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Madera Canyon Hiking Trail: Nature Conservancy’s Small Slice of Heaven in the Davis Mountains

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The Nature Conservancy’s Madera Canyon Hiking Trail is provided free of charge to the public, and is located not far from, but also not a part of Davis Mountains State Park. With an entrance way at one of the various roadside parks with little signage on the road to identify it, many people going through the Davis Mountains don’t even realize this hike is in existence! But it does, and it’s a gem if you ever get the chance. The Nature Conservancy’s Davis Mountains Preserve is a remarkable piece of the Texas Trans- Pecos, surrounding one of Texas’ few “sky islands” (an isolated mountain area enclosed by extremely different lowland surroundings). Madera Canyon is a 4,000-acre parcel of the preserve, more than 900 feet deep in some places, and covered with springs, endangered species, volcanic dikes, and sometimes, elk. Offering a journey into this unique area, you’ll see a number of plants and animals which are found nowhere else in the world, as a sky island holds a wilderness which has remained largely untouched by human activity.

Madera Canyon Hiking Trail: Nature Conservancy’s Small Slice of Heaven in the Davis Mountains

Photo: FreeCampsites.net

Taking Highway 118 northwest from Fort Davis (approximately 24 miles) or taking 118 south from I-10 (2 a couple exits west of the Saragosa and Balmorhea exits), the trail begins in the Lawrence E. Wood picnic area (left side if you’re coming from For Davis, and right if you’re driving south from I-10). Take plenty of water, wear sturdy shoes, and bring some sunscreen. The hike’s distance is a 2.4-mile loop consisting of some fairly easy terrain and a few elevation changes. Beginning on the far eastern side of the roadside park, you’ll follow Madera Creek for just shy of a quarter-mile, where there’ll be a creek crossing.

Madera Canyon Hiking Trail: Nature Conservancy’s Small Slice of Heaven in the Davis Mountains

Photo: Facebook/Marc Grant

Upon crossing the creek, you’ll commence a gradual ascent up Mount Livermore (at an elevation of 8,378 feet). Passing through a pinyon-oak-juniper wooded area, you’ll find a trail split which will give you the option of taking a path to the top of the mountain or going back down to the creek. If, like many, you like your ascents in the early part of your hike, enabling you to meander on the final parts, take the path to the right that leads to the top of the mountain. There are benches to sit on at the mountain head, where you can take in a beautiful view of Madera Canyon, and perhaps catch a breather if needed.

Madera Canyon Hiking Trail: Nature Conservancy’s Small Slice of Heaven in the Davis Mountains

Photo: Facebook/Linda Posey Pearson

From here, the trail makes its way to the opposite side of the mountain where it intersects with Madera Creek again, this time upstream. The descent portion of your hike will start around this side of the mountain, taking you back down into the canyon, where you’ll see a small pond with a wall (man-made) on one side. In rainy seasons, the pond overflows the wall and trickles down the Madera Creek. It’s a great place to sit and enjoy the sound of the water running in the background while you breathe in the West Texas air and take stock of your surroundings. In drier times, it’s simply a pretty view.

Madera Canyon Hiking Trail: Nature Conservancy’s Small Slice of Heaven in the Davis Mountains

Photo: Facebook/Big Bend, Texas. Terlingua, Lajitas, Study Butte, Alpine, Marfa, Marathon Via Matt Walter

From here, the trail takes a hard left (don’t veer off past the pond along the fence line). Follow the trail back up the mountain a short distance towards the previous trail split you were at, where you can pick up the path back down to the roadside park. The best times for viewing wildlife are in the morning and evening hours, however, please be advised not to approach or disturb them, and simply observe. There are also a few venomous snakes in the area, and hikers are asked to watch their step during the warmer periods when they may be active. If you’re simply out sightseeing in the Davis Mountains and would like to stretch your legs, this short trail is a good little stop, and as noted, doesn’t require a fee.

Sources:

Treksw

Nature.org

Trails.com