Hermit Trail Area
The mini-blogs

Various Short Trip Reports

by Dennis Foster

Santa Maria Spring, two miles down the Hermit Trail.

Click on any picture to see a larger image.

     Writing up a full-fledged trip report for every hike I have done in the Grand Canyon would suffer from at least two problems.  One, there are plenty of trips where not much happened.  This was especially the case for day trips that I took mostly for the purpose of hiking down and back as fast as I could.  Second, it would get repetitive.  How many trip reports do you need to read on hiking to Plateau Point?  Well, just one really.  But, there are usually some interesting features to remark on for every hike, and some unique photos.  So, I will endeavor to fill in this page (and, others) with these short stories and photos.  They are arranged, from top to bottom, in chronological order and linked to the list below.

2012/10/27 - The Waldron - Silver Bell Loop

2021/03/22 - The Silver Bell - Waldron Loop


The Waldron - Silver Bell Loop
Saturday, October 27, 2012

     Every fall, at the behest of colleague TS Amer, I organize a hike in the canyon for interested faculty members.  Sometimes we get a lot of interest and sometimes it's just a few of us.  For this hike we all fit into John's double-cab pickup, which was convenient.  I've done this loop a few times, but always from Hermit's Rest.  For this hike, we were going to try and find a good spot in the forest (outside the park boundary) to be able to hike to the Waldron Trail, follow it into the canyon, pick up the Hermit briefly until we could follow the Dripping Springs Trail to the spring.  Then we would continue on this trail - generally referred to as the Boucher Trail, but which more properly should be called the Silver Bell Trail (so-called by Boucher) - to the rim and then follow the Eremita Mesa roadbed back to the park boundary road and back to our vehicle.  The map to the right shows this area and most of the old roads.  [Beware, the new Nat Geo maps don't show these roads!!  Use the Kaibab Nat. Forest map.]  We managed to find the road that put us at the blue circle and did our loop from there.

     I was using my REI flash pack and it weighed a comfortable 14 pounds, which included two and a half liters of water.  The overnight lows were in the twenties and so it was still quite cool when we started hiking at 10:15 a.m.  The projected high for the day was in the sixties.  It only took us 15 minutes to reach the so-called boundary road and another 15 minutes to reach a cairned junction that we took to be the older roadbed that leads to the Waldron trailhead.  About ten minutes later we passed by a benchmark, shown below.  It doesn't match the one on the map, being six feet higher, but maybe the one on the map is an older reading that was later changed, or vice versa.  By 11:00 a.m. we were on the trail and we reached the junction with the Hermit Trail, in the Hermit Basin, an hour later.

     We went up the Hermit a bit to poke around at the old Sweetheart Spring site, which I had first visited in 2005, and have previously written about.  We had our lunch here and were off on our way at 1:00 p.m.  We reached the junction of the Dripping Springs Trail and the Boucher Trail an hour later and twenty minutes after that, at 2:20 p.m., we were at Dripping Springs to enjoy another break.  A few minutes before three o'clock we started up the trail from here.  Boucher called his trail the Silver Bell, and that seems an appropriate name for this segment to the rim.  Most hikers that are going down, or coming up, the Boucher Trail are likely to be using the Hermit Trail, so this portion doesn't get much use.  It is easy enough to follow, but getting overgrown with bushes.  It pops out onto the rim near an old corral that is mostly still standing, which we reached an hour after leaving Dripping Spring.  [Finding the trail going down from here can be a challenge due to all the scrub oak.]  We reached the boundary road at 4:40 p.m. and were back at the truck at 4:55 p.m.

We parked just outside the park.  

We followed an old road to the boundary road.  As we got close we found this old gas can hanging in a tree.

Benchmark along the way. 

On the Waldron Trail in the woods.

Tim, John & TS at the junction.

A crude shelter at Sweetheart Spring.  We also found a bedstead below here as well as some barbed wire.  The spring was dripping nearby.

TS and John peruse cistern. 

The small pool at Dripping Spring.
The slight overhang keeps this area shady most of the year.  The orchard
would have been below this. 

A viewpoint along the way.

A rest break at Dripping Spring.  

Heading up the Silver Bell Trail. 

Dennis, John & Tim at corral. 

The Silver Bell - Waldron Loop
Monday, March 22, 2021

     With his brother Dan visiting from Wisconsin, John Eastwood & I decided a good hike to take in the Grand Canyon would be to do a loop down Boucher Trail to Dripping Spring, then across to the Hermit Trail and back up to the rim via the Waldron Trail.  We hadn’t paid too close attention to the weather, but timed it perfectly, going up on Monday when it was cool but sunny, a day before a middling snow storm hit.

     To access the Boucher, aka the Silver Bell, we would need to drive on some dirt roads in the forest to the park boundary and then hike along the rim roads to the trailhead.  In 2012 I did this same hike with John, although in the opposite direction.  At that time, we followed a road that led to a gate at the boundary and were able to easily walk into the park and find our trail.  This time we did the same.  Although both of us thought we had found a different gate, my photos from nearly ten years ago showed that we had managed to find exactly the same spot to park and start our hike.

