Described as the "most beautiful spot in Texas," McKittrick Canyon, with its towering walls, is one of the best places to see the diverse flora and fauna in the Guadalupe Mountains. It is especially beautiful in its fall glory, with the various deciduous trees exploding in color. The plan is to depart from El Paso's east side at 7:30am for the approximate 2 hour drive to the trail head. From there we will hike to the Grotto passing Pratt Cabin along the way. The Grotto provides a nice spot to have lunch alongside the stream. We will also visit the nearby historic Hunter Line Cabin. From the Grotto we will have the option of continuing a bit further to the Notch where fantastic views of South McKittrick Canyon can be seen. This would mean a 10 mile total out and back hike to the Notch, very doable.
Trip rating: Moderate to Strenuous
Mileage: Pratt Cabin - 2.4 miles, The Grotto - 3.4 miles, The Notch - 5 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: The Contact Station and trail head are at 5000 ft. Pratt Cabin is at 5100 ft. the Grotto at 5200 ft. and the Notch at 6000 ft.
Hiking time: 4 to 6 hours to complete
All water should be carried (about 3 quarts + per person) although, without disturbing the riparian area, you are permitted to filter water from the canyon stream.
Always come prepared for the possibility of adverse weather conditions.
As per national park policy, dogs are not allowed on the back country trails.
There is a $5.00 entrance fee per person, payable at the trail head self-pay kiosk, unless you have a national parks pass.
Plan on meeting to carpool at 7am at the Lowe's parking lot on Montana Ave. in east El Paso, or make your own driving arrangements. I will leave the parking lot at 7:30am. If you decide to drive on your own or with someone, the meet-up spot will be at the McKittrick Canyon Visitor's Center/Contact Station. This day hike will begin at approximately 9:30am Mountain Standard Time. There are restrooms and displays at the Visitor's Center.
Make sure you have enough gas for the trip. There are no gas stations along 62/180. The only gas is in Dell City, a 26 mile round trip from the highway.
If you're a beginner and don't want to hike way up the canyon you can walk along the Nature Trail and then maybe continue up canyon to Pratt Cabin.
McKittrick Canyon Nature Trail description:
An intermittent seep lies hidden within junipers, shrubs, and grasses that cling to this tiny ecosystem. Trail-side exhibits describe common plants, reference wild-land fire, and explain Permian Reef geology. The trail is .9 miles round trip, is rated moderate, but takes less than one hour to complete. Reference the map above.