The Waldron Trail
Detailed Route Description
On this page you'll find my route description of the Waldron Trail. Note that this is not
part of my main trip narrative for our Grand Canyon 2010 backpack. Rather, this page is intended as a route description page for those requiring a straightforward description of how to hike the Waldron Trail. Having said that, there is overlap between this page and the section of my narrative that involves the Waldron trail. To go the main narrative of the backpack we did, click here.
The Waldron trail is what I would term a 'secondary access' trail. It isn't really a destination in itself, but rather provides an alternate way to access either the Hermit or Boucher Trails, both of which can then be used to access the bottom of the Grand Canyon, or to reach Dripping Springs.
Most hikers use the trailhead at Hermit's Rest to access the Hermit Trail, Boucher Trail, or Dripping Springs. Hermit's Rest is easier to reach; it's paved, and the length of trail from Hermit's Rest to the junction with the Waldron Trail is somewhat shorter than the length of trail from the Waldron Trail to the same junction. Having said that, there's a pleasant remoteness to the Waldron trail that will appeal to some. And for those who've done the trail down from Hermit's Rest many times, it provides something new to explore.
Accessing the trailhead
The trailhead for the Waldron trail is located along an old forest road not far west of Grand Canyon village. The road (as of 2010) is in quite good condition. It is relatively smooth and with no sections requiring high clearance. It may, of course, be blocked by snow during the winter months (it definitely is not plowed).
From the Grand Canyon backcountry office, cross the train tracks, heading west. After the tracks, turn left and drive through a complex of lodging. In a few hundred yards, a right-hand turn is made onto Rowe Well Road (this is not well marked). Rowe Well road soon enters forest, makes a few curves, then crosses another set of railroad tracks. There is then a T-junction, at which you turn left (you can't go right anyway, since the road is barricaded a few hundred yards beyond in that direction).
Continuing south along Rowe Well road, the pavement ends and a reasonable gravel road begins. After five minutes or so, you will reach a junction, with a much smaller dirt road peeling off to the right (it's not a right-angle turn). There's also an old ramada here (i.e. a roofed, open-sided shelter) at this intersection.
Take the road heading right. This is the road leading to the Waldron trailhead. There are several intersections along the way; ignore all of them and continue straight (at one of the intersections there is a small white arrow on a brown metal post - it points in the direction of the trailhead).
The trailhead is marked by a barricade across the road and five or six simple log-lined parking spots. This spot is 0.7 miles (1.0 km) short of the 'real' Waldron trailhead, but it has become the effective trailhead, since you can't drive any farther.
From the parking area, simply continue hiking along the old forest road. The grade mostly slightly downhill, so the going is easy. Towards the end of the 0.7 miles, the grade gets steeper and the road winds downward. At the point where the grade bottoms out and starts back up again, you'll encounter the 'real' Waldron Trailhead (complete with an NPS sign). The Waldron Trail leads away to the right, behind the sign.
The Waldron trail leads mostly northward through pleasant south rim Pine and Fir forest. The tread of the trail is well-defined but not heavily eroded. Soon you notice that you are following a small creekbed. This continuously gets deeper as you hike along, with the trail staying on the left-hand bank a little ways up from the bottom.
Horsethief Tank is a grassy depression along the creek. There's an earthen dam at the lower end; when I did this trail (April of 2010), there was no water in it.
After Horsethief Tank, the Waldron Trail continues a slowly descending contour along the left-hand bank of the creek. Soon you get a very distant view of some Grand Canyon scenery, but it's not much - just a glimpse of the top of Eremita Mesa and the distant North Rim. The creek becomes much a much deeper 'V' at this point, and soon the Waldron Trail begins a steeper descent down to the creek-bed and crosses it at right-angles, and heads directly up the opposite bank. Still in pine-and-fir forest, the trail climbs a short distance up the right-hand bank of the creek and tops out at a rise. This point is in fact on the rim of Hermit Basin.
There are tantalizing glimpses of Hermit Basin and Hermit Canyon from here, but these serve only to egg you on downhill. Continuing down the other side of the ridge the trail has just climbed, the Waldron trail begins a well-constructed switchbacking descent into Hermit Basin. The track is in good shape, easy to follow, and free of blowdown. The upper third of the trail winds through open pine-and-fir forest, but soon breaks out into open, more desert-like terrain, affording much better views down into Hermit Basin and a portion of Hermit Canyon.
After about 800 feet of descent, the Waldron Trail reaches the bottom of Hermit Basin. At no point during the descent is the trail difficult or overly steep.
Total distance for the Waldron Trail from the new parking area to the Hermit-Waldron Junction is about 2.6 miles (4.3km).