Despite a population of just over 1,000, Fort Davis, Texas, ticks off a surprising number of travel boxes. The city of West Texas has a fascinating story for history buffs, rugged island sky terrain for hiking enthusiasts and a rugged gourmet dining scene.
For me, Fort Davis was a happy travel surprise. I included it in my West Texas road trip itinerary, especially because of its proximity to Davis Mountains State Park and the historic Indian Lodge. Until I arrived, I didn’t know much about the community that shares a name with the park and the mountain range.
But when I drove into the charming town, I immediately realized that I had received a travel bonus. From the early 1900s architecture of Jeff Davis County Court to the quaint shops and restaurants that line State Street to the fascinating military history of the Fort Davis National Historic Site, the city of Fort Davis has offered so much more than I expected.
With its proximity to the Davis Mountains, Fort Davis is about 95 miles north of Texas’ Big Bend National Park, making it a convenient stop on a trip to the spectacular park perched amidst the desert, mountains and river. It is also less than a 30-minute drive from the cold and strange city of Marfa.
So, although you may have originally visited Fort Davis because of what is nearby, I think the small town deserves a stop on its own.
Here are eight reasons to add Fort Davis to your Big Bend road trip.
- 1 1. Military history at Fort Davis National Historic Site
- 2 2. Fort Davis Historic Center
- 3 3. Regional architecture at Jeff Davis County Court
- 4 4. Historical accommodation at Hotel Limpia
- 5 5. Hike to Davis Mountains State Park
- 6 6. Desert Plants At the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center
- 7 7. The picturesque loop of the Davis Mountains
- 8 8. Authentic Mexican cuisine
- 9 When to Visit Big Bend and Fort Davis
1. Military history at Fort Davis National Historic Site
When I stopped at the information desk at Fort Davis National Historic Site, the first thing I learned from my friendly companion was that I was visiting one of the best-preserved border military posts in the southwestern United States.
This piqued my interest, and I soon discovered that there were many original buildings in the fort, including the Licensed Officers’ Quarter, a large house reserved for the postmaster; and The Officers Row, a neat line of adobe and stone houses that housed officers and their families. The fort also has a restored kitchen for officers, a neighborhood of junior officers, the ruins of a chapel and a recreated commissioner where food supplies were stored.
Dating from 1858, Fort Davis was strategically located at the intersection of San Antonio-El Paso Road and Chihuahuan Road and was one of the most important border defense posts in the late 1800’s. 8of US infantry to protect settlers, cargo ships and postal buses from Apache and Comanche raids in the area. Then, beginning in 1867, the fort housed four companies of the 9of American cavalry, which consisted of African-American soldiers who became known as Buffalo soldiers.
Tip: The stronghold is somewhat scattered and has little shade. The National Park Service recommends a wide-brimmed hat, comfortable clothing and sturdy walking shoes or boots for anyone planning a hike in the area.
2. Fort Davis Historic Center
With its wealth of buildings from the late 1800s / early 1900s, Fort Davis has a distinct border town feel. A walking tour of more than 20 historic buildings is worth a stop, including Fort Davis State Bank from 1913, Presbyterian Church from the adobe from 1904 and Saint Joseph Catholic Church from 1899.
Fort Davis is considered a place to step back in time. A tourist brochure for the city boasts “there is not a single traffic light”. Another beauty of Fort Davis is that the city is compact and accessible on foot, stretching about a mile. I loved walking the streets and finding little treasures along the way.
Tip: The Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce website offers convenient lists of shopping, dining and accommodation options.
3. Regional architecture at Jeff Davis County Court
Built in 1911 in a classic Renaissance architectural style and covered with a Beaux-Art-style clock tower, Jeff Davis County Court makes a spectacular statement along Fort Davis Main Street. The upstairs courtroom has a pressed sheet metal ceiling and fan-shaped stained glass behind the judge’s bench.
