The Darkest Sky in Texas and the Marfa Ghost Lights

Mcdonald Observatory, West Texas - Greenmars, CC-3.0

Day Trips from Austin - Marfa, Fort Davis, Mcdonald Observatory

Indian Lodge near Fort Davis, Texas L.A. Cargill
Indian Lodge, Fort Davis, TX

Mysterious UFO Lights of Marfa, Texas
Marfa, Texas Map - wikimedia commons public domain
Map of Marfa Ghost Lights Viewing Area

The Stars at Night are Big and Bright

Especially near the Davis Mountains and the McDonald Observatory near Marfa, Texas!

Get up early in the morning. It doesn't matter where you are in Texas, it's going to take you many hours of steady driving to get to Marfa, Texas. Just north of this little town is the darkest sky in Texas and I'll talk more about that in a minute.

From Austin, it's 240 miles to Marfa or 8 to 9 hours of driving. Maybe that's why you see the ghost lights, you're just so darn tired! If you watch the video, you will see what typical tourists see. That's some weird stuff, man. I've seen it and lived to tell about it.

A West Texas road trip is about as interesting as you can get traveling across the great nation. Leaving Austin, you can pass through Fredricksburg, a tantalizing German settlement, but don't stop there. Save that town for another day. About halfway to Marfa, you will need to stop for lunch in a small town called Ozona. We've stopped there twice now, both coming and going and the food was absolutely unbeatable. I don't know why the food was so good, but we must have discovered the two best chefs in Texas living right there in Ozona. I don't remember the names of the cafes, but one was right on the main highway and the other one was just off the highway and had signs pointing to it.

You will arrive in Marfa in late afternoon if you got an early enough start. There are a few motels to choose from. We picked one with an interesting display of western farm implements. We unpacked and rested for a bit, then went out to the Marfa Lights official viewing area. It's clearly marked, you can't miss it. I picked this video because it was most like what we saw that evening. The lights aren't all that ghostly, but they do give you pause for thought. Just what the heck are those lights anyway? The Native Americans saw them before cars were invented, so it's not headlights. Some say they are electrical discharges from the rocks contracting and expanding. Poppycock! These are dancing spirit lights and they will make a believer out of you. Believe in what, I don't know, but they are quite a cool show.

The Davis Mountains and the McDonald Observatory

Mountains in Texas? Yep, we have those. The Davis Mountains state park is over 2,000 acres of quiet beauty. Skyline drive is the road to take to get up to the University of Texas McDonald Observatory where they have Star parties!

The Star parties are fabulous. Every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights (unless otherwise announced), the observatory hosts an outdoor viewing that points out the various stars, constellations and cool objects in the sky. During the day, you can actually view our sky's largest star, the sun! There is a telescope aimed at the sun and it is appropriately shielded to protect your eyes, but you can actually see the fire and the sunspots and believe me, it's a view you are not likely to forget.

Nearby is a very unique lodge. It's called the Indian Lodge, but they have the fanciest tipis (teepees) I've ever seen! Fireplaces and adobe walls. Very uncrowded and peaceful place. They have a very good on site restaurant called the Black Bear with decent food. The drive up to the observatory is lovely and there are some turnouts to stop at and enjoy the views.

Things to do in the West Texas Area:

  • Check the lobby of the Indian Lodge for special event notices
  • Hike the trails in Davis Mountain State Park
  • Take your mountain bikes for some really great rides
  • Visit Fort Davis National Historic site and learn about the Buffalo Soldiers
  • Drive around the Scenic Loop
  • Visit the McDonald Observatory, view the sun, view the stars at night
  • View the Marfa Ghost Lights
  • Camp in the mountains where it's really dark at night!

We spent a couple of days in the Marfa/Ft. Davis area and really enjoyed it. The word, Vast always comes to my mind when I think of west Texas. It you've ever driven from Austin or San Antonio out Interstate 10 you'll know what I mean.

From Ft. Davis, we traveled up to Carlsbad, New Mexico, then on to Roswell (another hub to come), over to Ruidoso, NM, down to White Sands, then back to El Paso and on to Austin again. The trip took a week and we were tired, but it was great!

McDonald Observatory telescope - pixabay

For more great content, Texas recipes, and stories, please click on the links below:

Home | About | Contact