Grand Canyon – Backpacking to Monument Campground

Grand Canyon - Backpacking to Monument Campground

Deeply immersive and peaceful, a backpacking trip to Monument Campground is an unforgettable journey through the marvelous geology of the Grand Canyon.

Chris & Mac of Grey Otter Outventures

Chris & Mac
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Length:  18.6 Miles Round Trip
Trailhead(s):  Hermits Rest
Elevation Gain: 3,645’ (Net Gain on Return to Hermits Rest)
Trail Type:  Out & Back
Dogs:  Not Allowed
Difficulty:  Moderate to Strenuous
Permit Required?  Yes
Considerations:  Seasonal Heat (Summer) or Ice (Winter), Wildlife
Season:  Year Round


Deeply immersive and peaceful, a backpacking trip to Monument Campground is an unforgettable journey through the marvelous geology of the Grand Canyon.


Grand Canyon:  Hermits Rest to Santa Maria Spring

Descending rapidly, the initial portion of the Hermit Trail is rugged and steep.  Backpackers encounter an immediate challenge as the trail rapidly loses elevation over the first mile and a half.  It bottoms out briefly as it passes by the Waldron and Dripping Springs junctions.  Interestingly, the rocks take a break and desert vegetation surrounds the trail here.  Since the trail soon resumes its rocky descent, enjoy the flatter trail break and the lovely scenery before dropping down through the red rocks to Santa Maria Spring.

Santa Maria Spring to Tonto Trail Junction

After departing Santa Maria Spring, the trail flattens out and passes through several washes (look for worn footpaths and cairns through some of the boulder fields) as it traverses the south rim of the canyon.  Views are sweeping and gorgeous.  At approximately six miles in the trail hits a red rock wall and takes a dramatic turn, descending over a series of steep, rocky switchbacks.  This is Cathedral Stairs.  An impressive rock pathway, the trail here is a brutal descent down to the talus slopes of Cope Butte below.  Following a series of long switchbacks through the scree field, the trail finally reaches the Tonto Plateau and its junction with the Tonto Trail.  Spoiler alert:  the return trip up here is relentless!

Grand Canyon:  Tonto Trail to Monument Campground

After traveling seven miles from the trailhead, backpackers bid farewell to the Hermit Trail and head east on the Tonto Trail for the remaining hike to Monument Campground.  This final two and a half mile stretch includes a lovely mix of desert flora, outstanding views, and a brief sighting of the Colorado River.  Making its final, rocky descent into Monument Campground after nearly nine miles, the trail passes by the huge rock spire which gives this place its name.

Grand Canyon’s Monument Campground is Made for Backpacking

Staying here requires permits and reservations, however the sites themselves are first come first serve.  Interspersed among the scrubby trees, the campsites are grouped fairly closely together.  The campground has two pit toilets and fresh water at Monument Creek which flows along the edge of the campground.  A small wooden sign along the trail a short ways from the pit toilets marks the rock path leading down to the creek.  This is a great place to socialize and chat with other backpackers while replenishing water supplies.  It is also an excellent place to seek relief from the heat of the day during the hotter months.  Enjoy the stay here, marvel at the gorgeous soaring rock walls overhead, and soak in the peaceful majesty that surrounds this backpacker’s paradise.

Return to Hermits Rest

To return to Hermits Rest, follow the Tonto Trail back to the Hermit Trail and climb back up.  There is no sugar coating the trip back to the south rim of the Grand Canyon from Monument Campground.  It is a taxing grind which takes more time and effort for us mere mortals to get back up than it took to get down.  As such, plan the day accordingly.  If backpacking in the hotter months, get an early start.  Try to avoid the worst of the heat on the ascent by regaining the rim before noon.


Backpackers have two options for accessing this trailhead from March 1 through November 30.  During this time a gate controls access to Hermit Road, and shuttles are in service.  The first option is simply to utilize the shuttle buses which travel throughout the park and out to Hermits Rest.  It is a short walk to the trailhead from where the bus stops at Hermits Rest.   To utilize the shuttle service, park in a parking area which allows overnight parking.  The lot near the backcountry office is ideal.  It is only a short walk to the shuttle stop to pick up the bus which travels the eight miles out to Hermits Rest.  Alternatively, the backcountry office can provide the code to open the gate for backpackers to leave a vehicle at the trailhead.  Otherwise, from December through February private vehicles are allowed on Hermit Road.  Trailhead parking is 1/4 mile past where the pavement ends at Hermits Rest.

Scroll down to learn about the GEAR WE USE and OTHER OUTVENTURES in this area.

Additional Information

Backpack to Monument Campground Slideshow

(Click image to expand.)

Gear We Use for Backpacking

To see descriptions of the gear Chris & Mac use for backpacking, as well as links to manufacturers and retailers offering the gear for sale, please CLICK HERE.

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