Backpack Hermit Trail into the Grand Canyon

Hermit Trail Trailhead

This hike, although steep and sweat-inducing, provides gorgeous 360 degree canyon views through rugged terrain to a spacious campsite with clean bathrooms beside a trickling stream. Another short mile hike through a narrow canyon brings you to the impressive Hermit Rapids on the Colorado River.

Not many people envision their romantic Valentine's Day getaway as a grueling 8 mile hike into the Grand Canyon, but I couldn't think of anything better! If you're planning a trip for the busier summer months, be sure to call ahead or fill out a backcountry permit request to make sure you get a campsite. During the winter, it's safe to just stop by the backcountry permit office a day or two ahead of time to reserve a spot and pay the permit fees, $10 per permit plus $8 per person.

This backpacking endeavor is not for the inexperienced.  Hermit Trail drops almost 2000 vertical feet in the first 2.5 miles, and much of the trial is unmaintained, passing through rocky scree slopes and steep drop offs.

After the first few miles, the trail levels off and you pass the Santa Maria Spring 2.2 miles in where you can fill up on water and rest in the shelter's shade. Be sure to sign the trail book!

As you gradually descend, soak in the expansive canyon views and watch as the layers of rock change color and texture before your eyes. After about 5 1/2 miles you will reach Breezy Point, a great place to stop for a snack and snap a few selfies.

The incline steepens as you meander down the Cathedral Staircase, a series of abrupt, short switchbacks which open up to a valley as the switchbacks grow longer. Another mile or so of descent will lead you to a trail junction, follow the signs for the Hermit Campsite.

Set up camp at one of the many sites located on an embankment overlooking a stream flowing into the massive Colorado River. There is a compost toilet provided on site, and fresh water flowing from the stream that can be filtered for drinking water.

If you're feeling up to it, follow the stream about another mile through the canyon bottom to the Colorado River and watch the impressive Hermit Rapids churn from the sandy shores. There are also campsites located by the river.

Going back up the canyon can be fairly grueling and tiresome, so be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks, and allow a few more hours than it took to get down.  

Pack List

  • Sleeping bag/pad (during the winter the temperatures can drop drastically at night so be sure to bring warm bedding during the winter months)
  • Tent and stakes
  • Water/water filters (there is only one water source shortly after beginning the trail so be sure to bring plenty until you make it to the river where you can fill up after filtering)
  • Food
  • Water plus filter or treatment tablets
  • Cooking utensils
  • Good hiking boots
  • Toilet paper (bathrooms are provided, toilet paper is not)
  • Multi-tool or knife
  • Headlamps plus extra batteries
  • Hat and sunglasses- that desert sun is intense!
Show More
RT Distance 16 Miles
Elevation Gain 4000 Feet
Activities Camping, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Easy Parking
Swimming Hole


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Question/Not a Review

Hi Emily - I'm looking for a 2 or 3 day backpack trip for the first week in April. Is there enough to explore, if we set up a base camp and take a day to hike around the area from camp? Is April a good time of year for this hike? Looking for some good solitude. Thanks, Brooke

Grand Canyon 102

Nice job! I’d recommend this one for anybody who’s backpacked rim to rim and is looking to get slightly more remote. The loop (down Bright Angel, west on Tonto, up Hermit) was a beautiful 4 day agenda.

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