GC South Rim Hermit > Tonto Trip in Oct

2:49 p.m. on July 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Calling GC experienced hikers...

Hi all,

I'm new to Trailspace. I live in the lovely Ozarks and used to live in AZ. I've done GC trips in the past, including solo, always along the BA/Kaibab corridor - it has been a few years since the last.

I submitted a backcountry itinerary (for three nights) to the park service for this Oct. It has tentatively been approved pending my acknowledgement of a potentially strenuous trip. I'd like to run the itinerary by group for feedback/insights. Trip goes as follows:

I hike into canyon along Hermit Trail and first night is at Hermit Rapids. Second day takes me onto Tonto trail and spend night at Cedar Spring. Third day i continue along Tonto to BA and go up and spend night at Indian Garden. Next day, continue up BA and out of the canyon.

Mainly the concern is condition of Hermit trail in descent first day, and length of hike on day three from Cedar Spring to IG. Not including any side-excusions, i'm down for ~30 miles over four days.

It's a solo trip. I'm a seasoned backpacker and know my limits and gear/food/water needs quite well. Physical condition is very very good. I'm 37.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Cheers,


5:44 a.m. on July 3, 2012 (EDT)
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2,993 forum posts

When I did the Hermit back in the mid 1980s, it was a “rustic” trail.  Many sections in the rougher parts of the trail were obliterated by talus and scree slides.  The trail isn’t hard to track, but you need to be sure footed and agile.  Some sections the descent were steep enough that traction was an issue. 

Water was also an issue back then; it certainly isn’t any better now, given the decades of drought over the intervening years.  Make sure you tank up whenever the opportunity avails itself.  Bring filtration and back up chemicals as some  of the water is "murky."  Confirm your itinerary places camps within reasonable fetch of water.

All in all I liked the Hermit’s rest trail.   Few people, and great photo angles of some of the major landmarks upstream.  Your plan is very doable for someone in good condition at your age.  Your concern for the first day is warranted.  It is a big descent!  Bring a walking staff or trekking poles.  Start early, and take it slow, your biggest risk is rushing and hurting yourself in the process.  If you start early you will have plenty of time.  Do LOTS of incline training, you cannot over train for the ups and downs of GC.

Since you are going solo, I would advise limiting travel to established trails, unless you can buddy up with someone else for any off-trail forays.


12:06 p.m. on July 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Sounds like a decent plan. I have hiked the GC for almost 30 year. Cedar Springs is more of a dripping spring and is not a easy water source. A better place would be at Monument Rapids down canyon in Monument Creek.

The trail down Hermit is easy but steep in some places. The upper trail from Hermits Rest to the Santa Maria Spring is a mixture of solid sandstone to sandstone blocks placed in the trail to cut erosion. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the dinosaur tracks along the trail. Most are small tracks of alligator like creatures to turtles and chicken like tracks.

After Santa maria Spring the trail flattens out and follows the inner Redwall until a place called the Cathedral Staircase where the trail drops down over a series of switchbacks down to the Tonto Platform and trail.

The trail along the Tonto is fairly easy and well maintained just by foot traffic. Its fairly level much of the time and the only inclines and climbs are in the side canyons of Monument, Salt and Horn Canyons. Be sure not to drink the water at Horn Canyon as it is said to be contaminated by Asbestos and Uranium from the old mines above.

If you have time Monument, Salt and Horn offer nice short hikes up or down canyon. And also either after setting up camp at I.G. or before hike out to Plateau Point for the view down to the Colorado River about 800 feet below.

I hiked the canyon from as early as October to the end of April every year from 1983-2003, most hikes were of 2-4 weeks at a time. My longest hike was 256 miles over 28 days from the Bass Trail to the Tanner and out and back from the Little Colorado and side trips to Clear Creek and the North Rim along the North Kaibab Trail.

I used to spend an average of 4-6 months in the Grand Canyon very Fall, Winter and Spring.

I hike about 275 days a year and work part time jobs the other 90 day. Used to work a solid 3 months in Jackson Hole, WY. But now break up the working periods to cover trips.

11:21 a.m. on July 8, 2012 (EDT)
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Gary, Whome...

Thank you for the helpful feedback. I'm looking forward to the trip. I talked to a GC ranger at their backcountry help line too and feel good about the itinerary. She also pointed out the iffy water at horn creek.


Gary - in your time at the GC, did you get to know the Aiken family? Bruce has been the official painter of GC, I believe, going back to early 80s (if not earlier), and was allowed to live in the canyon. when i lived in FLG i got to know the family a little bit, wonderful people.




12:52 p.m. on July 11, 2012 (EDT)
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I met many of the family that lived in the house near Roaring Springs over the years since 1983. Once I was hiking down and a little girl was offering lemonade out on the N.K. in front of the house. I believe no one lives in the house now?

June 22, 2018
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