Note: 21 mi RT is from the NPS. Tim logged 23.6 RT. GPS trace depicts 18.5 RT.
Overview: This Grand Canyon trail is not maintained, but still easy to follow. However, expect a great deal of scree and exposed areas, especially in the steep sections of which there are two in particular. There are two ways to access the Boucher, ("Boo-shay"), Trail from the south rim. One is from The Dripping Springs Trailhead and the other more popular way is from Hermits Rest Trailhead as it has passenger vehicle access, (permit required), from the Grand Canyon Village. This description is from Hermits Rest. The total distance from Hermits Rest to Boucher Rapids was 11.8 miles per our GPS unit and it took us 8 1/2 hours, not including our 2 hour siesta at Boucher Creek.
Hike: Five of us, (Carolyn, George, Rick, Keith and myself), began this trip on May 1st at 5:40 am. The temperature was in the upper 50's with no wind and the day gradually warmed up to the upper 70's as we neared the bottom. An ideal day. One begins the descent down Hermits trail which is steep, but much like a sidewalk as it receives a lot of day hiking traffic and is well maintained. A very popular day hike is to take the Hermit Trail down to Santa Maria Spring and back which is probably a 2 to 2.5 hour trek. The first intersection you come to is for the Hermit Trail and Walden Trail at roughly the 1 mile mark. Continue west on the Walden Trail roughly another mile until you come to the intersection of Walden/Dripping Spring and Boucher Trail when you will take the Boucher Trail north. This trail is pretty much a lateral transverse atop the red wall all the way around the Yuma Point. After Yuma Point, the trail heads back south into upper Travertine Canyon which is when it begins its first steep descent off of the red wall which is very similar to skiing a black diamond run. The switch backs are covered in loose scree from previous rock slides and the trail is very exposed in some sections. There is one section that is particularly steep where one may find it more comfortable to lower the backpack rather than try 3-pointing down while balancing 40+ pounds on your back. Whichever way you choose you should be just fine provided your taking your time and paying attention. As you head back south parallel to Travertine Canyon on the west side, the trail levels off until you reach a saddle just north of Whites Butte. This was where we stopped for lunch at approximately 11:15.
Once you head over the saddle you begin the descent into a double black diamond. This is the steepest part of the trail as it heads down into a narrow canyon just west of Whites Butte. It is not necessary to lower packs anywhere on this part but it is steep throughout. With a pack on your back, the knees can really take a beating. A HAZ member, Desert Girl, recommended my investing in a pair of hiking poles which paid for themselves twice over on this trip. After coming off of this double black diamond you begin a more gradual westward descent to the intersection with the Tonto Trail.
From this intersection you continue to head west into Boucher Creek. At Boucher Creek you will find a wonderful stream of cool running water. Some enterprising hikers from the past have constructed several small dams which create several pools under a cottonwood tree that you can filter water from and "wallow" in to cool off. This was a great stop for a rest and took approximately 10 miles in and took 7 1/2 hours to get to. We elected to take an extended break here before heading the rest of the way down the creek to the river. The remaining 1.8 miles took less than an hour and simply follows the creek bed the entire way. We found it easier to walk straight down the creek and accept wet feet rather than trying to follow the side of the creek amongst the scrub brush. At the intersection of Boucher Creek and Topaz Canyon you will see a large pile of cairns on the bank above you to the left. This is where the Tonto Trail continues west. You continue to head to your right, (ie: south), down the creek. At this point the creek winds through some really spectacular slot canyons until it finally emerges on the beach at Boucher Rapids. There are numerous camp sites on this sandy beach. It's the best camp site I've ever had. The Colorado River is significantly colder than Boucher Creek but braving a dip is a well deserved reward after a hard days work.
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.