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The Notch Out-and-Back

Intermediate/Difficult
 5.0 (4) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

This is a great hike up to some stunning viewpoints of McKittrick Canyon.

Liz

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Map Key

9.9

Miles

16.0

KM

Out and Back

6,058' 1,847 m

High

5,015' 1,529 m

Low

1,092' 333 m

Up

1,092' 333 m

Down

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

28%

Max Grade (16°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Views

The trailhead is located in a day-use area. Check the park website for times.

Overview

The McKittrick Canyon Trail is a great trail for almost anyone, though the turn around points may vary depending on your skill and timeline. The Notch Out-and-Back hike takes hikers through McKittrick Canyon, past a couple cabins to some pretty stunning views of the canyon. The trip from Pratts Cabin to the Notch can be pretty rugged so not everyone may wish to hike that far.

Need to Know

Though this trail winds through the canyon riparian ecosystem, hikers are still exposed to the elements. Be sure to bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen.

Description

To access this run, park in the lot for the McKittrick Canyon Visitor Center (fee is typically $10). The McKittrick Canyon Trail starts from the back of the visitor center and heads west along a very gentle grade. The first couple miles of this run are pretty mellow and easily accessible, first winding through desert, then passing into a more riparian ecosystem. You'll cross a stream several times on your way up McKittrick Canyon. After about 2.3 miles of running, you'll reach Pratt Cabin Spur. If you want to see the cabin, take a right on this to follow it out to Pratt Cabin, the once-summer-home of geologist Wallace Pratt. Otherwise, continue on the main trail up "McKittrick Ridge".

From Pratt Cabin Spur the trail continues up the canyon but becomes a bit rougher. It continues to follow the stream, a nice feature that makes this run a bit more pleasant than others in the summertime. About 3.4 miles into the run you'll reach the Grotto, an excellent streamed picnic spot. There are several old stone benches and tables making this a great rest stop. Only a short distance beyond the Grotto is Hunter Line Shack trail. If interested, follow this to Hunter Line Cabin for a nice side trip. Otherwise, continue on the main trail.

Once back on the main trail, as you head up canyon, the grade begins to steepen significantly. This section of trail is not for the faint-of-heart. The trail from here to the Notch can include steep grades, semi-technical terrain, and several switchbacks. However, the struggle is worth it. From the Notch overlook you'll have outstanding views of South McKittrick Canyon in both directions.

After a nice long rest, turn around and head back the way you came for a great, almost ten mile long run.

For the more adventurous among you, the McKittrick Canyon Trail continues beyond the Notch, eventually connecting to the Tejas Trail.

Contacts

Shared By:

Liz with improvements by Will L

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 4 votes

#853

Overall
  5.0 from 4 votes
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#17

in Texas

#853

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Photos

About halfway up to the top of the canyon - you can see the fall colors around the lower portion of the trail below.
Nov 7, 2016 near Pine Sp…, TX
McKittrick Canyon Trail
Sep 30, 2015 near Pine Sp…, TX
Eastern ridge of McKittrick Canyon as you enter.
Dec 15, 2016 near Pine Sp…, TX
McKittrick Canyon
Dec 15, 2016 near Pine Sp…, TX
Dry creek bed in the early portions of the McKittrick Canyon Trail.
Dec 15, 2016 near Pine Sp…, TX
McKittrick Canyon
Sep 30, 2015 near Pine Sp…, TX

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Check-Ins

Mar 5, 2020
Jennifer Watson
Nov 17, 2019
Bear Rinehart
Nov 2, 2019
M Allen
Apr 6, 2019
Luke Oechsner
Nov 6, 2018
Adventurous Way
The distance includes stops at the Pratt lodge and the Grotto. 10.2mi
Oct 6, 2018
Mark Clements
Mar 24, 2018
Joshua Peterson
Detour to Pratt Cabin and Grotto/Hunter lodge. Didn't go all the way to the Notch. 9mi
Mar 24, 2018
Taylor Peterson
Detour to Pratt Cabin and Grotto/Hunter lodge. Didn't quite go all the way to the Notch. 9mi