The Bright Angel Trail was the beginning of many new adventures for the Grand Canyon, including the infamous toll charges. In an effort to bypass the fee, Hermit Trail was constructed, named after the small camp near Hermit Creek, which was used as a stopping point for camping parties in the mid 1920s. Constructed and elaborated by the prospector Dan Hogan, horse-thiefs, and the Santa Fe Railroad alike, the Hermit Trail today is one of the most rugged and adventuresome in the park, drawing hikers from around the world to experience a terrain that goes back ages.
While the trail itself is named after the creek whereupon the campsite was built, the “hermit” who named the creek was Louis D. Boucher, a bachelor who lived in the area for over 20 years and built the Boucher Trail and other residences near the South Rim.
The trailhead is located approximately 8 miles (13 km) west of Hermit Transfer along Hermit Road. Access to this road is a bit of a hassle as you’ll need a code to bypass the gate enclosing the road. That being said, obtaining a backcountry permit (which will be required for most hikes, if you plan to camp anywhere below the rim), will guarantee passage. About a fourth of a mile (.5 km) from Hermit’s Rest, you’ll see the dirt path that marks the trailhead.
While in its pioneering days, the Hermit Trail was an ambitious project that included a paved walkway, today the only constancy comes from the first few miles of steeply descending terrain, as the stone slabs used initially have almost completely eroded. Most Grand Canyon projects utilizing natural elements are risky, as erosion is a constant and powerful force.
Sweating your way through the first couple of miles is well worth the effort as the Santa Maria Spring offers shade and potentially, some water to cool off. Located precisely where it needs to be, right after the steep descent and before the scramble across the Supai formation, hikers are recommended to rest here to prepare for the next section. Erosion has been heavy in this area, causing a jagged and rough throughout the Supai section. Much of the path here has deteriorated and more than following a path, hikers must make one. Proceed with caution.
Beyond the Cathedral Stairs, the harshest part of the descent has ended. From here, you can follow the Tonto Trail toward Hermit Campsite and from there proceed about a mile further toward Hermit Rapids and the Colorado River.
At 9 miles (14 km) to the Colorado River, with an elevation change of nearly 4,500 ft (1370 m), the Hermit Trail is one of the most strenuous hikes you could opt for as a day-hike. There are sections that will truly challenge even an experienced hiker, and being an unmaintained route, help along the trail is extremely limited. Keep this in mind if you plan to hike this route.