It has been called the most beautiful spot in Texas. One walk through Mckittrick Canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and you to will be convinced. Nestled among towering limestone canyon walls, Mckittrick Canyon has a beauty that while not as majestic as the Grand Canyon, does have its own impressive diversity of plants, wildlife and scenery. This area was once a coral reef during the Permian period. Over millions of years erosion has washed its way through this area and thus created this extrordinary canyon. The area is alive with wildlife and vegetation. Mountain lions, elk, coyotes, mule deer, foxes all call Mckittrick Canyon home. Plants include cacti, agaves, willows, ferns, ponderosa pines, all grow wild in the canyon. The deep sheer-sided canyon walls shelter you and all who call this area home. In late October and early November the foliage turns to brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges creating a prism of color. The main trail through the canyon is the Mckittrick Canyon Trail. This is a 6.8 mile roundtrip to the Grotto and back. This trail is flat and easy to walk. The scenery all along this trail makes the walk well worth the effort. At the Grotto there is a picnic area that offers tired feet a harbor. For the more adventurous types you can take a hike up to the Notch. This climb has been labeled " the toughest in the park." An 1800 foot ascent,that never ceases to amaze me. There is also high country camping at the Mckittrick Canyon Ridge a mile past the Notch that gains another 600 feet of elevation. Mckittrick canyon is a great area to explore. You will not be disappointed.
From the Guadalupe Mountains National Park main information center at the Pine Springs Office, turn left onto highway 180, it is a 7 mile drive to the canyon. The park rangers can give you all the information you need at the main office. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located 55 miles north of Van Horn Texas or 40 miles southwest of Carlsbad New Mexico.
There is no red tape. However the canyon is open from 8-6 April-October and from 8-4:30 November-April. All of this is in mountain time. Make sure you leave the canyon before they close the gates, otherwise your stuck!
There is camping up at the Mckittrick Canyon Ridge. You MUST obtain a permit to camp from the park rangers at the Pine Springs information center.The fees are as follows: $8 per night per sight, $25 minimum for group camping.
Please observe the following rules: 1. Stay on the trails; dont cut across swithbacks or create new trials.
2. Carry out all trash
3. Report any trail hazards to the Pine Springs information center. This is a very fragile enviornment. Please treat it as such!
Mountain lions frequent the Guadalupe mountains park area. Seeing one of these majestic animals wild in the park is a rare treat. However, you must be careful! If you encounter a cat always remember that they are just as scared of you. However they can be unpredictable. If you bring children to the canyon make sure they do not walk at the end of your group. If you encounter a pesky cat make yourself appear bigger than you are. Do not let your children run from a cat. The cat sees this as a prey move and they will attack.Keep your children close to you. Lift your arms above you and throw rocks at the cat. This should help. Report any cat sightings to the rangers. There are also black bears in this area. Stay away from a sow and her cubs. Most bear attacks are from sows defending their cubs. Never stare down a bear. Most bears view this as an act of aggression on your part. They will charge you. Make noise while you hike. This alerts any critters that you are in the area. The probability of you encountering a critter is low. You still need to be aware of their presence in the park. Rattlesnakes are also present in the canyon. These guys like to lounge around on the trails. You especially need to be careful when you are hiking to the Notch. There are many warm spots on the Notch trail. This is very inviting to a Rattler. Be aware of where you are stepping and placing your hands. Dont panic if you encounter one. Leave them alone and they usually go back into the bush. There are Tarantulas in this area. You can usually spot these guys late in the day.Hope you have a great time when you visit this beautiful canyon.
I have found that Van Horn has very affordable lodging. There are several inexpensive motels in the town. Prices range from $39 per night double occupancy to $95 a night. The Desert Inn(432-283-9030)on Broadway is the cheapest. Update: Dessert Inn is not the cheapest anymore. While still reasonable, there are other less expensive Motels on Broadway street.
Before you attempt this hike, especially if you are going to the Notch, check the local forecast @ Guadalupe.mountains.national-park.com.nps/gov/gumo/mckittrick.htm The Guadalupe Mountains have been known to have winds in excess of 100mph. Remember the Notch is considered to be a high country hike. All rules for inclement weather apply to this hike. The winds can rip through the canyon also. We experienced this on our most recent hike, Labor day 2007.