Did you know that the Davis Mountains in West Texas are a Sky Island? According to the USDA, Sky Islands are isolated mountains that are lush and green, but then surrounded by dry, arid, desert at the base. Thus by analogy, the mountains are “islands” surrounded by deserts that are “seas.” We definitely experienced this dramatic change in flora when hiking Mt. Livermore in September 2018. It was fantastic! Mount Livermore reaches 8,378 feet and is the highest peak in the Davis Mountain and claims the 5th spot for highest Texas peaks. At 8,378 feet, Mount Livermore is the highest peak in the Davis Mountains and the fifth highest in the state. The hike to the summit on Baldy Peak covers more than six miles with an elevation gain of about 1,800 feet
Things to Know For Hiking Mt. Livermore
- Mt. Livermore is part of the Davis Mountains Preserve and only open to the public one weekend, or just one day, per month. The Preserve is operated by The Nature Conservancy and they’re doing their best to protect the area. Check for Davis Mountain Preserve Open Days here.
- On Open Days, the Preserve is only open from 8am – 4pm. Plan to get there early so you won’t be rushed to hike.
- To get to the bast of Mt. Livermore and do that hike, you must have a truck/SUV with 4-wheel drive and high clearance…you’ll be driving into the wilderness for about 5 miles and the “road” has a lot of ups, downs, turns and puddles.
- While the Preserve has a nice facility (w/toilet and water) at the entrance gate, there’s no water at the base of the Mt. Livermore trail. Come prepared.
- You can camp at the Preserve, but only during Open Days.
- The hike to the top of Mt. Livermore is a little more than 6 miles with an elevation gain of about 1,800 feet. Starting elevation is already at about 5,000′, so you’ll definitely feel this hike!
- The Preserve is about 25 miles (35 minutes) from Fort Davis, TX.
In mid-September, we looked at the calendar and realized that an Open Weekend would be coming soon at the Davis Mountains Preserve and it could be a great reason to head west and get in a good hike. Jason’s parents generously let us borrow their truck and we left town on a Saturday morning. After about 8 hours, we arrived in Fort Davis, Texas and headed straight to the Preserve. We spoke to the folks at the entrance gate and got a map and made a plan to come back on Sunday and do the Livermore hike.
Lodging and Dining in Fort Davis, Texas
We headed into town, Fort Davis, to check into our little lodging. We stayed at the Stone Village Tourist Camp and loved it. For $40/night, we got our own room with two screened walls (for airflow), two twin beds and a private sink. The screened walls had thick canvas curtains that we could draw for privacy or warmth and there were communal restrooms for showers, etc. 😉 Though it was too chilly, there was even a pool! I’d happily stay there again. Slept so well with cool mountain air.
After checking in and resting for a bit, we headed out for dinner. Fort Davis is a tiny town with a population of only about 1,000. There weren’t too many restaurant choices. We decided on the Blue Mountain Bistro and had a great meal. It was hopping on a Saturday night and fun to see so many folks out for a fun night. Other dining options include an old-timey drug store and soda fountain, a Mexican spot, the beautiful Indian Lodge and even two little grocery stores if you want to make a picnic.
We’d made reservations for a Star Party at the McDonald Observatory on Saturday night. The show started at 9pm, so we headed straight there after our dinner at Blue Mountain Bistro. The Star Party was sold out and we arrived to a lobby packed with attendees waiting to be lead outside for an impressive show. Unfortunately, the clouds didn’t cooperate and the Observatory canceled the Star Party and very generously offered us a refund or a rain check. Jason and I had both seen it before, so we weren’t too bummed. If you’re out there and have time, it’s definitely a must! Seeing them shine those huge lasers into the sky and point out constellations was really cool.
Alright, onto the hike! On Sunday morning, the rain had stopped and we were excited to hit the trail. We stopped at the local grocery store on our way out and bought a to-go breakfast of some bananas, muffins and yogurt. We filled our water bottles and packed our backpacks with snacks, cameras, water and sunscreen and headed back to the Preserve. By the time we arrived at the Preserve, it was already 11am and the attendants were worried that we wouldn’t be able to finish the hike before the 4pm curfew. We assured them that we’d be smart and only hike as far as we could and make sure to be back to the gate in time. We ended up finishing the hike in two hours…not the estimated 6-7 hours. Haha.
Woo! We made it up and back down and returned to the entrance gate by 3:30pm, just in time for the 4pm curfew. Worried about not having enough time, we went as fast as we could and only took a few minutes break at the top. Coming down was much easier. After the hike, we headed back to the Stone Village Camp in Fort Davis and showered before heading to Alpine for the night. Once in Alpine, we checked out a local coffee shop called Plaine Coffee, which was in a converted laundromat and had dinner at one of the only spots open on a Sunday night, Guzzi Up.
And that was pretty much our whole trip! The next morning was Monday and Jason had taken the day off from work, so he went for a short road bike ride. I was still trying to get work done and took my laptop to the little Stone Village Market next to the Camp and used their wifi and had some coffee. Once Jason got back from his ride, we packed up and headed back to Austin. It was a short trip, but totally worth it. The views from that hike were so cool!