Our hike up McKittrick Canyon to “The Notch” and back was around 10 miles with all our exploring and add ons. The sky was cloudy and the wind was gusting when we started but after the first mile or so it died down and by mile 3 the sun was out and it was warm. The trail is pretty flat for the first 3.6 miles to the grotto and then it kicks up with rocky switchbacks up to the notch. It’s worth it!
The trail is a wide, fairly flat gravel path for a little ways as it crosses a stream a couple times. Before long the desert gives way to highland forest. Agaves, prickly pear cacti, chollas, yuccas and sotol turn to Ponderosa, Juniper, and Texas madrones. After 2.4 miles we reached Pratt Cabin. The rock cabin was built in 1931-32 for Mr. Pratt, who in 1930 purchased much of the land that is McKittrick Canyon today. The cabin is made almost entirely of stone…even the roof!
Continuing on at 3.4 miles we reached the Grotto. The Grotto is where dripping water percolates down through the limestone and calcium carbonate amasses into stalagmites and stalagmites in the cave. It was still pretty early so we kept hiking to “The Notch”.
After a series of steep rocky switchbacks, at 6045′ we reached “The Notch”, our turn around point. We took yet more pictures, sat and ate our sandwiches, and studied the mountains. It was so awesome up there!
The hike back down to the start went quickly but I was glad I had hiking poles for the top section. Tomorrow we’re touring Carlsbad Caverns, can’t wait!