Hermit Road

Map of Hermit Road

The Hermit Road and the mileage log start at the west end of Grand Canyon Village and follows the canyon rim to the west for 7 miles. The road ends at Hermits Rest and the Hermit Trailhead. The Rim Trail also follows the rim out to Hermits Rest.

0.0 Hermit/Village Shuttle Transfer Stop

Private cars are not allowed on the Hermit Road except during the winter. The shuttle is a great way to travel the Hermit Road because it stops at all the viewpoints. You can spend as much time at the viewpoints as you wish and catch the shuttle to the next one, or walk the Rim Trail between shuttle stops. The mileage log starts at the Hermit Shuttle Stop, located at the Bright Angel Trailhead at the west end of Grand Canyon Village. The Village Shuttle also stops here, allowing you to transfer between shuttles.

Another great way to enjoy the Hermit Road is by bicycle during spring, summer and fall when the free shuttle is operating. Because private cars are not allowed except during the winter, riding the Hermit Road is a quiet and relaxing experience. The shuttle buses have bicycle racks, so you can ride the Hermit Road one way and take the shuttle the other. The best way to do this is to take the shuttle to Hermits Rest and ride back to Grand Canyon Village, which avoids the climb from the Hermit/Village Shuttle Stop.

Before boarding the shuttle, have a look off the rim. You are standing at the head of Garden Creek, the canyon containing the Bright Angel Trail. You are also standing on the Bright Angel Fault. The rim to your left has been raised about 180 feet higher than the rim beneath your feet. The resulting fracture weakened the rocks and allowed water to carve out the canyon below you. The fault also broke down the Redwall limestone cliff at the head of Garden Creek and created a route that native Americans used to descend the canyon. The same break was used when the modern Bright Angel Trail was constructed. The Bright Angel Fault continues southwest across the Coconino Plateau behind you, and also to the northeast across the Grand Canyon onto the North Rim. Bright Angel Canyon follows the Bright Angel Fault north of the Colorado River, and the North Kaibab Trail in turn follows Bright Angel Canyon.

1.2 Trailview Overlook

Winter snow defines the terraces below Yavapai Point as seen from Trailview Overlook

Winter snow defines the terraces below Yavapai Point as seen from Trailview Overlook

Trailview Overlook looks to the east over upper Garden Creek and Grand Canyon Village. You are seemingly looking straight down on the Bright Angel Trail as it switchbacks down the break in the cliffs caused by the Bright Angel Fault. Most Grand Canyon trails and routes take advantage of such fault breaks.

The Redwall limestone is an especially formidable obstacle. This massive limestone formation is about halfway between rim and river and persists throughout the length of the Grand Canyon. The Redwall limestone forms about 1,000 miles of cliffs that are uniformly about 550 feet high throughout the Canyon. Along the length of the Grand Canyon there are only about 200 known breaks where the Redwall limestone can be descended without technical climbing gear. Although most of these breaks are mainly used by wildlife and the occasional backcountry hiker, all of the Grand Canyon's trails except for the North and South Kaibab trails use natural fault breaks in the Redwall limestone.

1.7 Maricopa Point

Maricopa Point

Maricopa Point

Maricopa Point overlooks the inactive Orphan Lode Mine, operated from 1891 to 1967. Originally a copper mine, the Orphan Lode began exploiting uranium deposits in the 1950s. Although the park now owns the mine, environmental cleanup has been difficult, which highlights the hazards associated with uranium mining in the region.

The Battleship, a distinctive butte in the reddish Supai formation, is prominent below to the northeast. For many years, employees of the Fred Harvey Company, which operated the hotels and concessions on the South Rim, would climb The Battleship on the Fourth of July and replace the American flag that flew on the summit. As Grand Canyon summits go, the Battleship is an easy climb. It can be reached from the Bright Angel Trail and a short cross-country hike along the terraces in the Supai formation. Easy rock scrambling leads to the summit. Still, it is not a hike for the inexperienced. Stick to the Bright Angel and Kaibab trails for your first hike into the canyon.

