The Grand Canyon Hermit Road offers stunning views that are quiet and less crowded in the off season. Here’s my ultimate guide!
The Grand Canyon was formed over some 70 million years and reaches depths of over a mile.
It’s considered a holy site by the Pueblo people, while Spanish invaders called the Grand Canyon “profound.”
The national park is huge and covers some 1,900 square miles. Alongside the looming canyon that stretches out like an ocean into infinity, there are two Visitor Centers, a Market Plaza complete with a post office, a few lodges and a hotel.
It’s easy to get lost, and I do soon after I park. I ask a park ranger: “I’m sorry, but where’s the canyon?” She points me in the right direction and soon I’m looking over its edge.
Not even National Geographic photos can convey the dizzying mix of fear and awe you get when you’re overlooking the canyon. It’s an empowering feeling of unrestrained space.
Unlike the usual horizon line, which neatly divides space into earth and sky, the horizon line at the canyon is ragged and blurred. It plunges to the Colorado River to show you the depth of the earth – and our fragile place in it.
Dangers at the Grand Canyon
A brief moment of inattention with an unruly selfie stick could send you plunging towards death.
Of the 4.5 million people who visit the Grand Canyon each year, an average of 12 people die.
It’s easy to get lightheaded and grab on to a railing. Pathways that skirt close to the edge might tempts you to grasp tree branches for stability.
I don’t venture past the well-worn trails, but others do. A family eggs on a young girl to pose at the edge of a cliff while they snap photos. Another woman protests as her husband laughs and entices her down a steep trail.
It soon gets claustrophobic with crowds and selfie sticks. I look at my map of the South Rim, and a thin red line in the left-hand corner beckons. It’s called Hermit Road.
This 8-mile scenic route includes 9 overlooks with canyon and river views. It ends with a snack bar and toilets at Hermit’s Rest. It’s the route less travelled.
And we’re lucky to be at the canyon when private vehicles are allowed (December-February).
The Hermit Trail and other features in this part of the canyon are named after Canadian-born miner and explorer Louis Boucher, who rode a mule named Calamity Jane. Though he wasn’t a true hermit, Boucher carved a trail into the canyon and lived alone for years near a spring.
We drive towards the Trailview Overlook and it feels like we’re back on the road trip we’d begun in Phoenix. My father drives slowly as we gaze into the abyss of the canyon and the green hiking trails along the road.
People walk their dogs, sit in the gravel admiring the views, or jog and bicycle down the shady trails. It’s a more leisurely vibe than the crowded lookouts near the visitor centers.
We make our way down the road and pull over at whichever stops look good. The most incredible lookouts on Hermit Road include The Abyss, a dizzying view that goes 2,600 feet straight down. And there’s also Hopi Point, which looks farther out into the canyon than any other viewpoint.
We finish the ride at Hermit’s Rest with some chips and coffee.