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Hermit Trail

Overview of the Hermit Trail

Originally used by ancient Native Americans, the Hermit Trail is one of the more secluded hikes in the Grand Canyon. Beginning near Hermit’s Rest on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, the Hermit is a favorite route to the Colorado River for those seeking solitude, views, and history.

  • LENGTH: 8.9 miles (one way to Colorado River)
  • ELEVATION CHANGE: 4,240 feet (one way to Colorado River)
  • WATER: Santa Maria Spring, Hermit Creek
  • CAMPING: Hermit Creek (BM7), Hermit Rapids (BM8) (permit required)
  • TRAIL ACCESS: Shuttle Bus, Personal vehicles with Backcountry Permit
  • VIEWS: 3/5
  • SECLUSION: 5/5

The Hermit Trail begins at Hermit’s Rest (off Hermit Road) and terminates at the Colorado River, approximately 8.9 miles beyond the trailhead. Access to the trailhead is available by shuttle bus during the spring, summer, and fall months. Private vehicles are able to park at the trailhead with a backpacking permit. Campgrounds are available at Hermit Creek (BM7) and Hermit Rapids (BM8), though a permit is required. Permits for backpacking and camping are available from the Grand Canyon Backcountry Information Center. There are two water sources along the Hermit Trail – the unreliable Santa Maria Spring, and the ever-flowing Hermit Creek. As always, water must be purified prior to drinking. The Hermit Trail is not maintained like other trails on the South Rim, and is steep, rocky, and strenuous in some places. Therefore, Hermit Trail is only recommended for experienced hikers.

Topographic Map of the Hermit Trail

Elevation Profile of the Hermit Trail

Hiking the Hermit Trail

The Hermit Trail begins with a steep descent into the Grand Canyon through a series of switchbacks which pass through the highest rock formation in the Grand Canyon – the Kaibab Limestone. After approximately 1 mile the trail crosses into the Coconino Sandstone, where fossilized reptile tracks can be seen in the sandstone beds. Approximately 1/4 mile beyond the fossil tracks, the trail crosses into the Hermit Shale, a slope-forming, easily weathered, red-colored rock unit. 1.5 miles beyond the trailhead is the Dripping Springs trail junction, which heads west to a small but reliable spring and the Boucher Trail, a difficult, less used trail leading to Boucher Rapids and the Colorado River.

The Dripping Springs Trail junction.  Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park.

The View from Lookout Point. Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park.

About 0.7 miles past the trail junction lies an impermanent water source- the Santa Maria Spring, where spring water is funneled into a small metal trough. A small stone rest house is also present near the spring. At this point the Hermit Trail has crossed into the Supai Formation, a geologic unit composed of several alternating shales and sandstones. The trail then levels out on the Redwall Limestone, atop which lies the next major trail feature- Lookout Point, which is located approximately 4 miles past the trailhead. Here hikers can enjoy stunning views of the inner gorge and rest before descending the next major challenge on the Hermit Trail- the Cathedral Stairs.

The Cathedral Stairs consist of steep and rocky switchbacks which follow a break in the Redwall Limestone.  A “break” refers to a point where an otherwise cliff-forming (and therefore impassable) rock unit has been eroded or faulted enough to become passable by foot. After descending down the stairs the trail flattens out, and hikers can enjoy the scenery of the Grand Canyon walls while walking along the Tonto Platform. Approximately 1 mile after beginning the descent down the Cathedral Stairs, the Hermit Trail joins up with the Tonto Trail, an east-west trending trail that connects many of the South Rim’s trails together. In fact, the Hermit Trail follows a small portion of the Tonto Trail west before dropping into Hermit Creek.

After following the Tonto Trail for approximately 1.5 miles, the trail enters Hermit Creek. A short hike (approximately 1/4 mile) down the drainage brings hikers to perennially flowing water and a campsite (B7). Permits must be obtained from the Grand Canyon Backcountry Information Center in order to camp here. Hermit Creek flows towards the Colorado River, and an unmaintained, 1.1 mile trail that follows the creek leads down to Hermit Rapids, where another campsite (B8) is available for permit holders.

A hiker nears Cathedral Stairs.  The Tonto Platform can be seen in the distance.  Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park.

History of the Hermit Trail

Similar to many other trails leading into the Grand Canyon, the Hermit Trail follows an ancient Native American route to the Colorado River. In 1911, the Santa Fe Railroad began improving the trail to facilitate travel to a luxurious campsite built inside Hermit Creek. The Hermit Camp, built 10 years prior to Phantom Ranch, included a tramway running from the South Rim. Abandoned in the 1930’s, not much of the camp is left standing today. The Hermit Trail remains a testament to a time when entrepreneurs sought to develop the inner Grand Canyon.

Hermit Camp, circa 1919.  This photograph was reproduced from a hand-colored lantern slide.  Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park.

James D. Boucher, aka the “Hermit.”

The trail is named after Louis D. Boucher, the so-called “hermit,” though the name is a bit of a misnomer. Although Boucher lived alone, he was a well-known figure in the South Rim community during his time there. Boucher lived near the trail for over 20 years and built the Boucher Trail, as well as seasonal homes near Dripping Springs and Boucher Creek.

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