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HERMIT TRAIL

It should go without saying that all trails are fairly strenuous in the Grand Canyon. If you have hiked the Bright Angel Trail or South Kaibab, this 18-mile (approx.) out and back Hermit Trail might be next on your list?! It is accessible all year-round, has a range of activity options and is rated intermediate–difficult.
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This trail was built by horse thieves in the last decade of the 19th century and later improved by prospectors of that era.

The “hermit” of the Hermit Creek basin was Louis D. Boucher who lived in the area for 20 years. Boucher was described as a hermit because he lived alone, but was in fact socially active within the South Rim community

Fun Facts

One of six “rim-to-river” routes along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Hermit Trail is less trafficked, and in places, more arduous than the others. The terrain is good underfoot and there is a developed trailhead but it’s not normally attempted as a day hike, unless you turn around at Santa Maria Springs (5 miles round trip). You will probably wish to spend at least one night at the Hermit Creek or Hermit Rapids campgrounds.

History of the trail

The Hermit Trail has an interesting history. In 1910, in order to compete with the Bright Angel Trail which operated a toll, the Atchision, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad further improved the trail. Until the 1930s, the railroad ran the Hermit Camp about 7 trail miles below the rim but from then on, the National Park Service took over control of the Bright Angel Trail and abolished tolls. 

A great deal of the pioneering period of Northern Arizona history centers on the development of projects and schemes to promote and capitalize on the unique aura of the Grand Canyon. One of the biggest improvement projects was at the Hermit Creek basin and initiated by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1911. This project included considerable development of the rim and a progressive and modern rim-to-river trail. The Hermit Trail was constructed to serve a luxury campsite, Hermit Camp, near Hermit Creek, predating Phantom Ranch by 10 years. Such was the luxury of the day, it had a tramway from the rim, a car for transport within the camp and a Fred Harvey chef (one of the first restaurant chains in the US). The camp ceased to be in 1930 but for 20 years, Hermit Camp was the ultimate in luxury tourism below the rim.

Trail description

Time and erosion have taken a heavy toll on the Hermit Trail and it is a shadow of what it was in its heyday. However for experienced and knowledgeable canyon backpackers the trail still offers a direct link to the heady early days of the Grand Canyon. A gravel path from the trailhead leads to a steep and steady descent through various layers of limestone and sandstone rock. After a series of switchbacks, at 1.3 miles, you will reach the junction with the Waldron Trail coming in from the left. Half a mile further on you reach another junction with the Dripping Spring Trail where you must veer right to continue on the Hermit trail. The path offers varied scenery from the cliff-bound Hermit Basin along the canyon of Hermit Creek to the Tonto Bench then on through the narrower enclosed section to its end at Hermit Rapids.

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Name: Hermit Trail

Location: the trailhead begins 500 ft (152 m) West of Hermits Rest, West Rim Drive. Trailhead starts at 6640ft / 2024m and ends at Hermit Rapids near the Colorado at the bottom of the canyon. Latitude: 36° 03' 37.66" N Longitude: -112° 12' 43.92" W

Duration: 2-3 days from the trailhead to Hermit Rapid

Difficulty: intermediate - difficult / strenuous

Distance: 9.7 miles (9 miles to the Colorado River) - 18.6 miles return (approx.)

Elevation change: 4240 ft / 1292 m

What to take: see Ultimate Packing Guide

Water Stations: no drinking water along the trail. You need to take enough water for entire hike; water at springs must be treated. Drinking water available at Hermits Rest

Facilities: no restrooms

When to go: Spring

How to get there: from March 1 – November 30 Hermit Road is only open to shuttle buses. The road may also close, at short notice due to bad weather conditions

Parking information: you can park at the Back Country Office (BCO) in the village or with a permit for the trail, you can drive your car to the trailhead but you need to get the entry code from the BCO. Check the park website for more information

Shuttle bus: March 1- November 30, Hermits Rest Route shuttle bus provides transportation between the Village Route Transfer and Hermits Rest. For schedules and stops visit: go.nps.gov/gc_shuttle

Permit required: yes if you intend to camp at Hermit Campground, you will need to get a permit some months in advance to camp here

Lodgings: camp at Hermit Creek or Hermit Rapids Campground. This area is

heavily shaded and just a campground to sleep at

Why is it for you: it’s less trafficked and a nostalgic reminder of America’s

pioneering days

Sherpa Sam's recommendation: there is a lot of noise on the Hermit Trail

from sightseeing helicopters

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