Please note: the Observatory and Visitors Center are located 450 miles from Austin and are on Central Time. As a University of Texas campus, the Observatory grounds are "concealed carry" only.
The McDonald Observatory is not a Federal facility and is therefore not affected by the current government shutdown. The Visitors Center remains open for regular business and all previously scheduled programs will be offered.
All programs are subject to capacity limits. To ensure program participation, make advance reservations online.
The Frank N. Bash Visitors Center is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day from 10:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. (additional hours on Star Party nights)
Frank N. Bash Visitors Center
3640 Dark Sky Drive
McDonald Observatory, TX 79734
Latitude: 30 degrees, 40 minutes, 48.5 seconds (30.680139 degrees) North
Longitude: 104 degrees, 01 minute, 30.5 seconds (104.025139 degrees) West
877-984-7827 (recorded information, toll-free)
This address works for delivery purposes and may not be available for all mapping services.
Visitors traveling east on Interstate 10 from El Paso may take Highway 118 south at Kent for the 39-mile scenic drive to the observatory. Remember that the Observatory is on Central Time (El Paso is on Mountain Time - one hour earlier than the Observatory).
Visitors traveling west on Interstate 10 may take Highway 17 south at Balmorhea to Fort Davis, then Highway 118 north 16 miles following the signs to the Observatory.
If you're coming from the Big Bend National Park, take Highway 118 north through Alpine and Fort Davis to the Observatory.
The nearest standard fueling stations (i.e, gasoline and diesel) to McDonald Observatory are in Fort Davis, 15 miles away. There are no fuels available at the Observatory.
There are currently three electric car charging options in the wide area "near" McDonald Observatory. One is at El Cosmico in Marfa, Stable Performance Cars in Alpine, and the Balmorhea Visitors Center.
The closest commercial airports are El Paso International (190 miles) and Midland International (177 miles). Although you can count on roughly 2.5 to 3 hour drives from either, when driving from El Paso you'll lose an hour going from Mountain time (El Paso) to Central time (McDonald). For private aviation there are airstrips in Marfa and Alpine (both about 40 miles from the Observatory). As of the time of this edit, both have car rental services.
Where to stay
Fort Davis is the nearest town to the Observatory and boasts a number of hotels, motels, and B&Bs. The Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce maintains an extensive list of area accommodations. Additionally, the Chamber sites of Alpine (~ 45 miles) and Marfa (~ 37 miles) also list area lodging.