Great Hikes: Hermit's Rest Route, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Quick and Dirty
DIFFICULTY: easy in spring & fall, moderate in summer.
TYPE: out and back or out and bus ride back
LENGTH: 7 or 14 miles
TIME: 3 or 6 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: easy
DOG FRIENDLY: dogs allowed but not recommended
Hermit's Rest is an exquisite stone and beam building designed by renown female architect Mary Colter. She was one of the very few women architects during her time and many of her works are at the Grand Canyon National Park. If you are interested in pioneers in women's architecture, you really need to look her up. Google is your friend.
The structure was erected in 1914 as a rest stop for motor tours of the Grand Canyon by the Fred Harvey Company. He is the guy that put Harvey Houses along the popular railroad routes of the day and employed the famous Harvey Girls. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Today, it is the western terminus of the Rim Trail and serves as a snack bar for hikers and visitors.
The Hermit's Rest Route is a section of the 13 mile Rim Trail. It starts next to the Bright Angel Lodge and continues west for 7 miles. There are outlooks along the way, and a paved road which, while not always visible, runs parallel to the trail. The road is only used by park busses for most of the year, and they stop at each of the lookouts, allowing nature lovers that are not up for longer hikes to enjoy the Grand Canyon.
For you, that means you can choose to do a 14 mile out and back on the Hermit's Rest Route, or hike 7 miles to Hermit's Rest and take the bus back. Your decision will likely depend on the time of year you hike it. If you hit the trail in summer, do yourself a favor and take the bus back.
Speaking of the busses, dogs are not allowed on them. Dogs are not recommended most of the time due to the heat and length of the hike. If you hike out to Hermit's Rest with your pooch, you are hoofing it back. Plan accordingly.
This is probably the easiest trail in America to find. Take I-40 in either direction and follow signs to the Gand Canyon National Park. At the entrance, take one of the free maps and drive to Bright Angel Lodge. There is some parking at the lodge and you might get lucky and park next to the trail. If not, there are designated parking lots throughout the park and free shuttle service to all points within.
Once you are at the lodge, there is only one trail heading west. That is the Rim Trail, and as you head west from the lodge, that portion is the Hermit's Rest Route.
You might be a little taken aback as you start the hike. It begins a Bright Angel Lodge and you can expect hoards of people. As you hike westward the crowd begins to thin out and after 1/2 mile or less, you will find the solitude you are seeking.
A large portion of the Hermit's Rest Route is paved, making it wheelchair accessible for many. There are a few small inclines, but for the most part the trail is flat and skirts the edge of the canyon. There is no railing along the canyon side, peek over the edge at your own risk.
You will meet some of the bus riders at each of the lookout points along the way. The views are spectacular, but the same view is available a hundred yards on each side of the lookout. Pick your own spot and avoid the crowd at the lookouts.
You will need two very important items to complete this hike safely: decent hiking shoes and water. While you might be able to wing it in sandals, you will not be able to wing it with insufficient water. I used a 2 liter camelback and ended up having to conserve water during just a 7 mile hike in order to not run out of H2O. If you can manage to make it to Hermit's Rest, there is a water refill station that uses natural spring water. While my 2 liter camelback is usually sufficient, I highly recommend the . As much as I love Camelbacks, their 3 liter version is pricey. The Hugmania is a good quality hydration system at a reasonable price. I have one, and I really wish I had brought it instead of my 2 liter system. Hugmania 3 liter tactical hydration pack
There are a few signs along the way, but it is nearly impossible to get lost. You will be heading west. Stray too far to the left and you will run into the paved road where you can flag down a bus. Stray too far to the right and you will fall to your death.
The Canyon Really is Grand
There is a reason why Grand Canyon National Park is one of America's most visited parks. The canyon is spectacular beyond belief, and is one big ditch. Don't be one of those lazy tourists that simply soaks in the view from the visitor's center. Take a walk along the rim and really experience the grandeur of this natural wonder.
Be aware that there is a $35 per vehicle entrance fee for the park. That will cover 7 days worth of entries for as many folks as you can pack into your car. If you plan on visiting other parks, you should consider the America the Beautiful annual pass. For $80 it covers entry into ALL national parks and recreation areas for a full year. I have purchased one for the past 3 years and each year it pays for itself several times over.