Deciding where to stay during our much-anticipated McDonald Observatory “Star Party” came down to a historic hotel in downtown Fort Davis or Indian Lodge in Davis Mountains State Park. Highly recommended by friends, closer to the observatory, located within the state park where we wanted to hike, and newly refurbished as of summer 2018, we opted for Indian Lodge.
Built to look like a multi-level pueblo village, Indian Lodge opened to the public in 1939. The lodge boasts a big two-fireplace den/game room, a lovely pool and a restaurant with hit-and-miss opening hours. Our room on the upper level had windows on two sides and a now-blocked adobe fireplace in one corner. The ceiling consisted of large beams and twigs. Just what I had in mind!
Our first afternoon, we used the trailhead at the end of the parking area nearest our room to access the Indian Lodge Trail. The 1.5 hour hike along the ridge offers sweeping views back down to the valley where the lodge sits on one side and far beyond on the other side to where we could see the mountaintop observatory domes in the distance. High winds up to 45mph whipped across the unprotected ridge. We’d been scheduled for a “Star Party” at the observatory that night, but managed to change it to the following night to avoid the windy weather passing through. We returned to the road leading to the lodge via the Montezuma Quail Trail. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department provides excellent trail maps with photos. The lodge restaurant was closed that night so we drove into nearby Fort Davis for Mexican food at Cueva de Leon, a casual spot that’s been in business for decades and was on a list provided by the lodge. The place is nothing fancy (in keeping with the rest of Fort Davis), but solid and traditional. It’s BYOB and we picked up a 6-pack of craft beer at the small shop across the street. The food brought back memories of similar restaurants of my childhood.
On the advice of the super-friendly lodge staff, we drove up to begin a hike on part of the Skyline Scenic Trail at the top rather than hike up along the switchback road. Views from vehicle-accessible lookouts are nice as was the hike, but it is very close to the road.
Back at the lodge, we made use of iron tables and chairs on a terrace we shared with two other rooms for lunch-with-a-view before heading off to spend the afternoon in the town of Alpine (a 35 minute drive from Indian Lodge). We enjoyed leisurely following a brochure-guided walking tour of the historic town, stopping near the end for a spelt chocolate chip cookie break at a clearly-popular Taste and See Bakery.
Nighttime was reserved for the McDonald Observatory Star Party that I’ll write up in my next post.
Reservations are available at Indian Lodge via the Texas Parks & Wildlife web site. Book well in advance, especially for holidays. Free wi-fi is available in the den and lobby area, but did not reach to our room (or any of the other rooms that we heard of). We did not have cell phone reception in the lodge (which sits in a valley) although staff cheerfully offered me use of their land line to follow up on a missing credit card. We did get enough signal for texts and some emails (and so probably calls as well, although we didn’t try) on high points of our hikes. There is a coffee maker in the room, but no fridge or microwave. Staff let us use the full-size fridge in the dining area for food we’d brought in ice chests. Our 1-queen bed room cost $259.60 for two nights ($230 + $29.90 tax). Camping sites are also available to reserve.
Trails in the park are well-marked and fun to hike although the ones within walking distance of the lodge and camp sites are not super extensive. There’s a 75-mile scenic loop for driving that has other trails along the way. A bear was spotted on one of these the week before we arrived. We saw small birds and hawks, but no large animals on our hikes, although there are bear, mountain lions, javelina and deer.