Jeff Davis County High Point Trip Report

Mt Livermore (8,378 ft)

Date: August 19, 2000
Author: Scott Surgent

Mt Livermore is the second highest peak (separate from the Guadalupe Range) in Texas, but is normally inaccessible as it sits surrounded by private lands. However, the Nature Conservancy of Texas has purchased numerous acreage in and around Livermore in the Davis Mountains. The principal portion, which includes the peak and the Madera Canyon approach, will remain with the Conservancy as a Preserve, while much of the surrounding lands will be resold to buyers who agree to abide by the Conservancy's covenants.

Once or twice a year the Nature Conservancy holds an open date on its preserve, with activities that include a hike to the top of Livermore. August 19/20 was an open date, and I made sure that I would be there and be on the list for a summit hike. I had known about this program since January and had signed up in April for the hike.

Due to a tight schedule, I chose to fly into El Paso and rent a car. I flew in on Thursday, Aug 17th, an hour late due to storms. Hurricane Beryl had hit the southern Texas coast a few days earlier and its remnants were just now passing over the El Paso/White Sands area. I had hoped to try Sierra Blanca on Friday morning, and I drove as far as Ruidoso NM, but the morning of the 18th was miserable with fog, rain and unsettled weather from the previous night's storms. I decided to pass on Blanca, and headed south into Texas. I stopped at the Guadalupe NP visitor's center for a bit, passed through Van Horn and Kent on I-10, and eventually found my way south to the Davis Mountains Preserve. They had campsites set up for us, and I camped "minimally" with just a biv-sac. The next morning we gathered at the old ranch house, where our drivers would take us deep into Madera Canyon for our hike.

The Preserve is mainly the old "U-up-U-down" ranch, and the ranchers had built some tracks over time, but overall the access road was very rough with stream crossings and steep bits, but the drivers did well and we covered about 7 miles in 45 minutes, parking at Bridge Gap just to the East of the peak.

The hike is along a very rough road, which gains steeply for about 3/4 of a mile before leveling somewhat as it curves around some smaller foreground peaks. Livermore's summit, called Mt Baldy, is visible as a fin of bare rock jutting in the air. Some communication relay towers are on the top, for the ranchers, sheriffs and border patrol. Eventually this road reaches the base of the fin, curves around it to the west, before the final push to the top. The final portion is up a brief scree slope, up some rocky bits where hands are helpful, and finally to the top. From Bridge Gap to the summit is about 1.5 miles and 1,000 feet of gain.

The summit offers incredible views, but the humid air was very hazy and the farthest peaks were just shadows in the haze. Nevertheless we could see much of the surrounding Davis Mountains, the McDonald Observatory, and the nearby canyon made famous by the "secessionist" Republic of Texas group two years ago.

Our group numbered 20 people, and our guide, James King, was extremely knowledgeable and informative about the area, the Conservancy's history in the area, and the prevailing culture of Far-West Texas. His stories were most interesting and it really helped me understand just how the Conservancy fits into West Texas as a whole. The hike took about 3 hours mainly due to our stopping often to look at sights, discuss history, and wait for the slow-pokes.

One interesting thing to note on the summit: the benchmark is located on a rock surrounding a depression that's about 10 feet by 5 feet, and about 2 feet deep. At the turn of the century (1800s-1900s), the first summitters found a cache of over 2,000 Indian arrowheads, complete and in shards, sitting in this depression. Apparently this was a holy site for the local Indian bands for many years.

This was a beautiful hike in an extremely beautiful area of Texas. I highly recommend that you contact the Nature Conservancy ( if you're interested in visiting this area, or if you just want to support them.