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Backpacker Magazine – January 2013

Grand Canyon National Park: Boucher-Hermit Loop

Scramble through remote ravines, soak up private riverside vistas, and tour from rim to river on this stout, 25.1-mile circuit.

by: Annette McGivney and Andrew Matranga

BP0113GRAND_BestWeekendMap_445x260
Photo by BP0113GRAND_BestWeekendMap_445x260
BP0113GRAND_BestWeekendMap_445x260

The verdict is in: Even park rangers agree that stringing together these “threshold” and “primitive”* trails makes for the South Rim’s hardest weekend.

Start at Hermit’s Rest (1) for a 1.1-mile, 1,000-foot descent on the Hermit Trail. Turn left on the Dripping Springs Trail (2) and hike one mile west. Go right on Boucher Trail (3) and contour north out of Hermit Canyon onto the Esplanade, a sandstone plateau. Bear west below Yuma Point (4) at mile 4.3, where a condor’s-eye perch takes in Horus and Osiris Temples bookended by the Towers of Set and Ra rising off the North Rim. Descend north on sloping ledges to the head of Travertine Canyon at mile 5.8, just south of Whites Butte; .6 mile later (5), drop 1,400 feet in a mile down a crumbling gully of Supai shale (brief class 3 hand-and-foot climbing required).

Meet the Tonto Trail (6), but head left on the Boucher track for the .6-mile trip to perennial Boucher Creek (7) to camp amid a croaking chorus of resident canyon tree frogs (most active from March to August, during mating season). Want more? Before sunset, dayhike 2.1 miles (round-trip) down the ravine to Boucher Rapids (8) for front-row vistas of the roiling Colorado.

On day two, backtrack to rejoin the Tonto Trail, and follow it 4.5 miles southeast to Hermit Creek Camp (9), with midcanyon views of the Colorado’s Granite Gorge. Make camp and beeline 1.4 miles down to Hermit Rapid (10), where boaters attempt some of the river’s biggest waves and strongest hydraulics.

Day three, take the Tonto 1.1 miles east to the Hermit Trail (11). Go southwest for a one-mile, 1,000-foot climb on narrow, fossil-dotted limestone switchbacks up Cathedral Stairs (12). Then pick your way 3.1 miles across talus-laced Hermit Creek Gorge. Reach the seep of Santa Maria Spring (13) at mile 5.2 and finish off with a thigh-burning, 1.7-mile push back to Hermit’s Rest. Trip ID 1917349

*Trail Talk:
Corridor
most traveled by foot and stock, patrolled/maintained by NPS 
Threshold
less traveled, not maintained by NPS
Primitive least traveled, not maintained by NPS
Route no trail or path,v advanced navigation skills required. Learn more about traveling in the desert at backpacker.com/desert-navigation.

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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Tacheeni Scott
Jan 09, 2014

Star Star Star Star Star
Kendall
Apr 19, 2013

While I didn't do this exact loop, last weekend had a permit that allowed me to do Boucher only, down and up. Took the first day as this link suggests, going all the way to camp at Boucher Creek. Left water cache at Whites Butte and Yuma Point for the way up. Camped at Yuma Point the second night. Back out the third day. In mid-April (on a Friday-Sunday trek) only saw seven people the entire way until the last mile out on the Hermit Trail. Boucher was tough on the way down but not horrible in comparison to Colorado 14ers and other hikes I'm used to, just take your time. But it's definitely not a hike for novices. Great campsites below the tip of Yuma Point, even if you're running past it, it's worth taking a lunch break in the shade and soaking up the view by the waterpots. Hate to see more people there the next time I go, but highly recommend.

Star Star Star Star Star
Anthony Romero
Apr 08, 2013

Just completed this loop and I have to agree that going reverse would help if you're worried the extra weight in your pack will work against you. Our group slipped many times going down Boucher. Hard work and solitude made for a perfect weekend trip!

Star Star Star Star Star
Mike Wagner
Jan 17, 2013

I find this trek to be more enjoyable in the reverse order as going down Boucher is much more difficult than going up it.

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