smile after smile
This hike begins at the locked gate that marks the trailhead with several parking spots before the gate. The trail follows an old road through pinyon pine and juniper for about 3/4 mile until it reaches the Waldron Trail sign. The actual trail starts here and continues down canyon for another 3/4 of a mile past Horsethief Tank and eventually leaves the drainage onto a saddle. From the saddle the trail drops rapidly into Hermit Basin over the next mile about 800 feet through a series of tight switchbacks. At about 3 miles in the trail reaches the Hermit Trail junction which is the end of Waldron Trail.
Continuing on another 1/4 mile Hermit Trail reaches Drippings Springs Trail junction that will traverse over to the spring. It's about 2 miles over to the spring as the trail weaves in and out of side drainages. Just before the spring is the Boucher Trail junction then continue another 1/2 mile or so to Dripping Springs. The junctions are hard to miss as each one is marked by very large signs.
After passing through the Dripping Springs area the Silver Bell Trail starts on the opposite end up a steep slope. This trail is not maintained and can be difficult to follow at times. For the most part you can see the old trail construction and some cairns have been constructed. In addition the trail is steep as it switchbacks up through the Coconino sandstone for almost a mile. Eventually the trail works it's way back into the drainage and follows an easier more gradual ascent through some Gamble oaks and pinyon pine. At around the 7 mile mark into the hike the Silver Bell finally reaches the rim.
From here the trail turns back into old two track road and is fairly easy to follow. Very flat on top compared to the past 7 miles with easy walking through the forest. Near the beginning of the rim walk there is an old corral along the road. This two track road continues for another mile until it reaches the NPS boundary road. Just before reaching the NPS road there is a Dripping Springs sign on the ground but it's easy to miss. Following the NPS road it's super highway and goes by quickly for another 0.8 miles to the next road turnoff. At about the 9.5 mile mark turn left off the NPS road onto another two track. It's not marked other than spotting the old road but it shows on the topo map only 1/2 from where the Waldron Trail sign is marked. Once arriving back at the Waldron Trail sign this closes the loop and head back on the same road to the locked gate.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.