What to Do – Walking and Hiking
MATHER POINT. CANYON VIEW INFORMATION PLAZA. Mather Point took the name of the first director of the National Park Service: Stephen T. Mather. He was a retired millionaire, loved fast cars, outdoor activity, and western landscape. Franklin Lane, US Secretary of Interior in 1914 offered Mather the job of first director of the National Park Service, which he took in 1916.
The most pleasurable activity at the Village is walking and hiking. There are a couple of main directions for that: west, east, and hiking down the canyon.
The Rim Trail starts at Mather Point and ends at Hermit Rest, 9 miles (14 km) west. From Bright Angel Lodge, where The Hermit Road starts, to Hermit Rest: 8 miles (12.9 km). Mather Point elevation: 7120 ft (2170 m); Hermit Point elevation: 6640 ft (2023 m). A paved trail for pedestrians commences at Mather Point. It winds along the brink of the canyon, passing by Yavapai Observation Station, El Tovar Hotel, Bright Angel Lodge, Lookout Studio, Kolb Studio, Bright Angel’s trailhead, Trailview I, Trailview II, Maricopa Point, and Powell Point. From here west, the trail is unpaved, follows closely the rim to Hopi Point, Mohave Point, Pima Point and Hermit rest. The unpaved trail goes through Gambel oak, thickets of juniper, pine, Utah juniper, and pinyon pine allowing views of millennia of erosion, majestic Nature and color changes.
The first rudimentary road was opened from Bright Angel Hotel to Hopi Point in 1902, for horse drawn wagons. Santa Fe Railroad improved it, and extended it to today’s Hermit Rest in 1911-1912. In 1914 architect Mary Colter built The Hermit Rest at the end of the road. Year by year the road was improved: enlarged, shoulders added, grades reduced, and then paved (1920). It was rebuilt for automobile standards in 1934-1935 with depression era highway funds. Today this road is closed for private vehicles, and red colored point shuttle buses transport the visitors for free from Village Route Transfer Point (just a couple of tens of yards southwest of Bright Angel Lodge and the head of Hermit Road) to Hermit Rest. The shuttle buses going west stop at all eight lookout points. On their way back, they stop only at Mohave and Hopi Points. Visitors may leave the bus at any lookout point, catching the following ones heading west. Once at Hermit rest, tourists can return on the same bus (a round trip takes approximately 75 minutes without getting off the bus), or take another bus, or walk to Mohave/Hopi Point to take the bus from there, or walk all 8 miles from Hermit Rest, to Bright Angel Lodge. In May buses run every 30 min. from 4:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.; every 15 min from 7:30 to sunset, and every 30 min. from sunset to one hour after sunset. In season (June July and August), the buses run every 30 min. from 4:15 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.; every 15 min., from 7:30 a.m. to sunset; and every 30 min. from sunset to one hour after sunset. In September, the buses run every 30 min. from 5:15 a.m. to 7:30a.m.; every 15 min. from 7:30 a.m. to sunset, and every 30 min. from sunset to one hour after the sunset.
The lookout points from Bright Angel Lodge (head of Hermit Road) west, are:
TRAILVIEW I and TRAILVIEW II at 0.7 mile (1.1 km) and 1.4 mile (2.2 km) respectively, west of Bright Angel Lodge, is the best lookout to observe the nature, canyon, landscape, and the historic village. Looking southward, The San Francisco Peaks (highest mountain range in Arizona, at over 13,000 ft) can be seen at sixty five miles away. The historic Village can be seen from Verkamps Curios in the east, to Kolb Studio perched precariously over the rim, in west. This is the best belvedere point to see The Bright Angel Trail sharply and abruptly descending, in tens of switchbacks, toward the green, lush patch of Indian Garden, 4.5 miles (7.25 km) below the rim, and the middle of the trail between the head trail and Colorado River. The maverick backpackers, day hikers, and the mule trains can be easily seen trudging like little ants up and down the trail, making one’s imagination run wild in regard with the canyon’s boundless space.
MARICOPA POINT is 0.7 mile (1.1 km) west of Trailview II. In 1890 Daniel Lorain Hogan, a sheriff deputy in Flagstaff, AZ, filed a mining claim for twenty acres of terrain, including 1,100 ft (335m) below the actual belvedere point, and four acres atop the rim. He thought that the green mineral ore at 1,100 ft below the rim discovered by him was copper. Later he sold the property, in 1947, to Mrs. Madelaine Jacobs who discovered that the green ore mined for decades is a very rich uranium ore. Western Gold and Uranium bought the mine, and between 1956 and 1969 kicked aside a half million tons of ore to satisfy the nation’s crave for atomic energy. Today, if one looked west and down the wall of the canyon, might see a tall, rusted, old structure that stands yet, but ruined and neglected by time and weather, that was the funicular servicing the mine. Visiting the rim side’ debris, at this point, is prohibited, the site being fenced to avoid the visitors being minimally exposed to radioactivity.
