The Peak Bagger’s Hike
Davis Mountains Preserve
Route: Livermore Summit to Limpia Chute Trail
Distance: 6 miles (round-trip)
Difficulty: Hard. A rough jeep trail gets you close to the summit, but the hike is a grind. Loose gravel on the descent trail makes for a tricky trip down.
The Davis Mountains, the second-highest range in Texas, occupy the northern edge of the Big Bend region. But the prevalence of ponderosa pines and aspen groves makes the Davis Mountains Preserve feel a world apart from the rocky desert landscapes of the more famous national park that sits a little more than a hundred miles to the south.
Mount Livermore, the tallest in the range, tops out with a stony haystack at 8,378 feet, making it an enticing trip for peak baggers like myself. Access can be tricky, though; surrounding ranchers don’t cotton to hordes of shaggy out-of-town dirt nappers disturbing their livestock. But the Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit that manages the preserve, offers access to the 33,000-acre property, including Mount Livermore, about half a dozen times a year. (The open dates are posted on the Nature Conservancy’s website.) During last year’s spring break, my family decided to take advantage of one of the open weekends.
After camping in a quiet corner of the park, my daughter and I made our way to the Livermore trailhead. We attacked the Nature Conservancy’s recommended route to the summit, following a treacherously steep jeep trail that shoots up nearly two thousand feet in just three miles. After a dicey scramble to the top, my vertigo kicked in—the sense of space was so exhilarating I worried that gravity might lose its grip. But we left the summit flush with a sense of accomplishment. After my knees stopped shaking, we started making our way down the other side of the mountain along the Limpia Chute Trail. And just when I thought we were in the clear, my daughter suddenly leaped at me to avoid a reddish coachwhip snake streaking toward the underbrush. “Know your limit” is a frequent caution on challenging trails like these. Now we knew ours.
These great hikes are far from an all-day affair.
Fate Bell Shelter, 1 mile
Seminole Canyon State Park
You’ll need to schedule in advance, but the park offers guided tours of the cave paintings left behind by some of the earliest residents of this region.
West Rim Overlook, 2.5 miles
Big Bend Ranch State Park
Dozens of trails across this remote state park offer a multitude of ways to experience the other side of Big Bend, but few routes promise the rugged grandeur like this quick out-and-back with astounding views of the Fresno Canyon formation.
No Camping Required
You don’t always need to sleep outdoors for an overnight near the trail.
Lost Mine Trail
Big Bend National Park
The views from this nearly five-mile trail stretch into Mexico, and the trailhead is just a short drive from the Chisos Mountains Lodge.
For even more, check out hikes in North Texas, South & Central Texas, and East Texas.