The Hermit Trail, like many other Grand Canyon trails, began as an indian route. The trail was improved by prospectors and was originally know as Horsethief Trail. A prospector by the name of Dan Hogan began construction of the modern Hermit Trail in 1896. The trail was further improved by the Santa Fe Railroad about a decade and a half later. They used this trail as an entry into the Canyon in an effort to bypass the toll that was currently being charged for use of the Bright Angel Trail. They constructed a small camp, Hermit Camp, at the end of the trail, near where Hermit Creek cuts through the Tonto Platform and descends to meet the Colorado River. Hermit Camp provided a stop-over point for parties headed for the river and was active until the 1930's. At that point the National Park Service had acquired the Bright Angel Trail and had also constructed an additional cross-canyon route by way of the North and South Kaibab trails. With the trailheads for these trails being closer to the railhead the Santa Fe decided to move their tourist operations into that area. Hermit Camp is now abandoned and the structures have been removed. Some of the foundations still remain and can be seen from many points along the Hermit and Boucher Trails as well as from the Pima Point overlook out on the Hermit Road.
The trailhead for the Hermit Trail is located just beyond Hermit's Rest on the Hermit Road. From late Spring through early Fall you can reach Hermit's Rest via the West Rim Shuttle bus. From there it's just a quarter mile or so walk to the trailhead. When the shuttle is not running you can drive directly to the trailhead or arrange for a taxi to drop you off.
Mileages are as follows (one-way):
Dripping Springs Trail junction- 1.6 miles
Hermit Camp - 7 miles
Colorado River - 8.5 miles
Rim - 6640'
Dripping Springs Trail junction - 5240', 1400' below rim
Hermit Camp - 2800', 3840' below rim
Colorado River - 2400', 4240' below rim
The Hermit Trail is not maintained by the National Parks Service (NPS) but is well-defined for the most part. There are a few areas of the trail that have been damaged or wiped out by rock slides. One large rockslide wiped out a good sized section of the trail so don't attempt this trail at night. The trail is steep and rocky and the weight of your pack will put a real strain on your shoulders and knees. This is not a good trail for a day hike. There are 3 trails that join Hermit trail: Waldron Trail (1.25 miles) then Dripping Springs(1.6 miles). Stay to the right there may not be any street signs. Then finally the Tonto Trail, at approximately 5.5 miles, where you go left at Tonto trail to Hermit Camp and/or the Colorado River. There is a rest House and toilet facilities a little over 2 miles from the trail head at Santa Maria Springs. Check with the Backcountry office about water availability before you head down this trail as there is no more water till you reach Hermit Camp or the Colorado River. This area is the beginning of the Rock slides - there is a small slide right there at Santa Maria Springs and just beyond that there is another. Then a little further down is a Large Slide. Backpackers have been making a few cairns along this large slide to help find the trail again. Basically you descend the first area of the slide then cut back to the East. After the large slide there should not be any other problems (except for sore knees aching backs blisters and heat) The trail flattens out for a mile or so before it descends down onto the Tonto Plateau. When you reach the Tonto trail Junction you are about 1.5 miles from Hermit Camp. The trail remains mostly flat but there isn't any Shade to speak of. Just Before you reach Hermit Camp the trail to the river cuts off to the right it begins with a sharp descent then generally stays in the creek bed. There are some Cairns along the way fallow them if you can it will make things easier. It’s about 1.5 miles to The Colorado River from Hermit Camp.
(Steep) The Hermit trail offers hikes to Santa Maria Spring, 5 miles (round trip), and Dripping Springs, 7 miles (round trip). Trail conditions are tougher than the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails. Unmaintained steep trail requires caution. Begins 500 feet west of Hermits Rest. Water from springs must be treated before drinking. For experienced desert hikers.
Water, water, and more water. A gallon per person per day in the summer. Also lots of snacks (preferably salty) Hiking boots and a good hat to keep the sun off your face. Trekking poles will save your knees on the way down. Crampons and layered clothing (winter)
If you wish to camp anywhere in the park, other than in developed campgrounds on the North Rim, South Rim, or Tuweep, you must obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center.
A backcountry permit is not required for:
day horseback riding
overnight camping at Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, North Rim Campground (summer season only), and Tuweep Campground
overnight stays at the dormitories or cabins at Phantom Ranch (advanced reservations with Xanterra Parks & Resorts required)
There is a non-refundable fee of $10 per permit plus $5 per person per night camped below the rim and $5 per group per night camped above the rim.