Stargaze at McDonald Observatory

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Route Type

Out-and-Back

Added by Danny Giraldo

Deep in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, experience superb stargazing at the McDonald Observatory made possible by some of the darkest skies in the continental U.S.

So, you’re in West Texas (or driving in from out of state) and maybe you’re bound for Big Bend National Park--because why wouldn’t you be? If you’ve budgeted your time wisely, you may have already planned for stops, but whether you have or not, consider revising your itinerary to include a short stay in Ft. Davis and/or a visit to the McDonald Observatory.  A quick drive from I-10 (37 miles) gradually transports you through time to days of old, reminiscent of stagecoaches and cowboy-led cattle drives (the latter actually still occurs quite frequently).  A few miles (plus a few dollars) more puts you within two of West Texas’s best kept secrets: Davis Mountains National Park, which often gets overlooked as a camping/hiking destination; and most importantly, the McDonald Observatory, which boasts some of the darkest skies in the continental U.S.  

Now, I know what you might be thinking.  If you’re on this website, you’ve more than likely had your fair share of night skies at little to no cost, but then you also know about the importance of conservation--dark skies included--and this is one way you can ensure the good people there (and at UT Austin) continue doing their good work. Plus, have you ever been to a Star Party?  On any given Tuesday, Friday, or Saturday (with the exception of holidays) you can enjoy constellation tours, views of celestial objects through a variety of telescopes, and conversations with like-minded individuals who all love to be outdoors and under the night sky.  Stay in town overnight or at the national park, and head back for a self-guided tour of the solar viewing areas as well as some great vistas at the highest point on Texas highways.  You'll be glad you did.

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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