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Length: 38.1 miles*
Trailhead(s): South Kaibab (start)/ Hermits Rest (finish)
Elevation Gain: 3,740’ Hermit Creek to Hermits Rest
Elevation Loss: 3,280′ Yaki Point to Tipoff
Trail Type: Point to Point
Dogs: Not Allowed
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Permit Required? Yes
Considerations: Advance Permits and Camping Reservations Required
Season: Year Round
* Includes side hikes, 3 miles round trip each: Indian Garden to Plateau Point and Hermit Creek to Hermit Rapids
Backpacking the inner Grand Canyon from Yaki Point to Hermits Rest along the Tonto trail is an incredibly beautiful, immersive journey. It leaves one with a sense of accomplishment, and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.
Grand Canyon Day One: Yaki Point to Indian Garden
The South Kaibab Trail is a steep descent, dropping nearly 3,300 feet over 4.4 miles to the Tip Off. Many day hikers can be found on the initial portion of the hike down to Cedar Ridge. Past this, most traveling further are backpacking, although we did encounter trail runners as well. It is a relentless climb down, but our descent ended at the Tip Off. At this point we picked up the Tonto Trail, and welcomed the following 4.6 miles of flatter trail.
Sweeping views surrounded us on the Tonto Trail. It was a beautiful hike across the inner canyon plateau to the Indian Garden Campground. After setting up camp (sites are first come, first serve and must be reserved) we had sufficient daylight to make the 3 mile round trip hike to Plateau Point. Doing so allowed us to take in gorgeous views of the soaring canyon walls surrounding the Colorado River below.
Grand Canyon Day Two: Indian Garden to Monument Creek
Our travels on the second day took us from the Indian Garden Campground to the Monument Creek Campground. The trail works its way around numerous, massive side canyons between these campgrounds. We were amazed at how much distance they add to the journey. First in camp, we got our pick of sites and set up our tents. Then wandered down to the creek to re-supply our water. We had contemplated a side hike down to Granite Falls, but got caught up chatting with fellow backpackers who were also re-supplying their water. We ultimately decided that we had traveled far enough. After taking a long look at the steep hike down to the river we decided this side trip was just not in the cards for us.
Grand Canyon Day Three: Monument Creek to Hermit Creek
The trail from Monument Creek to Hermit Creek is a fairly short hike on undulating terrain. Once again first to arrive in camp, we claimed a gorgeous site under a rock ledge and set up our tents. With lots of daylight still remaining, a trip down to the Colorado River on this day was clearly in order.
Unable to locate the trail along Hermit Creek due to thick vegetation, we rock hopped along the creek and followed the footsteps of others down to the Colorado River. We sat on the riverbank, blissfully enjoying the sights and sounds of the river as it swirled through Hermit Rapids. Since no one had yet arrived to the campground at the rapids we had it all to ourselves. Heavenly!
After heading back to camp (this time on the trail – it was easier to see heading the opposite direction), we re-supplied our water and giddily watched the light show unfold. First it was the light of the setting sun, then that of the rising moon that reflected in brilliant hues of red and gold overhead. The glow of the canyon walls was not just mesmerizing – it was overwhelming and unforgettable. It was truly one of the most beautiful natural sights I’ve ever witnessed.
Grand Canyon Day Four: Hermit Creek to Hermits Rest
The next morning found us climbing up to the south rim of the canyon. Enjoy the warm up because the hike turns into a fairly relentless climb. It starts with a series of steep switchbacks below Cathedral Stairs. Continuing up for what seems like forever, the trail does eventually flatten out as it works its way around the canyon to Santa Maria Springs. The views are mind-blowing.
A popular resting place, we stopped at Santa Maria Spring for a snack before tackling the remaining climb to Hermits Rest. Once again steep, the trail becomes rockier. The water bars and steps are relentless and challenging. Arriving up top, tired in the best way possible, we gave ourselves a big high five and headed for the shuttle bus at Hermits Rest.
Grand Canyon Backpacking: Campground Amenities and Water Supply
Campgrounds in the canyon are not all created equally, and the trails connecting them vary with regards to water. Double check the parks information page or with the backcountry office regarding water supplies below the canyon rim before descending. Repairs or maintenance going on in the park have been known to disrupt water supplies.
On our trip, Indian Garden had potable water, pit toilets, and pack hangs. Monument Creek and Hermit Creek both had easily accessible creeks for re-supply of water (must be filtered or treated) and pit toilets. Water is not available on the Tonto Trail between Yaki Point and Indian Garden. Between Indian Garden and Monument Creek, Horn Creek and Salt Creek water supplies are not considered safe even if treated. There is no water along the trail between Monument Creek and Hermit Creek, but is available at Santa Maria Spring on the Hermit Trail. Because it is often a trickle here it may not be a reliable source.
Scroll down to learn about the GEAR WE USE and OTHER OUTVENTURES in this area.
- National Park Service: Grand Canyon South Kaibab Trail Link (Day 1)
- National Park Service: Grand Canyon Tonto West Trail Link (Days 2 & 3)
- National Park Service: Grand Canyon Hermit Trail Link (Day 4)
- National Park Service: Hiking Into The Grand Canyon Information Link
- National Park Service: Grand Canyon Backcountry Permits Link
Grand Canyon Backpack Yaki Point to Hermits Rest Slideshow
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