Hermit Road rehabilitation will affect drivers, hikers

Rehabilitation of the park's historic Hermit Road is expected to begin next month and last into late fall.

The road, a popular sightseeing route with nine overlooks, seven miles of rim trail and access to the historic Hermits Rest and Hermit Trailhead, will be open during the early phases of the project. Starting April 1, portions of the road will be closed to both vehicles and pedestrians. On April 1, the west end of the road from Hopi Point to Hermits Rest will be closed to vehicles and pedestrians. The shuttle will run on the east end from Village Loop Road to Hopi Point until early July when the entire road closes.

Access to the Hermit Trailhead will be limited from April 1 through the end of November, or until construction is done. There will be no day hiking during that time and the trail will close completely from June-August. In April and May and September-November, permit holders who are entering but not exiting the Canyon on the Hermit Trail will have morning shuttle bus service to the trail head. The Backcountry Information Center has more details, at 638-7875 Monday-Friday from 1-5 p.m. or any time on the Web at http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm.

The Santa Fe Railway constructed the first road to Hermits Rest in the early years of the last century. The Bureau of Public Roads and the NPS designed and constructed the current road between 1934 and 1935.

It is now in poor condition and does not meet current safety standards. The 18 to 20-foot-wide road is too narrow for safe bus passage, especially when bicyclists and pedestrians are using the road. Although it has received some periodic maintenance, the pavement is in poor condition because the road was not built for the size of vehicles and volume of traffic it receives today.

The rehabilitation of Hermit Road includes road widening and resurfacing to a consistent width of 24 feet, improvements to shuttle bus stops at each of the overlooks, provision of accessible pedestrian routes from shuttle bus stops to viewing areas, and improvements to approximately five miles of rim trails, including construction of a new three-mile, multi-use greenway trail which will be open to both pedestrians and bicyclists.

During the closure of Hermit Road, the NPS recommends the following alternative opportunities:

Visitors can enjoy rim hikes of up to six miles along the Rim Trail from Hopi Point (April 1-July 6), or from the first Trailview Overlook east to Pipe Creek Vista (July 7-Nov. 30). This paved rim trail is accessible from several parking lots and up to six bus stops served by the free shuttle bus system.

Visitors can also enjoy day hikes below the rim using the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails. The free shuttle buses transport visitors to these trailheads.

From July 7-Sept. 5, when all of Hermit Road is closed, the park will add a new shuttle route from Canyon View Information Plaza to Desert View with stops at several locations including Grandview Point, Tusayan Ruin and Museum, Moran Point and Desert View. Visitors will be able to use all other roadways within the park that are normally open to private vehicles.

Xanterra will continue to provide commercial bus tours on Hermit Road, including those provided to passengers of the Grand Canyon Railway, but they will be modified depending on construction activities and closures.

For up-to-date information on the project, closures and bus schedules, visit the park's Web site at

http://www.nps.gov/grca/.

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