     We followed along a decent road for a bit and left it when we found an older, rougher road, that was marked with a “foot travel only” sign.  That we followed to the so-called boundary road which goes many, many miles from the Village area to the abandoned Pasture Wash Ranger Station near to the South Bass trailhead.  This we followed to the west until the old Eremita Mesa road branched off to the right.  There is a sign post here, but no longer any sign.  I am reasonably sure that I have seen the old sign, but that might have been back in the 1980s.

     A bit later this road then splits with the Silver Bell branching off to the right.  There is also only a post here, but in 2012 there was a sign still posted.  The condition of these old roads is noticeably more primitive, relative to my earlier trips over the past forty plus years.  At some point we missed the trail and were just following an elk path.  Lots of those around here and many are very well-traveled (by the elk!).  We found ourselves on the north side of a major ravine starting to form and after walking here a short time I convinced John and Dan to head into the ravine and follow it to the rim.  There is only one major ravine that comes out at the canyon’s edge and that is where I was sure that we would find Boucher’s trail.

     That worked like a charm.  After twenty plus minutes we came to a post that I remembered from past trips that marks the decent from the plateau into this ravine.  We scouted around for a few minutes to find out where the trail was that led up, but were unsuccessful.  It didn’t matter to us now, as we were easily able to follow it down into this ravine and toward the canyon.

     We had left the boundary gate at 9:40 a.m. and reached Dripping Spring at 1:15 p.m.  It was a bit cool in this shady spot, sheltered by massive overhanging cliffs of Coconino sandstone.  We ate our lunches and poked around a bit.  As we started to get ready to leave we met the first couple of hikers that we saw this day.  On our way along the Dripping Spring Trail to Hermit Basin we would see a total of ten other hikers, seven of whom passed us again, on their way back before we reached the Waldron Trail.

     Hiking up the Waldron Trail doesn’t seem as hard as coming up Hermit, and the rim is a couple of hundred feet lower in elevation than the Hermit trailhead.  It was getting late in the day and we were in the shade until reaching the rim.  Horsethief Tank, near the trailhead, was bone dry, which I did not expect.  While we haven’t had a lot of moisture, I thought there might be a small amount of water here.  We followed an old road from here that met up with the boundary road and then back to where we had met up with it in the morning.  We were back to the gate and our vehicle at about 6:45, with the sun having just set on us a few minutes earlier.

Spot map of our hike.  We started/ended at the park boundary as shown.  The yellow arrow shows where the trail went that we missed while traversing the plateau.  

Dennis, John and Dan all ready for today’s hike. The rectangular shadow at the bottom of the photo is the metal boundary sign on the fence.


Less than ten minutes after starting we left the good road and took this more primitive road that mostly made a beeline for the boundary road.

Dan and John at the boundary fence between the park and the Kaibab National Forest.  We parked here and hiked in on an old road.

John and Dan at the junction of our road coming in and the boundary road.  We placed some branches across the road so we would find this spot on our way back.  [Then we dragged them back out of the way.]

An old post still remains at the junction of the boundary road and the road to Eremita Mesa.

Dan inspects the post where there used to be a trail sign, as shown from my photo taken in 2012.

An old pipe that marks the branching off of the Silver Bell/Boucher road from the Eremita road.  It took us about an hour to get here from where we parked.

Although we were paying attention, we realized that we had lost the real route and were just following an elk path.  Still, we found this old horseshoe out here, which for a while convinced us to continue on this way.  But, we were soon quite sure that we’d missed the trail.

An old post that once had a trail sign that confirmed to us that we were back on the trail as we followed along the bed of a ravine toward the canyon.

Close-up view from my Spot tracking device showing how our route deviated from the Dripping Spring (aka Silver Bell) Trail until we met up with it in the ravine.

Descending through the Coconino we came across these two steps affixed to the rock.

As we neared Dripping Spring we could see the trail that most hikers take to reach this area.

An old sign that must have been in Hermit Basin where the Waldron Trail leaves from the Hermit Trail.  The image is from the NAU archives and is dated as 1971.

Nearing the spring this spot shows a lot of work with a wall shoring up the trail.

At the spring.

All that remains of Boucher’s camp structures at Dripping Spring.

Animal tracks in a piece of Coconino sandstone that has fallen down alongside the trail between Dripping Spring and the trail junction on the Esplanade level. 

At the Esplanade where the Boucher and Dripping Spring Trail part ways.

Rolls of barbed wire hanging in a tree at the rim on the Waldron Trail. 

Looking across the canyon from along the Dripping Spring Trail as we head to Hermit Basin.  A keen eye might make out the lodge on the North Rim and the effects of a recent rock fall below Isis Temple.

The Waldron Trail in Hermit Basin.

The Waldron Trail on the rim.

Dan walks out onto the earthen berm that creates Horsethief Tank.

John does a little repacking at the junction of the Waldron Trail with an old road that will take us back to the boundary road.

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