Distance: 19.6 miles round-trip from the trailhead to the Colorado River
Duration: 2 days or more
Elevation loss: 4,240 feet from rim to river
Trailhead: At Hermits Rest
Hermit Trail begins at the end of the service road west of Hermits Rest. December–February, private vehicles can drive Hermit Road to Hermits Rest and park at the signed parking area at the end of the road. March–November, access is via the Hermits Rest Route shuttle, although backpackers can go to the Backcountry Information Center and request the gate combination to Hermit Road in order to park a private vehicle at the trailhead.
Completed by the Santa Fe Railway in 1912, scenic Hermit Trail is steep but relatively easy to follow. It’s a good trail to try after you’ve had some experience on the corridor trails, offering beautiful views of Hermit Creek Canyon, good day-hike destinations, or an overnight not far from the lush riparian environment of year-round Hermit Creek.
The trail descends toward Hermit Creek Canyon, passing through piñon-juniper woodland and chaparral of the Kaibab, Toroweap, and Coconino Formations. The reddish slopes of Hermit shale that mark Hermit Basin, near the intersection with the Waldron Trail at 1.5 miles, make a good turnaround point for a 2–4-hour day hike.
Stronger day hikers can continue another mile down switchbacks to ledges of Supai sandstone and Santa Maria Spring. En route, at 1.75 miles, the trail intersects the Dripping Springs Trail. Take the right fork to continue on the Hermit Trail to the Santa Maria Spring Resthouse (2.5 miles). The undependable trickle of water here must be treated before drinking.
The Hermit Trail continues through the red rocks of the Supai to the top of the Redwall Formation, then descends down switchbacks known as the Cathedral Stairs before angling west and intersecting with the eastbound Tonto Trail at the seven-mile point.
In less than a mile, a signed junction indicates the trail to Hermit Rapids. This trail descends to Hermit Creek and follows the dry creek bed to the Colorado River, another 1.5 miles. The left fork, signed “Hermit Creek,” first passes the rarely used Hermit Ranger Station, then leads to the ruins of Hermit Creek Camp, operated by the Santa Fe Railroad from 1913 to 1930.
The present-day campsites are below the ruins on a bench of Tapeats sandstone. Near camp is the westbound Tonto Trail. To get to the river, follow the Tapeats narrows downstream 1.4 miles, until it opens onto a sandy beach above Hermit Rapids, another area where backpackers can set up camp.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition