Readers' Choice Mountain West Hike: Santa Maria Spring, Grand Canyon NP

Gaze into the world's most beautiful labyrinth.

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Santa Maria Spring, Grand Canyon NP | Mr. Bubbles, Yellowstone NP | West Maroon Pass, CO | Mills Lake, Rocky Mountain NP | The Colorado Trail | Gunsight Pass, Glacier NP

All Big Ditch views are sublime. But if you don’t choose wisely, you might be sharing it with a couple hundred new friends. Karen Pugliesi says to skip the justifiably popular Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails in favor of the tougher and more remote Hermit Trail—there are no camera-toting hordes, but the same droolworthy vistas. The rocky route plunges over the South Rim and loses 3,800 feet over 7.6 miles to reach Hermit Campground on the Colorado River. Dayhike alternative: Turn back at Santa Maria Spring (five miles round-trip). “With rich geology, mind-bending vistas, and even drinking water, this is really one of the best dayhikes you can do in the canyon,” says Pugliesi. Water trickles from the rock into a tin tub (treat before drinking), and endless buttes, spires, and canyons sprawl beneath your feet.


Driving From Grand Canyon Village, take the Hermit Rd. bus to the trailhead (March to November).

Map and GuideTrails Illustrated Grand Canyon ($12,; Hiking Grand Canyon National Park, by Ron Adkison ($15,

Contact (928) 638-7888,

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