history and its current research being fulfilled.
If time permits, I highly recommend you visit the Observatory at night to attend the Evening Sky Viewing and Star Party. The Evening Sky Viewing takes place at the amphitheater with a knowledgeable staff member who educates and helps guide guests to find major constellations, bright stars, planets, and satellites. After the Evening Sky Program concludes, the Star Party begins.
At the Star Party, guests sit outside and watch live views of different astronomy findings from a telescope/camera system projected onto a large screen. We saw two galaxies, an asteroid, a nebula, and a star cluster during our Star Party, and it was amazing!
Enjoy the Outdoors at Davis Mountains State Park
If you love the outdoors, birdwatching, and/or hiking, then you must spend the day at Davis Mountains State Park. This panoramic park is one of the best Texas State Parks because of its mountainous landscape, hiking and biking trails, birdwatching, CCC history, scenic drive, and unique on-site accommodations.
At Davis Mountains State Park, you do not have to hike or bike on the trails to enjoy the park’s best attractions – which is what I love most about the park. You can easily enjoy the scenic views, bird viewing areas, and historical sights all by car. Hiking or biking the trails is just like the cherry on top.
When you visit Davis Mountains State Park, you must visit the King’s Table, Indian Lodge, and the frontier fort. The best part, you can either drive the scenic Skyline Drive or hike/bike trails to get to each destination.
If you want to hike, the best trail is the 1.6-mile one-way Old CCC trail to the 2.6-mile one-way Skyline Drive Trail. This loop is considered moderate and takes an average time of 3.5 hours.
Stay at Indian Lodge
The historic Indian Lodge is a beautiful white adobe hotel within Davis Mountains State Park. It is a wonderful place to stay, but it is also open to the public for a visit. It is truly one of the best things to do in Fort Davis and a sight you cannot miss at the park.
The hotel is historic because the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) built the lodge by hand using local timber. Moreover, most of the antique furniture is original, dating back to 1933.
In addition to visiting and staying at the Indian Lodge, you can also dine at the on-site Black Bear restaurant. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday and offers a variety of delicious entrees.
Take a Step Back in Time at Fort Davis National Historic Site
Whether you are a history buff or not, a visit to the Fort Davis National Historic Site is one of the best things to do in Fort Davis. When you visit the fort, you truly feel like you have taken a step back in time.
In short, Fort Davis played a valuable role in the U.S. history of the Southwest and its western frontier. It was the primary military post to protect emigrants, freighters, mail coaches, and travelers reach California on the San Antonio-El Paso Road.
If you want in-depth information, I recommend watching the 15-minute video on the history of the fort. You can also take a self-guided tour of the five restored and refurbished buildings and explore the ruins.
One of the coolest parts of the Fort Davis National Historic Site is the bugle calls. During your time on property, there are bugle calls to correlate to the soldier’s daily routine. Make sure you grab the bugle call brochure at the visitor center to understand what each scheduled bugle calls meant for the soldiers.
Drive the 75-Mile Scenic Loop
Okay, so maybe you do not have to drive the entire 75-miles of the Fort Davis Scenic Loop, but you definitely need to drive a portion of it. This Scenic Loop through mountains and valleys will take your breathe away.
If you plan to drive all 75-miles, it will take an estimate of two hours without any stops. Trust me. You will stop to take pictures and soak in the natural beauty surrounding you.
One of our favorite portions of the Fort Davis Scenic Loop is on State Highway 118N towards Davis Mountains State Park and the McDonald Observatory. If you are going to drive any portion, this is the one I recommend. It is absolutely gorgeous, especially at sunset.
Go Horseback Riding Through the Davis Mountains
Complete your West Texas trip in Fort Davis with a horseback ride through the Davis Mountains. Prude Ranch offers guests 6 years and older a guided horseback ride on trails with breathtaking landscapes.
Guests can book guided horseback rides for one to two hours on the beautiful trails. These trails bend around mountains, go over streams of water, and through grassy fields.
For tiny guests five years and under, there are also “Buckaroo rides.” A guide will pick the friendliest horse in the corral and maintain control of the horse while the little cowboy/cowgirl goes for a few laps.
Admire Unique Cacti at the Chihuahuan Desert Botanical Garden
The Chihuahuan Desert Research Insitute (CDRI) is a hidden gem of Fort Davis. At CDRI, there is a Mining Heritage Exhibit, bird blind and viewing, over 6-miles of hiking trails, a botanical garden, and the Cactus Museum Collection.
Although there is so much to explore at the CDRI, you cannot miss the Cactus Museum Collection – one of the world’s largest collections of Chihuahuan Desert cacti. This alone is one of the best things to do in Fort Davis.
