A Girl's Guide to West Texas,  The Girl's Complete Guide,  West Texas

A Must-See in West Texas: the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute

A place called “research institute” couldn’t be that fun, could it? “Research” while on vacation? No thank you! Yet, despite the name, the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute is actually a fun place designed for visitors like you and me, the recreational “researchers” of pretty things and pretty places, in West Texas. If you are looking for a nice nature walk and scenic views of the mountains, this is your place!

So why care about the Chihuahan Desert? The Chihuahuan Desert is special because it is an ecological region more diverse than most parts of the world–enough to be a bragging point about Texas. And the beautiful succulents and scenery make this one of the most gorgeous parts of our state.

One of the reasons I like the CDRI so much is that inside its grounds there are all of the unique cacti and succulents you would see out in the wilds of West Texas, and in a short walk you can see a good sampling of everything you might see if you trekked across the whole of the desert.

I LOVED their wraparound porch. It is the perfect respite after a hike!

I loved their coffee and tea station. They know what weary travelers need!

The winding path through the boulder studded gardens and the incredible view of the mountains are pretty hard to beat!

Things to Know

  • Flat, stroller-friendly around building and in gardens
  • Plenty of hiking trails for agile hikers (ages 6+)
  • Fabulous porch and rockers!!
  • Pay attention to the thorny plants in the gardens if you are with small kids. Our two and three year old nieces were fine as long as we held their hands and kept them from running into cacti.
  • There is plenty to see other than thorny plants though so don’t let that hold you back.

What to See

  • Hummingbird and Butterfly Trail: (0.33 mile loop) Inside the Botanical Garden, among the outcropping of rocks just beyond the Pollinator Garden, is this easy hike providing pretty vistas and interesting rock formations. — CDRI.org
  • Cactus & Succulent Greenhouse: One of the largest Chihuahuan Desert cactus collections in the world, with over 160 species and varieties of cacti and succulents.
  • Clayton’s Overlook: (1.5 mile loop) A moderate hike that ascends 220 feet to the hilltop where you can take in a 360 degree view of the area.  An interpretative geology exhibit at the top of the hill provides a detailed description of the formation of each of the mountains in view, including excellent illustrations of the formations. — More info on CDRI.org

When to Go

  • Morning or late afternoon in summer
  • How is it in winter?? Has anyone been?


The CDRI is located SE of Fort Davis, Texas in West Texas, 20 minutes from Alpine, 30 minutes from Marfa, 1.5 hours from Fort Stockton. About 6 hours west of Austin!

43869 St. Hwy 118 (4 miles SE of Fort Davis)
Fort Davis, TX 79734

More Pics

If you want to see my friend Lindsey’s amazing macro pics of the cacti at this place, check out my blog post here! The Amazing and Strange Cactus of West Texas

Have fun ladies!


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