When visiting the Big Bend Region, be sure to make time to spend a day or two in Fort Davis.
One of our favorite things to do in Fort Davis is to drive the scenic loop, a 75-mile road trip through the Davis Mountains. The Davis Mountains, an ancient volcanic sky island contains 6 of the highest peaks in Texas in the top 20, only outdone by the peaks in the Guadalupe Mountains.
Using the town of Fort Davis as your HQ, you can either head west on Hwy 118 at the north end of town, or head south out of town on Hwy 17 and turn off to the loop at 166. They are both great routes, but I slightly prefer the latter, so that’s the way I will tell the story.
Just south a town, just a few miles, you turn on 166 to begin the loop. Your left and right-side views are so very different you can decide where to look. On the left are rolling hills and grasslands where you often see audad, pronghorn and javelina. Actually, you can see javalinas just about anywhere, but it’s always fun to spot the little critters. On your right – Blue Mountain, which really does look blue. Up ahead is Point of Rocks, which has a cool little picnic area with BBQ pits and picnic tables. You can climb the pile of rocks for an awesome view.
Heading deeper into the mountains you’ll pass through a little are that contains Crow’s Nest and Bloys Camp Meeting, an historic religious camp where generations of families have met yearly since 1890.
Moving along, you’ll see a turn off to RM 505. This road ends at Hwy 90 north of Marfa and is a fun little jaunt to and from. If you’re a fan of spotting raptors, this is a great place to be early mornings and evenings. I’ve spotted multiple hawks, falcons and even a golden eagle on this road.
Continuing on 166soon, you’ll see Sawtooth Mountain straight ahead. It’s pretty obvious how this jaggedy peak got its name and you’ll recognize it instantly.
The highway makes almost a u-turn and you are again on Hwy 118, heading south again. To me, this is the prettiest portion of the loop. You’ll pass the Laurence E. Woods roadside park and camping area and can take a hike into Madera Canyon. (Check for availability here nature.org as it is part of the Nature Conservancy’s Davis Mountain Preserve).
The next part is my favorite portion. The road winds through the stunning beaty of the Davis Mountains and some of the best scenery in the state. You’ll pass the McDonald Observatory, which I definitely recommend if you’ve made time.
Getting closer back to Fort Davis you’ll also pass the Davis Mountains State Park, another must side trip if you have the time. The Skyline Drive within the park offers amazing views of Fort Davis. Also within the park is the Indian Lodge, a pueblo style lodge built in 1935 by the CCC.
Back into Fort Davis, you have completed one of the most beautiful and scenic drives in the state. We have done this drive many times, on bike and in the car and both are amazing. It takes about 2 hours total, but you can easily make a day of it.
When back in Fort Davis, you can visit the Fort Davis National Historic site, one of the best surviving examples of an Indian Wars’ frontier military post in the Southwest.
Wind down at one of the local eateries, do some shopping and enjoy the rest of your time in this quaint little mountain village – which, by the way, is the highest in Texas!