2.2 Powell Point

The Battleship from Powell Point

The Battleship from Powell Point

Powell Point commemorates the two historic voyages of exploration down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon undertaken by Major John Wesley Powell and his boat crews in 1869 and 1871. Major Powell named the Grand Canyon and was the first to explore and map the region. Before Powell's first voyage, the Grand Canyon region was marked "unexplored" on maps. Many predicted that Powell's voyage would end in disaster because the Colorado River would go over a waterfall that could not be portaged or run, and the expedition would be trapped in a canyon that could not be climbed.

Powell, as a trained geologist, was certain that there would be no waterfalls in the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers that he proposed to run. Waterfalls are very young landscape features (Niagara Falls is less than 10,000 years old) and Powell knew that the Grand Canyon is millions of years old. He did assume that there would be ferocious rapids along the river, so he ordered strong oak boats. Although his boats didn't turn out to be the best river craft, they did the job. Powell and his men ran the river system from Green River, Wyoming, without any serious injuries or loss of life.

Powell brought along a photographer and an artist, so his expeditions not only produced the first detailed maps of the region, but also the first images of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, as he named the canyon.

2.4 Hopi Point

Hopi Point

Hopi Point

Hopi Point is a good place to catch the sunset glow on the canyon walls to the north and east and also offers views of the Colorado River. Dana Butte forms the end of the Redwall limestone point almost directly to the north. There are restrooms at Hopi Point.

The view from Hopi Point is the classic eastern Grand Canyon panorama. The upper two-thirds of the canyon is a sequence of cliffs formed in the hard Kaibab limestone, Supai formation, and Redwall limestone. Narrow terraces between the cliffs are formed on the softer rocks of the Toroweap formation, Hermit shale, and shale layers in the Supai formation.

About 3,500 feet below the rim, a major terrace forms on the Bright Angel shale. This shale layer is much thicker than the shale layers above and below, so the soft rock erodes easily and undermines the Muav and Redwall limestone cliffs above. The cliffs recede to form a wide terrace known as the Tonto Plateau. This plateau is about 1,200 feet above the Colorado River and is the dominant terrace in the eastern third of the Grand Canyon, which is the portion visible from the Hermit Road.

3.1 Mohave Point

Mohave Point

Mohave Point

Mohave Point is a good spot for canyon sunrises, as it looks north and west at rock faces lit by the rising sun. It also offers views of the Tonto Plateau, Granite Gorge, and the Colorado River.

While most of the trails in the Grand Canyon descend from rim to river, several trails traverse the terraces in the canyon. The best known such trail is the Tonto Trail, which winds along the Tonto Plateau from Red Canyon on the east to Garnet Canyon on the west, a distance of 72 miles. The trail was originally built by prospectors but very little of the trail was actually constructed. Most of the trail was created from the repeated passage of miners and their pack animals. Some construction was done where the trail crossed side canyons. When prospecting ceased in the Grand Canyon after the creation of the national park, the Tonto Trail fell into disuse and was maintained mostly by wild burros, the feral descendants of the prospector's pack stock.

As you can see by looking down on the Tonto Plateau from Mohave Point, the Tonto Trail is anything but straight. The trail is constantly detouring around the heads of side canyons and side-side canyons as well as every little ravine. It spends some of its time out on the very edge of the gorge containing the Colorado River, but much of the time the Tonto Trail is back in the recesses of the canyons. Not so apparent from the rim viewpoints is the fact that the Tonto Plateau is anything but level. It only appears flat from above because of the extreme terrain above and below. While hiking the Tonto Trail you are constantly climbing and descending and winding around side canyons. It's definitely an exercise in patience. The best thing to do is take your time and enjoy the ever-changing views.

