At a mile above sea level Davis Mountains State Park is the coolest place to be in the hot Texas summer. The Davis Mountains, the most extensive mountain range in Texas were formed by volcanic activity 65 million years ago. Located in Jeff Davis County, 1 mile north of the town of Fort Davis on Texas 17 then 3 miles west on Texas 118 the 2,700 acres of the Davis Mountains State Park offers great family fun. There are 9 miles of hiking and nature trails, one of which connects with a trail to the Fort Davis National Historic Site, a mountain bike trail, an equestrian trail as well as Skyline Drive, a scenic mile high drive especially popular for star gazing. Birders will be kept busy with the wide variety of species living in the park. We observed mockingbirds, cardinals and an oriole right from our campsite. We filled a hummingbird feeder twice in one week to satisfy the hungry demand of these tiny birds. Wildlife viewing is also a treat. In the early evenings mule deer make the rounds of the campground and will fearlessly approach to see if you will offer them a handout. It is illegal to feed any wildlife in the park so please don’t do it. A ringtail (often referred to as a cat but actually a member of the raccoon family) silently made his way by our campsite early one night. Skunks and raccoons frequently check the dumpsters. Javelinas (pig-like animals) hurry though in large packs, young in tow to see what they can forage. We observed a family of the elusive Montezuma Quail scurry across the road one afternoon, the young bouncing along after the adults like ping pong balls. Jackrabbits may be spotted sprinting through open areas. After a hard rain the red velvet mite emerged in numbers from it’s underground tube to hunt for insects only to disappear as the rain moved out. Campsites are full hook-ups, water and electric or water only. There is a 4 mile (minimum) hike -in camping area offering primitive tent sites. Access to this area is up a mountain with an 800 ft elevation change. Primitive equestrian sites are also available with 10 miles of back country hiking trails to explore. An interpretive center is open daily from 2P-4P and an amphitheater offers programs on the weekends. The 27 sites with electric, water and sewer are divided into two loops. Sites #1-16 are situated on a level loop while #17-27 are on a hillside loop. Most of the sites have shade, a covered picnic table and a fire ring. We stayed in site #14 which was large and fairly level. On this loop sites #11-16 face a hillside while #1-11 partially face another camping loop. On the hillside loop site #22 looks nice and level and faces a trail Most of the 34 water and electric sites offer some shade. A few are large enough for a trailer but most are better suited for tents or pop-up trailers. There are also 33 water only sites for tent camping. This is a popular park in the summer so be sure to make a reservation in advance. Warning! Do not leave your pets unattended as the javelinas have been known to attack and on occasion kill dogs or cats. The Indian Lodge, an historic Pueblo Style full service hotel built by the CCC between 1933-1935 is in the park. In the area is the Fort Davis National Historic Site, one of our country’s best preserved frontier forts. 13 miles west of the park is the University of Texas McDonald Observatory one of the major astronomical research facilities in the world. It is open daily and offers solar viewings, guided tours and star parties. The nearby Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center hosts botanical gardens, a greenhouse, gift shop and hiking trails. And finally, a 74-mile scenic loop (State Hwy’s 118 and 166) winds through grassland basins, canyons and woodlands of the Davis Mountains dotted with pine, juniper and oak. Interesting Fact: The Davis Mountains are named after Jefferson Davis, U.S. Secretary of War and later President of the Confederacy.