Directions: The trailhead is about five hundred feet west of the Hermit’s Rest viewpoint. The trail starts and descends through a series of switchbacks in a sparsely populated pinyon pine forest. Prior to hiking ther Hermit Trail, I had heard that it was unmantained, but from what I saw, the trail is in good to excellent condition, and is very easy to follow. In all fairness, I did not hike the whole trail; but from what I could see in the first four miles of trail, there were no route finding difficulties.
The trail snakes south at first, into an “finger” or “slot” of the Grand Canyon, which is a different – and somewhat welcome change from the Rim, Kaibab, Bright Angel, and Longview Trails which all head directly North into the main body of the Canyon. The descent at this point is gradual, and the view allows views of the rim along the Southern, Northern, and Western regions of the canyon. The trail then levels out into long, sloping switchbacks that descend into the Canyon, some of which are covered with rocky “cobbles”. One thing to bear in mind is that after descending roughly five hundred feet, there is little to no shade for this portion of the trail. The obvious tip about this is that one should have plenty of sunscreen and water before attempting any sort of hike in the Grand Canyon.
In this area, some people will go so far as to “cache” water bottles under rocks and other areas surrounding the trails in order not to have to carry the extra weight. On their return trip, these parties will then retrieve the water. While water caching can be a help for multiple day trips in the desert, I’m on the fence about advocating it for day hikers. My personal preference is to carry an excess of water, in case of emergencies, even on day hikes, but hikers should do what makes them comfortable. After the long, rocky switchbacks end, the trail levels out into a lightly forested plateau – otherwise known as the “Hermit Basin”. Aside from the comforting shade that the trees provide, this first plateau also demonstrates the grand size of the canyon. At this point, a person is approximately – by my inaccurate calculations – one quarter of the way into the Canyon – about fourteen hundred feet under the rim.
If you look up at this point (and there’s no reason why you wouldn’t) the enormous rock walls of the canyon attest that this distance is absolutely humongous. However, there are several convenient vantage points in this area of that display the lower canyon in all of its redness and challenge your perspective about just how “big” the above walls are. Once you are done admiring the view, a decision will need to be made about which portion of the trail you want to follow. The main Hermit Trail splits off to the North, and begins to descend into the canyon proper. The rest of the trail continues toward the Southwest, and is the “Dripping Springs/Boucher Trail”. At this juncture, I’ll note that ascending the switchbacks back to the rim on any of the trails of the Grand Canyon is more difficult than descending. Therefore, while the distance to the first plateau is comparatively short, less experienced hikers may want to consider turning around for the rim, as the return trip does take longer in most cases, and definitely requires more energy.
At this point, the trail follows what I call a series of small “dips”. It snakes right under the rim, and ascends, and descends a series of small hills. Depending on what time of the year it is, and what time of day it is, the rim above provides some much needed shade over the trail, cooling the temperature dramatically. In conjunction with the mild up and down motion, the trail snakes in and out of a series of very small slot canyons that provide excellent cut-away views of the main canyon to the north. After this series of dips and right and left turns, the trail arrives at Dripping Springs. This hike was a spectacular hike with a variety of terrain and features, and provided excellent views of the canyon, with less traffic than some of the main trails in the South Rim region.