Interpretive Center Trail
By BANDA on 9/2/2007
Distance: 4.50 Miles Duration: 6 hours
This trail starts out at the Interpretive Center then eventually loops around and ends at the group picnic area. If you use the park's map, be aware that they have South up, rather than North up, as most maps do. Also it is not entirely accurate, sometimes showing the trail on the wrong side of Skyline Drive. But watch for the signs and you should be OK.
This trail starts out on fairly level ground at 5000 ft., but once you pass the amphitheater you start climbing through a series of switchbacks until you reach the top at 5500 ft.
There is a nice intermittent stream near the amphitheater, and great views into the distance from the top, from which you can see the McDonald Observatory to the Northwest and a large greenhouse operation far to the South.
The terrain is mostly open, but there are several shady spots where you can stop for a water break or a snack.
After reaching the top and going East along the spine of the mountain, you will reach the first scenic overlook at N30 35.507, W103 55.651, and the second scenic overlook at N30 35.757, W103 55.359. These have very nice views in all directions.
After about another .7 mile you will reach the restrooms at N30 35.865, W103 54.803. This is the only place along any of the trails that drinking water is available.
A short distance past the restrooms the trail crosses over the road (watch for the sign across the road!) and then continues along a cliff along the South side of the mountain with great views and a neat rock face until you reach a pass cut through the mountaintop at N30 36.001, W103 54.328. From there you have a decision to make: Go right and the trail will lead to the boundary of Ft. Davis National Historic site with it's scenic overlook and series of trails, or go left, and begin the descent back toward the state park campgrounds. We went right and enjoyed the national park trail, then turned around and returned by this route to our car.
The trail down to the campground follows an old double-track Jeep road for a while, but then the road veers right and goes down to a gate at the junction with Hwy. 118, so you will want to veer left and continue to follow the trail, as you are still ~1 mile from the Interpretive Center. This section of the trail has some ups and downs, but was easily traversed, even by people with young children.
We spent about 6 hours on this trail, but that was because we stopped to take many pictures, examine flowers and rock faces, and took a snack break as well. Most adults could probably do it in 4 or less, but as they say, why not stop and smell the roses? (Or in this case, the cactus blooms!)
This is a very nice trail and is well worth the effort!