McKittrick Canyon Trail

4.90 Miles
800 Feet
3point5stars (3.88)8
2point5stars (2.81)
3point5stars (3.56)
Pine Springs
More Info
Amazing Views
McKittrick Ridge provides amazing views of the surrounding mountains and canyons. (Photo by Blaze)
McKittrick Canyon
The ridge provides spectacular views of McKittrick Canyon below. (Photo by Blaze)
The Bridge
This narrow section of the trail leads you from one peak up to McKittrick Ridge. There are steep drop-offs on both sides of the trail. High winds can gust through the canyon, so exercise caution. (Photo by Blaze)
The Notch
There is a place on the trail where you walk through a rocky notch that takes you from one side of the canyon to the other. (Photo by Blaze)
Hunter Line Shack
The Hunter Line Shack is located near The Grotto. In the background, you can see the massive McKittrick Ridge. (Photo by Blaze)
The Grotto
The Grotto is a nice, small cave about 6.8 miles (roundtrip distance). (Photo by Blaze)
Pratt Cabin
Pratt Cabin is about 4.8 miles roundtrip distance. It is usually closed, but it will sometimes be open if the park has enough volunteers to staff it. (Photo by Blaze)
This is the Trailhead at McKittrick Canyon. (Photo by Blaze)
McKittrick Ridge trail
(Photo by RossPayne)
McKittrick Canyon
McKittrick Canyon (Photo by Eveline)
Me and my crew with homemade gaiters at Dog Canyon (gaiters lasted all of 1/4 mile)
Sorry for the blurry image...This is the trailhead at Dog Canyon Campground. GREAT place to tent camp; lots of solitude and shade; flush toilets and water available. (Photo by aggiehiker92)
Well needed rest at Pratt Lodge
Sorry, no picture of the lodge, but I forever love that park bench!!! (Photo by aggiehiker92)

Only showing last 12 photos. View All Photos

Log Entries
To The Grotto And Beyond!
By Blaze on 5/22/2013
Rating: 3point5stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 4point5stars
Distance: 15.80 Miles Duration: 7 hours, 55 minutes

After hiking the strenuous Guadalupe Peak the day before, I thought I would take a day to recuperate by hiking to the Pratt Lodge and out to the Grotto since the trail looked fairly flat.  However, my legs loosened up along the way, so I decided to hike up McKittrick Canyon to the McKittrick Ridge campground.  This part of the hike was strenuous since it involved a 2700 foot elevation change (from 5013' to 7716').  I would have went farther (to the Tejas Trail intersection), but I ran out of time.  This area of the park is Day Use Only.  They lock the gate at 6:00pm, so I had to frantically get down the mountain and get my car out before they locked me in!

The hike out to the Grotto is nice and one I highly recommend.  The Grotto is a cool little cave, complete with a few stalagtites and stalagmites.  It is not deep at all, but more of a little sheltered overhang.  The roundtrip distance to Pratt Cabin is 4.8 miles and the roundtrip distance to the Grotto is 6.8 miles.  The trail is rocky, but well-marked.

The hike up the ridge is an entirely different matter.  It is steep, narrow and somewhat overgrown by vegetation.  Do not wear short pants.  Like the Guadalupe Peak trail, there are sections with steep drop-offs of several hundred feet.  If you slip or faint, your fall could lead to serious injury or death.  Do not attempt to climb the ridge if you have health conditions or are not in good shape.  Also, take plenty of water.  There is no water in the backcountry and you will drink more than you think you will need to carry.  If you do hike the ridge, you may want to consider camping at the McKittrick Ridge campground overnight.  You will need to get a backcountry permit first from the park HQs.  This helps the rangers know where people are in the backcountry.

The views are absolutely spectacular.  There is one place (informally known as "The Notch") where the trail goes through a notch in the rocks and takes you from one side of the canyon to the other.  Also, there is an incredibly scenic part of the trail (I call it "The Bridge") where you walk along the top of the ridgeline with steep (several hundred foot) drop-offs on both sides.  Amazing!

Beautiful fall color
By wardbd1 on 11/16/2006
Rating: 2stars Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 7.00 Miles Duration: 4 hours
Outstanding hike in the Fall, great overnighter.
By aggiehiker92 on 9/3/2006
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 15.00 Miles Duration: N/A
I took my three older boys (12,8,6) on their first overnight backpack experience. What an experience it was!!! The weather was wet for 2-3 days prior, so when the clouds lifted, it made for very nice hiking weather. We started at Dog Canyon Campground and hiked to McKitterick Canyon Visitor Center. Nothing fun about lugging 30 lbs of water uphill, but the view was worth it. We steadily climbed some 1900 feet to the Mckitterick Ridge Campground, then the next morning, decended into the canyon RAPIDLY (2300 feet in 4 miles) on switchbacks like no other I've seen. Glad to do it downhill. Great views!!! The trick to this hike is to arrange for transportation at the pickup site. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is truly a jewell in an otherwise harsh environment. The biggest hinderence is the lack of water in the backcountry, but oftentimes McKitterick Creek is running in the back parts of the canyon. This is a VERY limited resource, so use it sparingly and always filter or treat it.
By Landon Turnbow on 4/15/2006
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 7.00 Miles Duration: 7 hours, 30 minutes
By RossPayne on 7/18/2005
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 8.00 Miles Duration: N/A
We hiked from Dog Canyon to the McKittrick Ridge campsite (8 miles) then to Blue Ridge in midsummer. The main difficulty was hauling water uphill (sweaty work, unstable footing) but the temperature was very pleasant at rest stops in the shade. The McKittrick Canyon trail is especially beautiful. Unfortunately, for safety reasons, the campsites are not on ridges with views of the scenery. We didn't see any other mammals (including humans) in the backcountry.
Went up to the Grotto
By Eveline on 10/8/2004
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 1point5stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 8.00 Miles Duration: N/A
By Rowdius on 1/5/2003
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 1point5stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 4.00 Miles Duration: N/A
Pratt's Cabin
By Eveline on 10/10/1997
Rating: 4point5stars Difficulty: 2point5stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 8.00 Miles Duration: N/A
It rained on us all the way up, but quit as we started down. The trail was a little slick. Great place to hike.
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