Davis Mountains Scenic Drive: TX 17 to Fort Davis


From Fort Stockton, my final destination for the day (Van Horn) was only 120 miles — that’s a mere 90 minutes at the generous 80-mile-per-hour Texas speed limit.  I could have hurried on to Van Horn and checked into my motel, but I knew there wasn’t much to do in that town, once I got there.  So, I decided on a detour through the Davis Mountains — an area I had planned on visiting two days later.  Checking it off the list on Day 4 was a great idea, even though I didn’t get to see as much of the beautiful Davis Mountains as I had planned.

From I-10, the scenic drive into the mountains begins at exit 209.  Texas 17 heads southwest, through Balmorhea — a small town which passes by in a flash.  The mountains loom in the distance at first, with nothing but a few curves to whet your appetite.  Then they get closer, and closer, until finally…

… the road gains altitude, and arrives in the hills.

For the first time on this trip, I was seeing the type of landscape I had hoped for.  The Hill Country further east was nice, but it couldn’t compare to this.  I’m convinced this area is one of the most beautiful parts of Texas — along with the Big Bend area to the south.

As you arrive in the town of Fort Davis, you’ll see its namesake fort on the right side of TX-17.  The fort was manned from 1854 to 1891, helping ensure safe passage on the San Antonio-El Paso Road, and the Chihuahua Trail.  Nowadays, it’s preserved by the National Park Service. A self-guided tour costs just $3.

The Jeff Davis County Courthouse is near the south end of the downtown business district, facing State Street, where TX-17 and 118 run together.  It was built in 1910.

Fort Davis has been the county seat of two counties.  Originally, it was the center of government for Presidio County, but the seat moved to Marfa after the railroad came through.  Fort Davis residents weren’t happy with that decision, so they arranged to have the county split, forming Jeff Davis County.  Once the split was approved by the legislature in 1887, Fort Davis once again became a county seat.

The Fort Davis State Bank building is across the street from the courthouse.  It’s still in business, with the image of the old building in its logo.

The historic Hotel Limpia is also nearby.  It was built in 1912, by the same contractors that built the Fort Davis Bank building.  It still welcomes guests, with prices starting around $99 a night.

From the courthouse, the rest of Fort Davis’ business area stretches north along State Street.  It’s a downtown that’s still very much alive, and stores are open, making it worth a stroll.

One more business caught my eye on the way out of town, though I don’t think I’d want to see what’s inside Rattlers and Reptiles.

If I had more time, I could have made a nice scenic loop using TX-166 to circle around to TX-118.  But, with the day quickly coming to an end, I took the shorter route, following 118 northwest from downtown Fort Davis.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Balmorhea, down TX-17 into Fort Davis:

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