The Cactus Museum Collection is in a greenhouse within the botanical garden and has over 200 species and varieties of beautiful cacti and succulents. We loved our visit here so much; we immediately bought cacti and succulents when we returned home.
Insider tip: if you visit Davis Mountains State Park, keep your ticket for a discount at CDRI.
Visit the Largest Rattlesnake Exhibit in the World
If you are not afraid of snakes, spiders, and other crawly creatures, then you should visit Rattler’s and Reptiles – known as the “largest rattlesnake exhibit in the world.”
Rattler’s and Reptiles has 19 species of rattlesnakes and over 100 reptiles, amphibians, tarantulas, insects, and local desert mammals. Needless to say, this is quite an exhibit. Moreover, if you love these living creatures, it would definitely be an attraction you cannot miss in Fort Davis.
Best Things to Do in Fort Davis: Eat and Drink
With all of the amazing sights to see, you are going to need to refuel. Luckily, one of the best things to do in Fort Davis is simply indulging in food, wine, and spirits.
Taste Gin from Native Texas Junipers
One of the most special and best things to do in Fort Davis is taste gin Juniper berries foraged from the Davis Mountains. The native Texas Juniper berries help create a distinct flavor, unlike any other gin you have ever tasted.
WildGins Co. is the only gin producer in the world to use native Texas Junipers foraged by hand from the Davis Mountains. Though foraged in Fort Davis, the gin is produced at WildGins Co. headquarters in Austin.
With that said, there is only ONE place to taste WildGins Co. in Fort Davis, and that is at Blue Mountain Bar & Grill. So pony up to the bar and order the signature Geoff’s Balmorhea Springs cocktail or WildGins Co. on the rocks.
Enjoy a Wine Tasting with Scenic Views
Visit Chateau Wright Winery, Blue Mountain Trail Vineyard, and enjoy a lovely wine tasting with breathtaking views of the Davis Mountains.
Chateau Wright is a sustainable winery uniquely located in the American Viticultural Area (AVA) Davis Mountains region. This region has the highest elevation and coolest temperatures, which help provide the vineyard with excellent soil and temperatures to produce several grape varietals.
Guests can visit Chateau Winery for a wine tasting, small bites of food, and scenic views from Friday through Sunday, 12 pm – 7 pm.
Must order: the outstanding and award-winning Jack Rabbit Red (red blend).
Eat Chicken Fried Steak at Fort Davis Drug Store
Did you know that chicken fried steak was originated in West Texas? And that the best chicken fried steak is in Fort Davis at the Fort Davis Drug Store?!?!
What was once a drug store from 1913 – 1980 is now a full-service American restaurant with delicious cuisine. I am not exaggerating when I say the chicken fried steak at Fort Davis Drug Store is the best I have ever tasted. The meat is tender and juicy, the breading is crisp and crunchy, and the overall flavor is perfect.
In addition to chicken fried steak, the Fort Davis Drug Store also has other fantastic menu options such as meatloaf, catfish, fried okra, gourmet sandwiches, pie, and hand-spun milkshakes. Yes, the Fort Davis Drug Store also has an old-fashioned milkshake parlor that you cannot miss – seriously, you need to order a hand-mixed milkshake.
The restaurant is also a hotel and a small store filled with trinkets. So it can be your one-stop shop for food, accommodation, and souvenirs.
Enjoy a Meal at Stone Village Market
Stone Village Market is a natural food market and a full-service deli. You can find everything you need here, whether it’s a hearty meal or groceries to take home.
Stone Village Market has you covered if you want breakfast in Fort Davis because it is the only establishment open for breakfast during weekdays. You can enjoy egg tacos, biscuit sandwiches, and freshly baked pastries such as croissants, turn-overs, and cinnamon rolls.
The full-service deli has an extensive menu of healthy snacks, gourmet sandwiches, a full salad bar, chicken salad, deviled eggs, and more. Everything is made from scratch using the freshest ingredients and the best deli selections – all at an affordable price.
Moreover, the market is also well known for its “Nitro” coffee and Big Bend Roaster’s various organic/free trade ground coffee and whole beans. As a coffee lover, you cannot miss this caffeine pick-up.
There you have it – the 12 BEST things to do in Fort Davis. Again, there is so much to do in Fort Davis that you truly need a weekend to do it all.
Sunday 4th of December 2022
I would love to know as much as possible about things to do here. We stayed at a B and B a few years ago, and slated to come back in a week. Not sure if for overnight or going onto Big Bend from there. We are total history buffs and adore the old forts. Thank you in advance to all you adventure seekers like ourselves.
Am in West Texas, but not far enough
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Monday 20th of September 2021
I have been to Fort Davis and McDonald Observatory and they're wonderful places to visit.
Monday 20th of September 2021
Indeed they are!