Hiking West Rim Trail leads to Hermits Rest

GRAND CANYON VILLAGE, Ariz.—— Loose gravel crunches underfoot and dust swirls into miniature tornadoes. Bright, late-morning sunlight reflects in a thousand directions as a crisp, autumn-like breeze ripples through the air.

The narrow path to Hermits Rest twists solemnly among junipers and piñons, as though lost in the surrounding beauty of the Grand Canyon National Park.

The trail to Hermits Rest offers some of the most spectacular views of the Grand Canyon.

The famous stone entrance gate at Hermits Rest (top right) and a group of visitors stop along the West Rim Trail (bottom right) (Photos by staff and Tiffany Rainey).

“The views from the trail are staggering,” said Elizabeth Baldini, who had hiked a portion of the trail. “Around every corner I was awestruck with beauty.”

Starting near the Bright Angel trailhead in Grand Canyon South Rim Village, the rocky, sometimes treacherous trail to Hermit’s Rest winds along the edge of the canyon for eight miles. There are four major overlooks on the way to Hermits Rest—Maricopa Point, Hopi Point, Mohave Point and Pima Point—all delivering breathtaking scenes of the vast, painted walls.

The Hermits Rest itself offers perhaps the best view of all. The small stone building, built by architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter in 1914, overlooks the canyon from 6,650 feet.

Originally built as a resting place for stagecoach travelers taking tours along the West Rim, Hermits Rest provides a pristine view of the Grand Canyon. Underneath its massive wooden porch are log benches, where travelers can rest and take in the almost unfathomable scenery.

Nikki, Carol and Karen, who declined to give their last names, said they were having a lot of fun. The three college buddies from Seattle had done some shopping in the small gift shop alcove and were sitting and talking as they gazed out into the canyon.

i Visitors rest for a moment and enjoy the canyon view at Hermits Rest (Staff photo).

“It’s just gorgeous,” Karen, 56, said. “I live on the South Rim, and just love walking around out here.”

Nikki and Carol were at the Grand Canyon to celebrate Karen’s 56th birthday. As Karen gracefully put it, “God gave me another promotion.”

The good cheer and quiet serenity of the friends is indicative of the general feeling at Hermits Rest. The interior of the building conveys a rustic tranquility reminiscent of northern woodland cabins. Tall, wooden chairs lined with colorful rugs sit invitingly in the cavernous recess at the rear of Hermits Rest. Large arrows hang along the ashen brick walls, displaying small, native rugs.

Most impressive, however, is the massive, soot-covered fireplace. Gaping like a hungry mouth, the fireplace both welcomes and warms visitors to Hermits Rest. Hanging above the fireplace is a wrought-iron candelabrum and metal lanterns, creating a gothic, yet eerily comfortable atmosphere.

“I come out here every three or four months,” Karen said. “I love the atmosphere here. It’s so cozy.”

Plateau Point, as seen from along the trail to Hermits Rest (Top, photo by Paul Klein). A park resident snacks on a stone wall (middle). Visitors gaze into the canyon and at the South Rim Village in the distance (below).

Apparently the fauna agree with Karen. A long, stone slab wall lies not 10 feet from the edge of the cliff outside Hermits Rest. Sitting on the wall makes for excellent wildlife viewing. Rock squirrels dance about in frenzied determination, ravens and blue jays flitter from the treetops, and out over the canyon, soaring like majestic guardians, condors fly in exaggerated loops.

“The highlight of the day was seeing six condors up close this morning,” Carol said. “They’re stunning to watch, and rare to see.”

The three friends saw the condors on their hike out to Hermits Rest. They walked about halfway, to The Abyss, then took the shuttle the rest of the way.

Shuttle service runs along a meandering road out to Hermits Rest, and stops at all four lookouts. While many enjoy the scenic view from Hermits Rest, they are either unwilling or unable to commit to a day hike, often along untrustworthy footing.

Baldini, from Houston, enjoyed hiking different parts of the trail to Hermits Rest.

“I did the first part of the walk today, to Mohave Point. I took the shuttle from there,” Baldini, 45, said with a glistening smile. “It’s nice to have the option of the shuttle.”

Next time she comes to the Grand Canyon, Baldini would like to take the shuttle out to Hermits Rest and then walk back to the Village.

Baldini, originally from England, mentioned that she had never seen anything so striking as the Grand Canyon.

“I’m here with my husband on a relatively short trip,” she said. “We’re only here two days, and we wish we had more time.”

Baldini gazed out into the canyon.

“I’d definitely recommend to anyone that they walk the trail to Hermits Rest,” she said.

Walking the trail can take most of the day, so it is a good idea to get started in the morning.

Bicyclists ride west on their way to Hermits Rest (Staff photo).

“We left around 7 a.m. so that we could take our time getting out here,” Baldini said, dropping her sunglasses back down onto the bridge of her nose. “The morning is wonderful.”

Upon arrival at Hermits Rest, many visitors head directly to the snack bar. They offer a surprising variety of snacks, from Klondike bars to hot apple cider. And the cost is relatively cheap, considering the monopolized service.

“I bought a bottle of water and some chips for a little over a dollar,” Nikki said. “It’s a great service for those who hike all the way out here.”

Just inside the door to Hermits Rest is a small gift shop, completely stocked with postcards, film and t-shirts reading, “I hiked to Hermits Rest.” Spattered across the wooden floor are small stands of collectible figures, portable cacti and hats. A separate room houses most of the clothing, from sweaters to shorts.

Perhaps the only disadvantage of taking a day to see Hermit’s Rest is the inability to lose complete sense of the modern world. The trail rarely lies more than a few hundred feet from the road, so be prepared to hear the shuttle farting by every 20 minutes.

Fortunately, when the shuttle is running, private vehicles aren’t allowed on the road, which cuts down the noise considerably. Between some of the points, such as between Mohave and Pima Points, solace can be found, since not many hikers make the journey.

Regardless of the modern distractions, the walk is worth the time and effort. At times, it feels as though a vast and incomprehensible painting has been laid on some unseen screen, just beyond reach. Words and photographs cannot do justice to the pure beauty that the Grand Canyon exudes, especially along the trail to Hermits Rest.

Visitors stop to enjoy a view point along the trail to Hermits Rest (Staff photos).


If You Go

If you plan to hike: Bring lots of water and some food. Portions of the trail to Hermits Rest are unpaved and close to the edge. Use extreme caution. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather. Bring layers of clothing and something to protect yourself from rain. Rest as often as needed. The trail is about eight miles long, so take breaks to avoid exhaustion.

If you plan to take the shuttle: Hermits Rest has a great view, but also food and supplies. Bring cash. The shuttle leaves the Bright Angel Trailhead station every 15 to 20 minutes.

For everyone: Bring a camera— the views are spectacular!

The view along the trail to Hermits Rest (Staff photo).

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