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
Corridormost traveled by foot and stock, patrolled/maintained by NPS
Thresholdless traveled, not maintained by NPS
Primitiveleast traveled, not maintained by NPS
Routeno trail or path,v advanced navigation skills required. Learn more about traveling in the desert at backpacker.com/desert-navigation.