This trip was much anticipated! A friend asked me to lead a trip in The Grand Canyon and we selected the Hermit Trail to Hermit Rapids. We had six first-time Grand Canyon overnight hikers. My two brothers were the only other two that had backpacked the Grand Canyon before, in fact I brought them for their first hikes when they were 11 and 13 years old (I was about 17 at the time). Anyways, about 20 backpacking trips since then… we once again planned, trained, and prepared for another adventure in the Grand Canyon. We arrived at the trailhead at about 8:30 in the morning to a chilly 20 degrees at the rim. The sun was warm and we were anxious to get started. Wait, not too fast… one hiker’s backpack was a loaner and had a slight design flaw: somehow the pack was upside down on the frame. So, 30 minutes later after switching the pack around, we kept going. The weather was chilly, yet perfect for hiking. We stopped for a breather at Santa Maria Springs, about 2.5 miles down, and continued on enjoying the shade for a time. Lunch sounded good at about 11:00 due to our early wake up time to allow for the drive up. (Click on an image below to view full size:)
Continuing on the trail, we were taken by the sheer views, as we winded downward, sometimes like a spiral staircase, towards the Colorado River. Finally, we arrived at the Tonto Trail junction, 7 miles down. We had no shade and it felt like the 80 degrees that it was. We headed left towards Hermit Creek, over hill and dale. The trail turned right towards Hermit Rapids for the final 2 miles to the river. We stopped to cool off in the shade and enjoy the cool, fresh water.
The hiking trail meadndered side to side of Hermit Creek. First, the Hermit Creek canyon walls were narrow and the afternoon light glowed all around.
Finally, after what seemed longer than it was, we arrived at Hermit Rapids about 4:00. Some of us dunked in while others searched for a suitable campsite. Upriver a little ways, the water was quieter and level sandy areas made for possible tent and sleeping bag options. We cooked dinner and watched the sun illuminate the upper layers of the canyon. And, the moon began to rise just before dark.
We settled in for the night, making efforts to ward off the attack mice. Well, the mice were smelling our sweet food and trying mightily to nibble their way through. We watched the busy mice with our flashlights and also were surprised to see a bighorn sheep settling in just above our campsite. Our lights glowed the rams eyes green and we were impressed by the large horns. It eventually scurried away, leaving us to attempt to sleep for the night. After a fitfull night, I was ready to get up to capture the first light of morning.
After a relaxing morning, we explored below the rapids and took in the views all around us.
We spotted the bighorns again, on a further rocky ridge. This was a highlight of our trip to see these wild sheep! After a few more swims and lunch, a quick group photo… we gathered our things to our second night partway back up. Seeing where we came from now looking up, added a new perspective to our hike. The afternoon light made for dramatic views in the narrows of Hermit Creek.
Stopping only briefly at Hermit Camp, we decided to venture a little further for a campsite. Near the Tonto Trail junction we found a flat area suitable for our last night in the Grand Canyon. We took in the amazing views as the sun set.
We woke up dark and early Sunday morning. It was 6am and by 7am it was plenty light to begin our trek back up. We set a steady pace and enjoyed many breaks, no hurry to get out. The weather was perfect, cool. We stopped for a light lunch at Santa Maria Springs, fueling up for the last push up. The last 1.5 miles was steep! We all made it out safely with no major issues.
A little disclaimer: I had a stomach bug during the entire trip. I took a chance going and lucked out. Although I didn’t have an apetite, I ate anyways and still had an enjoyable time. Just don’t ask the other guys about trail bombs. Here is a picture of our group, fun had by all!