Hermit/Boucher/Tonto Loop, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Access a seldom-visited corner of the canyon by rail and foot.
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Access a seldom-visited corner of the canyon by rail and foot.
Cross the Mars-like Esplanade on day two of this loop.

Cross the Mars-like Esplanade on day two of this loop.

During the early 20th century, two trail operators competed for tourists wishing to access the inner canyon: Ralph Cameron, a businessman and politician who owned the Bright Angel Trail, and the Santa Fe Railway, which operated the Hermit Trail to a luxury campground along Hermit Creek. Modern-day glamping pales in comparison to the amenities offered at Hermit Camp: telephones, electricity, a professional chef, and even a car to transport visitors around the camp. When the Park Service assumed control in the 1930s, it opted to concentrate visitors in the Bright Angel corridor and resources were diverted from the equally spectacular Hermit Trail.

Nothing remains of the original camp, but the area is “a great next step for backpackers who have already done a corridor hike,” says backcountry information supervisor Casey Merritt. “It’s a harder, more remote experience,” but if you’re up for it (and want to gape at the sheer red cliffs and soaring desert pinnacles that first attracted the Santa Fe Railway), the 22.4-mile Hermit-Boucher-Tonto Loop is your hike. “You might see 3 percent of the people you do in the corridor,” Merritt says.

Turn-by-turn Follow the Hermit Trail below the canyon rim (views stretch across the chasm to the 6,129-foot Tower of Ra) to camp along Hermit Creek at mile 8.2. Next day, link the Tonto and Boucher Trails to a site along Boucher Creek near mile 13. Continue 9 miles on the Boucher Trail to the trailhead (class 3 scrambling near Travertine Canyon at mile 15.1). Ride the park shuttle back to South Rim Village and spend a night in Mather Campground (reserve at recreation.gov). Next day, head back to L.A. from Grand Canyon Station (daily 3:30 p.m. departures).

Get there From Los Angeles Union Station, take Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to Williams and ride the Grand Canyon Railway (starting at $124 for both legs, 17 hrs, including layover; daily departures at 6:10 p.m.) with service to the South Rim. (As with Glacier, you can replicate this from any Amtrak station.) Walk .5 mile west to the transfer station and hop on the red shuttle to Hermit’s Rest (free, 40 mins; departures 4:30 a.m. to sunset). Stop over at Mather Campground or start right away.

Additional options The Tonto Trail runs nearly 100 water-starved miles along a shelf between the rim and the canyon floor. From the Hermit Creek Campground, you can follow it 14.5 miles east to Indian Garden, where you can take the Bright Angel Trail 4.6 miles to the south rim.

Permits $8/person per night + $10 reservation fee. Entrance for individuals (including those visiting by train) is $15.

Trail Info