3.7 The Abyss

Early morning light on Point Sublime and the North Rim from The Abyss overlook

Early morning light on Point Sublime and the North Rim from The Abyss overlook

At The Abyss, the shale layers that normally form terraces between the upper cliffs are unusually thin, so the cliffs form a nearly sheer wall below the South Rim at the head of Monument Creek. This is a vivid example of how small variations in the rock layers can create major differences in the topography of the Grand Canyon. In fact, the upper cliffs of the Grand Canyon are so persistent and have so few breaks along the Hermit Road that there are no known routes from the rim to the Colorado River between the Bright Angel and Hermit trails.

5.2 Monument Creek Vista

Monument Creek Vista

Monument Creek Vista

Overlooking the headwaters of Monument Creek, this viewpoint and shuttle stop is also the trailhead for the Greenway Trail, a handicap-accessible trail following the old 1912 alignment of Hermit Road. Monument Creek features a permanent stream and has created a ferocious rapid where it meets the Colorado River.

Contrary to popular impressions, rapids along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon are not the remnants of old waterfalls. Instead, every Grand Canyon rapid forms where debris has been washed down a side canyon into the river. When a heavy thundershower or prolonged rain falls into a side canyon, the resulting runoff quickly gathers speed as it descends the steep slopes of bare rock and sparsely vegetated soil. The ability of flowing water to carry sand, pebbles, cobbles, and boulders increases rapidly with the water's speed, enabling the flooding side canyon to carry large amounts of debris to the river. This debris forms a partial dam in the river. The river ponds up behind the dam and then gains speed over the submerged rocks, creating a rapid. Because the river flows much more slowly than the side canyon floods, it takes hundreds of years to wear away the boulders that created the rapid.

6.2 Pima Point

Sunrise patterns from Pima Point

Sunrise patterns from Pima Point

Pima Point looks down on Hermit Camp, the site of a major tourist camp operated on the edge of Hermit Creek on the Tonto Plateau. An aerial tramway once spanned the 4,000-foot space between Pima Point and Hermit Camp and was used to haul supplies to and from the site.

When Grand Canyon National Park was created in 1919, the present Grand Canyon Village was already the focus of tourist activity on the South Rim due to the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad a few years before. The only problem was that there wasn't a freely accessible trail to the Colorado River. The Bright Angel Trail was still privately owned, and the owner charged an exorbitant fee for the use of his trail. Fred Harvey Company wanted to build a tourist camp below the rim, so they built the Hermit Road out to to the head of Hermit Canyon west of Grand Canyon Village, and then built the Hermit Trail down Hermit Creek to the Colorado River.

Hermit Camp was established on the Tonto Plateau just east of Hermit Creek. Tent cabins accommodated guests, and the camp was complete with running water and even a Model T Ford that was sent down in pieces on the aerial tramway. Hermit Trail continued to the river along lower Hermit Creek, though little of the original construction has survived the periodic floods.

When the National Park Service gave up on buying the Bright Angel Trail and constructed the South Kaibab Trail as an alternate route to the river below Grand Canyon Village in the late 1920's, Fred Harvey Company opened a new tourist camp, Phantom Ranch, along lower Bright Angel Creek. When the North Kaibab Trail was completed, creating a trail across the Grand Canyon from Grand Canyon Village to North Rim Village, Phantom Ranch took over from Hermit Camp as the premier tourist camp within the canyon, and Hermit Camp was abandoned.

7.1 Hermits Rest

Hermits Rest

Hermits Rest

Hermit Road ends here, at the small gift shop and snack bar occupying the historic building designed by famed Grand Canyon architect Mary Colter. Hermits Rest is also the trailhead for the Hermit Trail, originally built to access Hermit Creek. The Dripping Springs Trail connects the upper Hermit Trail to the upper Boucher Trail, and together with a segment of the Tonto Trail forms a loop hike very popular with backpackers. A rewarding day hike can be made down the upper Hermit Trail to Santa Maria Spring. The spring is not reliable but the view is.