A tough yet rewarding adventure to Dripping Springs

May 20, 2022


By Rhett Atkinson

The weather and the Grand Canyon were glorious for our hike. This was our view as we started down the trail.

On a beautiful day in late April, The Mustang Division of the Sedona Westerners met behind the outlets in the Village of Oak Creek at 6 am.  The club rules were reviewed as well as the club Covid protocol.  Car pools were organized.  This was going to be a long day, the goal - Dripping Springs, Grand Canyon National Park.

The club website stated this hike would be the most difficult of all of the Mustang hikes for the season.  The planning for this hike was an adventure in itself.  It would be a twohour 15 minute drive to the Grand Canyon Backcountry Information Center, where the cars would be left for the day, followed by a short walk to the Red Bus Line for a 40 minute, 8 mile bus ride.  

Since we started the bus ride at 8:30 am, we essentially had the bus to ourselves.  This allowed for a little extra time at each bus stop and our driver, full of canyon information, allowed us to quickly get off and see each viewpoint.  These viewpoints included Trailview Overlook, Maricopa Point, Powell Point, Hopi Point, Mohave Point, The Abyss, Monument Creek Vista, Pima Point and finally Hermit’s Rest.  Each seemed more spectacular that the one before.  Just to do the Red Bus Line ride was a worthwhile trip all to itself.  

Once at Hermit’s Rest we were able to take in the expansive Hermit’s Lodge.  This lodge, built in 1914, was designed by Mary Jane Colter who was the chief architect for the Fred Harvey Company.  While the exterior of the building appeared built with old fashion hand tools and natural materials (“National Park Rustic Style”), the interior impresses with a massive stone interior wall and a large fireplace that adds an element of grandeur.  

The Hermit Trail was built by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1912.  Its location was picked as an alternative to trail locations at Grand View, Bright Angel and South Kaibab. All charged tolls for their use.  The Railroad and its partner, The Fred Harvey Company,built the trail and the Lodge (Hermit’s Rest) as well as Hermit Camp some 8 miles down the trail.  This camp was accessed by a tramway which saw thousands of well-heeled visitors from 1913 to 1930.  The Hermit Trail Road (West Rim Road) was the first paved road in Grand Canyon National Park servicing visitors from the Grand Canyon Railroad station some 8 miles east in Grand Canyon Village.

Hermit’s Rest Trailhead is at 6640’, Dripping Springs is at 5600’, 3.5 miles away.  The first 1.8 miles is essentially an unrelenting 15% 1400’ downhill grade.  This part of the trail consists of multiple switchbacks passing though Kaibab Limestone, the ToroweapFormation, Coconino Sandstone and finally Hermit Shale.  The junctions of the Waldron Trail, Hermit Creek Trail, and Boucher Trail are passed on the trek to Dripping Springs.

From the Hermit Creek Trailhead to the Boucher Trailhead, approximately 1 mile, the views are spectacular.  This part of the trail hikes around a cliff wall which has sheer drop-offs of at least a 1000’ into a side canyon which drains into the much larger Hermit Basin.  Some portions of this trail are very narrow, approximately two feet across, with occasional loose pebbles on the tread.  One false step here or just not paying attention and this would be your last hike.  

After another half mile and 400’ feet of climbing you enter a beautiful alcove at the base of the cliff where one principal seep in a series of seeps forms Dripping Springs.  Now with water, shade, vegetation, and view, the Mustangs had their rest and lunch.  The hike back to the trailhead included the beautiful view in addition to a tough uphill hike in full sun, but at least we had a pleasant breeze for company.  Our hiking expedition was over in 5 hours, followed by another 40 minute bus ride back to the car and a two plus hour ride home.  It was a long day, but a fantastic experience for all.

 

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