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blue The Notch Out-and-Back

  5.0 ( 3 ) Favorite

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9.9 mile 16.0 kilometer out and back


Ascent: 1,092' 333 m
Descent: -1,092' -333 m
High: 6,058' 1,847 m
Low: 5,015' 1,529 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 28% (16°)


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Trail shared by Liz

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


Features Views

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


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.


To access this hike, park in the lot for the McKittrick Canyon Visitor Center. 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 hike 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 hiking, you'll reach Pratt Cabin Spur. Take a right on this to follow it out to Pratt Cabin, the once-summer-home of geologist Wallace Pratt.

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 hike a bit more pleasant than others in the summertime. About 3.4 miles into the hike 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. Use this to reach Hunter Line Cabin for a nice side trip.

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


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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

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 3 votes


  5.0 from 3 votes
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