I recently posted about the misadventures of spring break 2019 which ultimately led to a great weekend spent in Marfa, TX in the "La Cucaracha" article. It was the same trip where I learned of Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains State Park. On my drive home from Marfa, I took a quick detour and drove through the state park to recon for a possible excuse to return to the area soon.
Some time time later I made the trip back to Fort Davis. I brought the necessities for bikepacking as well as car camping and planned to check out the area one way or the other. I checked into a camp spot for the night and used the bike to explore the state park.
It's important to note here what I learned regarding bike access in the park. If you check out this map you'll notice many trails on the lower half of park (South of 118) which is visible on the map as the Headquarters Trail and is also near the park entrance. Out of all those trails, only 1 is accessible by bike (park regulations). The Old CCC Trail indicated by a red line, is the only trail you are allowed to mountain bike on. (We'll get to the other option in a minute). I did follow that trail up on bike and it is rideable, save for a few knee high drops, like a staircase, where I had to hop off for a minute. From the start it's all up hill one way and all down hill the way back. It's only about a mile long so nothing you'll make a day out of. Once at the top, there's a bike rack at the point you can not take your bike further (spot #3 on the map). Bring a lock. I locked my bike here and hiked the remaining quarter mile or so up the rest of the climb to the lookout which is absolutely worth the view. ....Continues below the photos....
After spending an hour or so walking around the lookout I decided to head back down. It was a fast ride back to the base. All other trails on the map South of 118 are foot traffic only, or at least no bikes. Not to say they aren't great trails, but you'll be hiking them if you choose to.
After talking with the park staff about bikepacking options they told me of the other trails North of 118. This includes the Limpia Creek Trail and the Sheep Pen Canyon Loop. To gain access to these you need to go into the office and sign a sheet letting them know your itinerary and paying the appropriate fees for camping or day use. They will give you a combo for the gate lock which you'll need once you leave 118 and actually try to access the trail. The Limpia Creek Trail is some fairly rough and steep switchbacks and, if you are loaded for bikepacking, will rattle you up in a few spots. *Note - if you find my Gerber Dime tool..... you can keep it. I sacrificed it to the Davis Mountain Gods while bouncing along a particularly rough stretch here. It was my homage to nature, or at least that's what I tell myself to feel better about not securing my stem bag appropriately. Once you reach the "T" at the top of the trail, you have ended the Limpia Creek portion and are now on the Sheep Pen Canyon Loop. If you head North (the long way around) it will be approximately 4 miles until you reach the Vista Trailhead and the general area where primitive camping is allowed.
Here's the summary -
You certainly can bikepack at Davis Mountains State Park. Whether or not you want to call it "bikepacking" for a 8 or 9 mile out and back is entirely up to you. My personal recommendation is to take your mountain bike and car camp at the state park. Enjoy the hot showers, friendly wildlife, and the wifi. Hop on the bike and take some water bottles and enjoy a day exploring the Sheep Pen Canyon Loop and the Old CCC Trail before riding back down to the the main park and campsites. Now, if you are new to bikepacking and are not yet up to longer distances, but are ready to try something a little more challenging (translated as rocky and steep) then this might be a good option for a shakedown. Or - if you happen to be in the area, maybe traveling around the Marfa - Alpine - Big Bend regions and have a day or two to explore this park, it would be a great use of the extra time. Not really a "destination" for bikepacking but an overall great park with a lot to do and see, and it happens to have a short bikepacking option.