Directions to the Visitors Center

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.

All programs are subject to capacity limits.  To ensure program participation, make advance reservations online.

The Frank N. Bash Visitors Center is open 10:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. (additional hours on Star Party nights) every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

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 to Mt. Locke.

If you're coming from the Big Bend National Park, take Highway 118 north through Alpine and Fort Davis to the Observatory.

Mileage to McDonald Observatory

Austin 450
Alpine 40
Balmorhea 52
Big Bend National Park 145
Carlsbad Caverns 175
El Paso 185
Fort Davis 16
Fort Stockton 101
Marfa 37
Monahans 128
Odessa  165
Presidio 97
Pecos 91


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 and motels as well as a number of 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.  Members of our Friends of the Observatory or those participating in one of our Special Viewing programs have access to the Observatory's Astronomers Lodge (subject to availability.)

Know Before You Go

Dress warmly (especially for evening programs) and bring your reservation confirmation with you. The Visitors Center is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time (and additional hours on Star Party nights) every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. The phone number is 432-426-3640.

When to Visit
Special Needs & Concerns
Visiting with young children
Cell Phone Usage
StarDate Café Hours of Operation
Frequently Asked Questions
General Information Printout