Who is the Hermit of Grand Canyon?
Every trail in the Grand Canyon is unique and special, and the Hermit Trail is no different in that respect. Far enough from the park’s bustling corridor trails of Bright Angel and South Kaibab to yield a feeling of solitude, yet close enough that it has amenities and its own bus stop, this is The Goat’s favorite trail on the South Rim.
A view of Hermit Canyon coming down the Hermit Trail
Louis Boucher, better known as “the hermit of the Grand Canyon”, had a homestead here in the late 1800’s into the early 20th century, and built this foot-trail to access his mine. The trail, improved by the Santa Fe Railroad in the early 1900’s as a route for hopeful mining riches, also yields one of the park’s best day hikes; to Dripping Springs. This 6.5-mile out-and-back is a wonderful adventure for those looking to bite off a piece of the canyon, but not more than they can chew.
Our intrepid guests descending the Hermit Trail
The geology of this hike gives a unique perspective on how the canyon took shape over the eons, particularly how the colorful buttes and mesas that make the canyon so unique were formed. A process called “spring-sapping” is most responsible, and Dripping Springs allows its intrepid visitors to see firsthand how this process takes, and is taking place.
As groundwater is forced to the surface at permeable/impermeable geologic contacts, it creates weaknesses along bedding planes, mechanically weathering (eroding) at the surface. Over time, these areas break down and are subject to fallout. As they crumble, they leave behind the impressive buttes and mesas such as Zoroaster Temple, Chuar Butte, and Vulcan’s Throne.
Zoroaster Temple, product of “spring-sapping”
The spring itself is groundwater forced to the surface at the geologic contact between the permeable Coconino Sandstone, and the impermeable Hermits Shale. The water coursing its way through the sandstone hits the clay-based shale and can no longer matriculate downwards, so it is therefore expelled at the contact, creating the surface spring.
A view to the Esplanade from the Hermit Trail
Hiking Down the Canyon
On the way down to Dripping Springs, there are several other spots of tremendous geologic interest including a wall of fossils in the Kaibab Limestone, as well as reptile and amphibian tracks in the Coconino Sandstone. The best thing about this day hike is that, once you trudge through the Kaibab, Toroweap, and Coconino formations and reach the junction of the Dripping Springs and Hermit Trails, the trail levels out and is a wonderful cruise through the bright reds and oranges of the upper reaches of the Supai Group. A great lunch spot awaits the hikers while they watch the spring quite literally drip from the ceiling of the large Coconino Sandstone overhang.
Sweeping views of the “Grandaddy of Them All”
The return hike, while strenuous at times once you reach the Coconino and Kaibab switchbacks, is relatively easy compared to many Grand Canyon ascents, and an early start will ensure that you escape the late afternoon southern-exposed sun rays. The most enjoyable way to take this hike is, as always, with one of our geologist/guides; and we hope to see you on the trail soon!
Hiking and exploring Grand Canyon, or any of the National Parks, is a special experience. Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guide is a great idea. For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip. They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.
Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with expert geologist/guides. Our backcountry meals use fresh ingredients, and are planned by a professional chef. Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore. In conclusion, you can visit National Parks, but going with a guide can create and even more memorable experience. Don’t be shy, and call us!
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For adventure hiking vacations in a geologic time machine, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!
For geological musings read The Goat’s geology blog.
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