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.
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.
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