The Hermit Trail is one of the Grand Canyon classics, though it is much less traveled than the popular Bright Angel or South Kaibab Trails. This corridor to the Colorado River offers vantages of the western part of the park that you won't get from the other South Rim trails, and a major plus is that Hermit is free from mules and waste. Expect a more rugged journey here, however. Because the trail is not maintained, erosion has left parts of the trail rocky or partially washed out.
But it was not always this way. The Hermit Trail was one of the original routes to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and a lodge thrived at Hermit Creek a decade before Phantom Ranch was built. From 1911 until 1930 when the camp ceased operations, Hermit Trail was the primary means of access to the lodge, though an aerial tramway was engineered to deliver guests in luxury. The tramway and buildings have long since been dismantled, and old cobbles on Hermit Trail were intentionally removed to return the area to a wilder state. Keep an eye out for relics of this Grand Canyon history. You can still find well-worn stones on the pathway and evidence of century-old development near Hermit Creek.
This trail is also testament to the geologic history of the canyon and landscapes that existed eons before the first human travelers. Just below the rim, notice the limestone fossil beds of seashells and sponges that inhabited a shallow sea. Further down the switchbacks, look carefully for the frozen footprints in Coconino sandstone. These are tracks of primitive reptiles that scurried across prehistoric sand dunes. You can tell by the tracks which ones were climbing up the sandy slope and which ones were sliding down, which ones dragged their tails and which ones did not. As you descend further into the canyon you'll travel through more geologic legacies: a river delta, a rising and receding ocean, a coastal plain, and volcanic eruptions. Try to imagine the environmental phases that have continually formed this timeless place.
Like any trail in the Grand Canyon, Hermit Creek is a serious desert hiking endeavor. Remember that temperatures climb as you descend, and water is precious. Between Santa Maria Spring and the creeks near the river, there are no water sources. Be prepared with all the water, calories, and endurance necessary for your trip.
Hermit Trail is accessed from Hermit Road, which is closed to most traffic during the high season. To get to the trail as a day hiker you will have to ride the free shuttle from Grand Canyon Village. If you have a backcountry camping permit, you will also receive a gate code and a parking pass so you can drive the road in your own vehicle and leave it parked at the trailhead for the duration of your trip.
Trailhead to Hermit Creek Camp: 8.2 miles
Trailhead to Colorado River at Hermit Rapid: 9.7 miles
Trailhead to Monument Creek Camp: 9.3 miles
Trailhead to Colorado River at Granite Rapid: 10.3 miles