I’ll be honest, I talked trash for MONTHS of how I was going to lope up to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, to get the BEST selfie at the Top of Texas! Then after touring Carlsbad Caverns the day before our scheduled climb, and panting my way out of the cavern on the climb out, a measely 1/7th of the climb up to the summit, I gave up all dreams of grandeur (for the time being) and settled for a gentle hike through McKittrick Canyon! McKittrick is a fantastic hike for families with young children, and you are rewarded with a terrific picnic area at The Grotto! Whatever your ability, there is a beautiful and awe-inspiring hike waiting for you at Guadalupe Mountains National Park!
Know Before You Go
Take plenty of water!
Don’t forget sunscreen, light jacket, flashlight (even if you only plan a short day hike), and water (repetitive, I know).
Get an EARLY start! Check the time the gate locks each evening, and schedule to be back in time.
Keep young children close on all hikes, do not allow them to run ahead or lag behind.
FREE Backcountry camping permits are required.
Don’t count on cell phone service anywhere in the park.
National Parks Pass
To celebrate their birthday, all 10 year olds are given a FREE National Parks Pass for this year, which allows up to 3 adults to enter National Parks for FREE! Click HERE for more information.
If you just have a little time driving through Guadalupe Mountains National Park, then make a quick stop at the Visitors Center to see the exhibits and video, then hike the short 3/4 mile path to the “ruins of the old Pinery Station, once a favored stop on the original 2,800 mile Butterfield Overland Mail Route. The trail is paved, rated easy, and wheelchair accessible. Pets are allowed on leash.”.
McKitrick Canyon Trail
An easy day hike to the Grotto (about 3.5 miles), or a much more strenuous (elevation gain of 2700 feet, over 7 miles), hike up to The Notch and McKittrick Ridge Backcountry Campground (permits required). An easier hike to McKittrick Ridge is from Dog Canyon, with an elevation gain of only 1500 ft but still roughly just over 7 miles.
McKittrick Canyon Trailhead
At the trailhead, there are restrooms, water (fill your hydration pack), informational kiosk about the canyon and its flora and fauna, and a pay center.
McKittrick Canyon starts off criss-crossing a dry riverbed, surrounded by Creosote bushes. A little further down the trail you will encounter water in the creek, but you are asked not to wade, etc. As tempting as it is, remember water is VERY precious in the desert and the animal and plant life here depends on that water!
Once you leave the canyon floor, the view changes as pine and maple trees, along with other diverse plant life takes over!
We hiked to The Grotto, which is a small stalagtite cave. We could feel cool air coming out of the small holes in the back of the cave, but there isn’t access down there. A few picnic tables make for a nice place to have lunch and rest up before heading back or continuing up the much more strenuous trail to The Notch!
Things To Do in Carlsbad
In the Lincoln National Forest, head out to Sitting Bull Falls Day-Use Recreation Area to see a picturesque waterfall oasis in the desert! Your National Parks Pass will get you in for free. Click HERE to read more.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
400 Pine Canyon Dr, Salt Flat
Click HERE to visit their website.
Keep Having Fun in the Texas Sun!
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