POWELL POINT. 0.5 mile (0.8 km) west of Maricopa Point. Here, in 1915, then in 1920, a memorial in stone and bronze was erected in the memory of the first expedition on Colorado River’s white waters, led by John Leslie Powell in May 1869. Powell came back with a second team in 1871 for a more thorough examination of the river and its north side.
HOPI POINT. 0.3 mile (0.5 km) west of Powell Point has the best unobstructed views into the canyon. This point, in the beginning, was named Rowes Point after an immigrant settler from Great Plains, who opened a tourist “complex” a couple of miles south of the rim. He cleared a horse path from his camp to the site of today’s Hopi Point, and is considered being the first guide to lead groups to this point, and down in canyon through The Bright Angel Trail. Also, here was the last overlook area for those visiting from The Village, and a back-and-forth trip from El Tovar Hotel, in horse drawn carriages, was $1.50. Santa Fe Railroad built the rest of the Hermit Road, to Hermit Rest, in 1912.
The Hopi Point has the best views of the inner canyon of all belvedere points on Hermit Road. Westward views are extensive: Mt.Trumbull being seen at sixty miles away; beyond, the Kanab and Shivwits Plateau, guarding the entrance in Lake Mead, rise north of the river. All these seen at sundown, look like an orgy of colors in a surrealist painting. Eastward, and having the sunset behind, clears a view of the Cape Royal, Vishnu Temple, Wotan’s Throne, and other distant formations enveloped in a golden, soft, and spectacular late light. Down in the chasm, the powerful combination of the golden, pervaded, sun setting light, the bluish appearing rocks, and the evening’s heavy shadows, somehow twists out, and distorts, the entire perspective. This is magnificent! The river is visible like a giant silvery anaconda, meandering through Hermit and Granite Rapids a mile below the rim, with the dark Vishnu schist walls of the Granite Gorge as sentry.
THE MOHAVE POINT. At 0.8 mile (1.3 km) west from Hopi Point on Hermit Road, has an expansive view of the plateaus, spires, rapids, buttes and “temples”. All these features were named, before the beginning of the 20th century, by the early pioneers, surveyors, cartographers, geographers, and apparently schooled in classics. “The Alligator”, baptized by photographer Emery Kolb, is a formation just underneath the overlook and pointed northwest. In front, across the river there are the Tower of Set (named by painter Thomas Moran); Horus Temple and Osiris Temple (named by surveyor Clarence Dutton). On the left is Tower of Ra, and Isis Temple. West on river, many rapids are visible from above (Salt Creek, Granite and Hermit).
PIMA POINT. Is the nearest lookout from Hermit Rest, at 1.1 mile (1.8 km), and 4 miles (6.5 km) west of Mohave Point, on Hermit Road. It has a bold view over The Abyss, 2.9 mile (4.7 km) east of the point, and 1.1 mile (1.8 km) west of Mohave Point. This is a pure sheer cliff tumbling about 3000 ft. down to Tonto Plateau. Down and westward, barely visible are the ruins of the Hermit Camp, intentionally burnt down in 1936 by the Fred Harvey’s employees.
THE HERMIT REST. Is the terminus point of the Hermit Road on the west side. Architect Mary Colter was chosen by Santa Fe Railroad to build at the end of the road, a rest house. She used native Kaibab limestone and logs, creating the congruous aspect of an original shelter constructed into the hillside, with a heap of whitish stones piled up as a chimney. The rest was inaugurated in 1914, and considered a nice respite after a long, 8 mile drive in horse drawn buggies or carriages. The house provided a good rest under a roofed in porch during the summer time, and a warm ambiance around the fireplace, during the late fall, winter or early spring. Food and snack were provided to visitors from a kitchenette; souvenirs were on sell, and the tourists had their moments of silence and awe looking to the immensity of the canyon and its riot of colors. The name of the rest was given to honor a Canadian Quebec immigrant, Louis Boucher, pioneer of the place, prospector, and full time tourist guide, and nicknamed “The Hermit”, for the solitude in which he was living. The man made his hut inside the canyon, and lived in solitary there between 1889 and 1912. He built for his visitors’ tent camps below the rim, at Dripping Springs and in Boucher Canyon. In late 1920s the Santa Fe Railroad opened the Hermit Camp, on Hermit Trail, down below the Hermit Rest. The Fred Harvey Co’s leaflets named it a “camping de lux”, having a dining hall, a Fred Harvey chef, cabins, showers, restrooms, telephones, and stables. The Hermit Camp was left to dilapidation in 1930, and intentionally burnt down by the employees in Nov. 1936.