Places We Protect

Davis Mountains Preserve

Texas

Rocky outcrops with forested mountains in the distance.
Davis Mountains The Davis Mountains Preserve in West Texas © Jerod Foster

A rugged yet fragile sky-island refuge, Davis Mountains Preserve is surrounded by a vast, West Texas desert landscape.

Overview

Description

Announcement: TNC will be hosting Open Days at the Davis Mountains Preserve on  7/31 and 8/1

In accordance with guidance from health experts and global Nature Conservancy policies, we must limit visitor capacity—50 users will be permitted to enter the preserve each day. If you’d like to explore the Davis Mountains, here’s what you need to know:

WHEN: Davis Mountains Preserve will be open for DAY USE only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 31st and Sunday, August 1st.

HOW: You MUST reserve your spot in advance. We will be keeping a list of everyone who has RSVP’d; volunteers will check names at registration. . To be placed on the list, email Tara Poloskey at tara.poloskey@tnc.org by or before Thursday, July 29th  with your name, and approximately how many people in your group. Tara will email you back to confirm your reservation; do not assume you have a spot without a confirmation. We anticipate a high volume of emails and will not be able to offer access to everyone who reaches out to us. Make your reservation ASAP—walk-ins will be turned away at the gate. Maps and trail information available at the preserve.

COST: FREE with an email confirmation from Tara, but as usual we graciously accept donations during the event. Click here for more information or to become a member!

COVID policies: All visitors are encouraged to socially distance and wear a mask during registration.

Other important information:

  • No Camping, No Fires, No Pets.
  • Some trails are accessible from the registration area but high clearance is required for all travel into the interior of the preserve including to the Baldy Peak trailhead.
  • Bring your own food and water. Pack everything in/out.  
  • You can expect a typical mountain climate: mild with unpredictable weather so please check the forecast, prepare appropriately, and assume nothing.
  • Cell service not available on preserve.

The wild and remote Davis Mountains are among Texas’ most awe-inspiring natural areas, evoking the rugged cowboy heritage of the Lone Star State. But wide, open spaces like these are becoming fewer and further between; Texas land is fragmenting faster than any other state, our population continues to climb and development is increasing its pace. With the Davis Mountains forming one of only three of the state’s unique sky islands—a cooler, wetter landscape surrounded by arid lowland desert—conserving this Texas treasure for people and wildlife is now more important than ever. 

To help protect this unique ecosystem, The Nature Conservancy established the 33,075-acre Davis Mountains Preserve. Subsequent land acquisitions combined with conservation easements on adjoining property have allowed the Conservancy to protect 102,675 acres of the Davis Mountains.

WHY THIS PLACE MATTERS

Formed by volcanoes and sculpted by wind and water, the Davis Mountains rise more than 8,300 feet above sea level out of the expansive Chihuahuan Desert. While the Trans-Pecos, the area west of the Pecos River, is true desert habitat, the Davis Mountains are temperate and forested—an anomaly in an arid land. However, as Texas continues to grow and develop, the region’s natural resources are being stretched to their limits, impacting everything from biodiversity and habitat preservation to freshwater supplies.

The Davis Mountains Preserve is home to canyon watersheds that feed Little Aguja, Limpia, Madera, and Cherry Creeks—water sources that support diverse wildlife and are crucial habitat for rare aquatic species. The sky island also contains plants and animals unable to survive in the harsh, arid desert below and provides refuge for sensitive species like the Rivoli’s hummingbird. Additionally, the preserve provides important wildlife corridors with minimal human presence, a requirement for large mammals such as black bear. Finally, large, intact landscapes promote dark skies, critical to ongoing astronomical research at the nearby University of Texas McDonald Observatory and beloved by Texans as one of the state’s most cherished natural features.

WHAT TNC IS DOING

While the preserve itself encompasses 33,075 acres, over the last two decades, the Conservancy has protected more than 110,000 acres of the Davis Mountains region through land purchases, conservation easements and partnerships with local landowners. In close collaboration with government agencies, universities and other partners, we’re conducting research aimed at protecting the fragile species that call our preserve home. Dedicated volunteers also work with staff to steward preserve land and water, engage the community and connect people to this iconic West Texas landscape. 

Access

Limited Access

Madera Canyon Trail is currently open to visitors. See 'Visit' tab for details.

Highlights

Hiking, birding, camping, wildlife viewing

Size

33,075 acres

Explore our work in Texas

GETTING HERE 

The Davis Mountains Preserve is located approximately 25 miles northwest of Fort Davis on Highway 118N (about 10 miles past McDonald Observatory and about ¼ mile past the Lawrence E. Wood Picnic Area). Guests are required to sign in and out at the kiosk along the main preserve road.

THINGS TO DO AND SEE

Drive, hike and bike through stunning landscapes that recall Texas’ rugged history and heritage. Towering Ponderosa pine trees shade cool mountain creeks, and at each turn, dramatic views of canyons and peaks delight visitors. Keep your eye out for black bears, bobcat, elk, mountain lions, Grace’s warblers, Mountain chickadees, mountain short-horned lizards, long-eared owls, painted redstarts, Zone-tailed hawks, golden eagles, Texas madrone trees, Mexican dwarf oaks and aspen groves on the trail to Baldy Peak.

MADERA CANYON TRAIL

The Madera Canyon Trail is currently open to the public from sunrise to sunset—download a trail map here

Directions from Fort Davis:  Head north through town on Hwy 118 North (left) and continue for 24 miles. The road takes you up almost 1,000 feet and winds around the mountains and past the McDonald Observatory. Eight miles past the Observatory, turn left at the first entrance into the Lawrence E. Wood Picnic Area, and the trailhead is on your immediate left.

Directions from Kent:  Take Hwy 118 South for about 23 miles to the intersection of Hwy 118 and Hwy 166. Bear left to stay on Hwy 118 and continue on for about 6 miles, where you will bear right into the Lawrence E. Wood Picnic Area. The trailhead is at the far end.

CONTACT

Tara Poloskey: tara.poloskey@tnc.org / 432-426-2390