On the Road Again

Get Lost in the Davis Mountains

A desert oasis in West Texas.

By Catherine Wendlandt Published in the Fall issue of Houstonia Magazine

Emerging out of the Chihuahuan Desert like “sky islands,” the Davis Mountains, with their rugged terrain and cooler temperatures, are an oasis for RVers on a quest for peace, quiet, and a road less traveled. “Once you get to Far West Texas, you’re in Far West Texas,” Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melissa Henderson says. “You’re kind of out in the middle of nowhere, which means there’s no Walmart, but it also means there’s not a lot of other tourists.”

Clocking in at just under nine hours from Houston, the Davis Mountains make a great test run if you’re taking the RV out for the first time. Whether you opt to pause midway or complete the trip in one day-long haul and then set up shop in the state park itself, you’ll have a stunning drive and a beautiful stay in store for you and yours. While the Davis Mountains are a little less crowded these days—the remoteness is part of the appeal, after all—they’ve got a long history. Formed by volcanic eruptions in western North America some 35 million years ago, the range has been inhabited by people for more than 10,000 years. Maybe that’s why there’s such a tranquility about the place now. It’s also a part of Texas that many people haven’t seen properly, so there is plenty to do and explore. From vast canyons to expansive nature preserves, you won’t run out of activities for the whole family here. 

Hiking around the Indian Lodge


Davis Mountains State Park

The 2,709-acre Davis Mountains State Park (tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/davis-mountains) has nearly 100 campsites. For $25 a night, park your RV along one of two main loops of pull-through, 50-amp, full hookup sites. The park—which has a $6 entrance fee—also has electric and water sites available for $20 a night. Spend your days hiking along 15 miles of trails; for the best views and an unforgettable sunset, Park Supervisor Wanda Olszewski suggests doubling up and hiking Skyline Drive and the Old CCC Trail.


McDonald Observatory

There’s plenty to do in the seemingly isolated region. Stargaze at the McDonald Observatory (mcdonaldobservatory.org), keep an eye out for the area’s 260-plus bird species, or check into the Indian Lodge (tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/indian-lodge, rates vary seasonally), where you can have a little break from the kids (that’s what the RV is for) and lounge by a mountainside swimming pool at a 1930s-era motel that LBJ used to frequent. It’s handily located right inside the state park. But Henderson says one of the biggest attractions is the Fort Davis National Historic Site (nps.gov/foda), an old army fort that protected travelers out here from 1852 to 1891. And yes, you can use your National Parks pass there.


Château Wright winery

After a day at Indian Lodge’s pool, eat in the motel’s Black Bear Restaurant. For a bite of Americana, try the 107-year-old Fort Davis Drug Store (fddrugstore.com), the town’s original pharmacy. “It’s just a classic menu of burger and fries,” Henderson says. Afterward, enjoy wine tastings in the mountains at Chateâu Wright (chateauwright.com), a fairly new winery just outside of town.


If you don’t mind the gas money—or if you’re hauling your car along for the ride—take in the Davis Mountains on a lazy afternoon by motoring (or going for a hardcore cycling trip, if you’re so inclined) around the 75-mile-long Scenic Loop Drive, suggests Henderson. You begin the drive at Fort Davis, taking Texas 118, which will take you west through Limpia Canyon and then to the state park (where you’ll have a stunning view of the old fort) and then through Madera Canyon to the Nature Conservancy’s 33,000-acre Davis Mountains Nature Preserve (nature.org). The loop cuts through more mountain gaps and wind-scrubbed valleys before depositing you on the West Texas plains, where you’ll take a left on Texas 166 and head on back to Fort Davis. “It’s not very traveled, so you won’t pass many other cars,” she says, “but you’ll get to take in lots of scenery and wildlife.” She’s not kidding.

Davis Mountains 

Distance from Houston: 598 miles

Drive time: 8.5 hours

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