The building deserves a walk for its distinctive appearance, as well as for its place in the history of the Civil War. A plaque on the court’s notice notes that Jeff Davis County was named after Jefferson Davis, who would later become president of the Confederate states during the US Civil War. Years before that war, Davis visited Fort Davis as an Army officer in the Mexican War of 1847. Known as a “friend of Texas,” Davis became the county’s namesake in 1887.
4. Historical accommodation at Hotel Limpia
Union Trading Company built the historic Hotel Limpia in 1912 using pink limestone that was mined near Fort Davis. The hotel was named after a nearby creek and soon became a popular gathering place for the community.
Today, guests can enjoy the hotel’s glass veranda, quiet verandas and beautiful gardens. Located right in the middle of downtown Fort Davis, it offers easy access to restaurants and shops along the streets.
Tip: Limpia Hotel is one of a series of 6 incredible historic hotels in Texas Big Bend Country.
5. Hike to Davis Mountains State Park
At an altitude of over 8,300 meters, the Davis Mountains offer refuge in the middle of the surrounding farms and flat areas of the Chihuahuan Desert. Occupying a beautiful part of the massive mountain range is Davis Mountains State Park, a magnet for lovers of solitude, rugged hiking and clear night sky.
The park is located 4 miles north of Fort Davis and offers miles of hiking trails, scenic views and full-service campgrounds. It is also the rustic Indian house in the pueblo style, a hotel built in the 1930s by the teams of the Civil Conservation Corps, a workforce of young people who lost their jobs during the Great Depression.
6. Desert Plants At the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center
Located on more than 500 acres southeast of Fort Davis, Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center features a botanical garden with lots of native desert plants, as well as a succulent greenhouse and cactus, full of over 150 additional species of plants.
The center also has hiking trails, a geological timeline of rock samples from the region, a mining heritage exhibit, and the Powell Visitor Center with exhibits and a gift shop.
7. The picturesque loop of the Davis Mountains
From Fort Davis on Texas Highway 118, adventurous drivers with at least an hour and 30 minutes can go through the loop that is known as one of the busiest and busiest roads in Texas.
At 75 miles, the Davis Mountain Scenic Loop is a relatively long journey, but fortunately it offers a non-stop scenic view of nearby Limpia Canyon, Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes, and Madeira Canyon. After a left turn on Texas 166, the route passes Mount Livermore and Mount Sawtooth and then overlooks the Sierra Viejo Mountains along the Rio Grande to the south.
At 6,700 feet, the scenic Davis Mountains loop offers the highest public highway in Texas.
Tip: Davis Mountains State Park and the stunning McDonald Observatory are also along the scenic route.
8. Authentic Mexican cuisine
Mexican restaurants are plentiful and authentic in West Texas, and I’ve found it hard to go wrong when you stop by one of your local favorites. When I asked for a restaurant recommendation, it seemed to me that I was always directed to a popular Mexican place.
This was the case in Fort Davis, where we received suggestions from locals to try Poco Mexico Café and Cueva De Leon - both excellent choices. At Poco Mexico, the atmosphere is informal, and guests order from a window overlooking the kitchen. I liked the chili relleno and toast cheese, which came with tortilla chips and spicy salsa. At Cueva De Leon, we arrived a few minutes after closing time, but I was invited by friendly staff anyway. I was happy to order a delicious tacos with chicken after most of the other restaurants in town closed.
Tip: If you fancy a decadent treat, head to the lovely Hebert’s Caboose ice cream shop, where Blue Bell ice cream is served from a refurbished railroad car.
When to Visit Big Bend and Fort Davis
The best months to visit Fort Davis are March and April, when spring temperatures average 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or September and October, when high temperatures range from the mid-1980s to September to 70 in October. . Summers tend to be quite hot in Fort Davis, with highs in the 1990s in June and highs in the 1980s in July and August. The winter months are cool, with highs in the 60’s from November to February.
If you visit in July, here’s a fun fact: Fort Davis is known as the home of the “Coolest 4”.of July ”, due to the mountain temperatures and the celebration in the small towns.
Cindy has been all over southwest Texas. For more: