Hermit Trail begins just past Hermit's Rest from the west end of Grand Canyon National Park.
Hermit Trail, Santa Maria Spring, Lookout Point and Dripping Springs
Hermit Trail is a favorite hike with several spectacular options and this famous hiking trail also boasts a Canadian connection.
Today's hike is the Hermit Trail, 8 miles (12.8 KM) west of Grand Canyon Village. Inner canyon temperatures are forecast at 106 F in the shade. The Backcountry Office in Grand Canyon Village confirms there are permanent water sources available at Dripping Springs and Santa Maria Spring. In the desert, this information is 'must know'. Continuing life may depend on it.
Interesting light beams cross the top of the Grand Canyon through early morning mist while waiting for the West Rim shuttle bus to provide transportation to the end stop at Hermit's Rest.
Past the Hermit’s Rest stone arch are the gift shop and snack bar constructed by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1914 based on a design by renowned architect Mary Jane Colter.
It is a ¼ mile (0.4 KM) hike west from this architecturally fascinating structure to the Hermit trail-head at 6,640 ft (1,994 m) of elevation. Descent begins at this familiar and steep trail on multiple switchbacks. Sections of the trail are constructed with well-crafted, cobblestone surfaces.
At the junction of the Waldron Trail and the Dripping Springs Trail, the turn right begins the hike to Santa Maria Spring at 4,880 ft. (1,487 m) elevation. There is a wood and stone covered shelter, with benches and a toad stool-shaped, stone end table. The shelter is covered with vines which makes the interior cooler and more comfortable.
This shelter was constructed as a rest stop for the guided mule trips Louis conducted to his camp. In 1912, the Hermit Trail was remote but considered the jewel of inner canyon tour trails. Next to the shelter a trough of spring-fed water is full. Nearby, two rustic and quaint stone outhouses are constructed against a huge rock below the trail. It would be a mistake to exit either outhouse at high speed since they are perched on the edge of a formidable cliff.
Past Santa Maria Spring good trail descends through red rock on switchbacks to a short side-excursion for excellent views from Panorama Point.
About a mile later on the descent of Hermit Trail, a large section of the trail has been wiped out by a major rock fall. Although the continuation of the trail is visible much deeper in the canyon, there is no evidence of a route which links to the present location. A faint path at the top leads nowhere, and it is necessary to retrace steps losing ½ an hour in the process.
The descent scramble over large boulders heads down the rock fall to successfully locate and link to the continuation of the trail which now traverses through spectacular rock formations. In the morning shade the temperature is still comfortable around 90 F. There is an overlook branch off the trail to gain wonderful views of the inner canyon from the tip of Lookout Point at 4,600 ft. (1,402 m) of elevation.
Louis Boucher's camp is about 1,800 vertical feet (549 m) below at the base of this point. The continuation of Hermit Trail and the Tonto Trail are clearly visible far below. The sun has come around and heat rapidly increases.
Heat and timing become an issue which leads to the decision that descending further towards the Colorado River is unwise. The attractive option is to head back up and hike the impressive and familiar Dripping Springs Trail.
Dripping Springs is a familiar and spectacular trail, among the very best experienced in a lifetime. The decision to modify the objective will position a retreat from higher in the Canyon from a much better position with less elevation to the rim.
On the return scramble up the rock fall, small rock cairns are placed to assist those who follow in route finding. The ascent proceeds past Santa Maria Spring to the Dripping Springs trail junction.
When Louis Boucher arrived at the Grand Canyon, Dripping Springs was one of his first camp sites. He raised goldfish in the spring water. There is minor elevation change in the 1½ miles (2.4 KM) between the Waldron trail junction and the springs at 5,400 ft (1,646 m) of elevation.
Several sections of this short trail literally skirt the brink of vertical canyon walls where it is important to watch where feet are landing. Often they are inches from 2,000 feet (610 m) of air along safe trail. The views are absolutely awesome, so the repetitive rhythm of walk, stop and look around, works well. Walking and gawking at the same time is discouraged unless the hiker happens to be packing a parachute.
The Dripping Springs hike proceeds toward a lush green patch at the bottom of a massive limestone cliff. Dripping Springs is a wide, shallow grotto. Following rain, water leaches through the thick limestone cliffs above and drips onto the floor like a giant shower through hundreds of locations in the roof of the grotto. In previous visits the timing has never been right to witness the weeping process and this day will be no different.
Today the only source of water is from the spring but there are hundreds of dimples in the sandy floor from a recent event. The 120 F heat of the sun is beginning to take its toll. Boots and socks are removed and feet are elevated to enjoy lunch in shade surrounded by lush greenery and sculpted walls.
There are hanging ferns and other plants in the rock crevices. Following a good rest, the departure initiates the return hike to the rim. Pointy trail-side cactus and yucca are hazards to be avoided.
The 'hermit' was mining prospector, Louis Boucher, a colorful and reclusive French-Canadian, who is reported as being affable, well-liked and respected for his development effort in the Grand Canyon following his arrival near 1890.
Hermits Rest, Hermit Road, Hermit Trail, Boucher Trail and Hermit Camp are all named after Louis Boucher. Like every eager prospector, he did not make much money in mining but Louis tended the claims in his part of the canyon for many years. He constructed the Silver Bell Trail (named after his mule), now known as the Hermit and Dripping Springs Trails.
Shortly following his arrival Louis erected tents, built a corral for horses, mules and sheep, planted a garden, an orchard, built the Boucher Trail to the Colorado River and constructed a second home near a copper vein deeper in the Canyon about a mile from the Colorado River. Like all Grand Canyon prospectors he survived on tourism income.
Back at the rim the shuttle provides passage back to Grand Canyon Village for a late supper at Bright Angel Restaurant. Dinner at the Bright Angel, with after dinner views across the Grand Canyon, is an excellent way to end another magnificent day of spectacular hiking in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA.