Thing to Do

Overnight on McKittrick Ridge

A mountainous ridge with trees and rocks looms in the distance
McKittrick Ridge

NPS Photo

The journey to the top of McKittrick Ridge is "the toughest hike in Texas." This very strenuous hike is best enjoyed as an overnight experience. This route takes you through MicKittrick Canyon up the steepest trail in the park. At the halfway point to the ridge is "The Notch", where there is a spectacular view of the canyon both directions. As you continue, don't be fooled by the false summits that make you think you've nearly reached the top! The hike from the contact station to the ridge and back is 14.8 miles. (7.4 miles one way to McKittrick Ridge Campground).

Distance: 14.8 miles (round-trip, out and back—7.4 miles one way from the trailhead to McKittrick Ridge Campground)
Elevation Change: 2,700 feet
Time Estimate: 6-8 hours to reach the campsites
Difficulty: Strenuous
Duration: Minimum of one night, two days.
Trailheads: start and end at the McKittrick Canyon Trailhead

This trail guide provides a mileage chart, map, and visual description of the trail [4.85 MB PDF].
Details
The need to carry all water with you is the primary limiting factor for all WIlderness trips in the Guadalupe Mountains. 
Wilderness Use Permit is required for overnight use of any wilderness camping sites.
Pets disturb wildlife and are not allowed on trails. Your pets should remain at home as opportunities for pets are very limited in the park.
From McKittrick Canyon trailhead, the distance is 7.6 miles, with the elevation gain (significant for quite some distance) of over 2700 feet. If you'd like to visit this beautiful ridge without quite the workout, begin instead at Dog Canyon.
Wilderness Use Permit is required for overnight use of any wilderness camping sites.
The McKittrick Canyon Trailhead is a day use area. Overnight parking is allowed only for permitted users of the Wilderness on backpacking trips. 
Accessibility Information

Trail surfaces are loose rock or hardened rock surfaces. Hiking or trekking poles are highly recommended. Trail widths vary from two to six feet depending on the trail. 

Parking

All trailhead areas have accessible parking available. 

Service animals 

Only service animals that have been individually trained to perform specific tasks for the benefit of persons with disabilities are allowed in the park and on trails.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

3D map image of the trails in McKittrick Canyon
3D map image of the trails in McKittrick Canyon
Map of the trails in McKittrick Canyon
Map of the trails in McKittrick Canyon
Mileage and elevation chart for trails in McKittrick Canyon
Mileage and elevation chart for trails in McKittrick Canyon

Last updated: November 23, 2021