Trail Description : Boucher Trail
The Boucher Trail was constructed by a French-Canadian prospector by the name of Louis Boucher. Mr. Boucher was "the hermit" that so many things in this section of the Canyon are named after. He operated a copper mine at Boucher Creek and used to live in the vicinity of Dripping Springs. His camp at Boucher Creek consisted of a stone cabin (a good portion of which can still be seen), some tents where he would put up guests and a garden and an orchard.
The Boucher Trail does not run all the way to the rim and can only be accessed via the Hermit and Dripping Springs Trails. The trailhead for the Hermit Trail is located just beyond Hermit's Rest on the Hermit Road. Contrary to what others might recommend, I do not suggest the use of this trail for the descent if you are doing the Hermit-Tonto-Boucher loop. Read on for more details.
Mileages are as follows (one-way):
Technically the Boucher Trail begins on the rim just above Dripping Springs. I personally have never travelled this section, nor have I been able to locate a description of this section of trail written by anyone else. You can get to this trailhead by driving out along Rowes Well Road from Grand Canyon Village. If you choose to do this you should get directions from the Backcountry Reservations Office. The more common and preferred access to the Boucher Trail is via the Hermit Trail and the Dripping Springs Trail from Hermit's Rest.
Picking up the Boucher Trail at the western terminus of the Dripping Springs Trail, the trail continues north along the western wall of Hermit Gorge. The first (as we will call it) three miles or so of the trail are virtually flat with some extremely minor changes in elevation. The trail heads out along the western side of the gorge and stays very close to the edge, it is not for those who do not like exposed places. Extreme care should be taken if you are using this trail during the winter months under icy conditions as at times your are literally walking on the edge of the gorge and one wrong step could be fatal. The same can actually be said of the Dripping Springs Trail. After travelling about 2½ miles to the north the trail comes to Yuma Point, contours around the point, and then turns and heads back towards the south, into the head of Travertine Canyon. The views from Yuma Point are spectacular and have to be seen to be believed. The views of Whites Butte to the west and Cope Butte and the inner gorge to the east are prime photo opportunities There are also some very nice places to camp in this area which can be particularly helpful in breaking up the trip if you happen to be hiking out along this trail. The trip out to Yuma Point actually makes for a pretty good day hike from Hermit's Rest if you don't mind pushing yourself. I attempted this once in December and was turned back by a snow storm about ¾ of the way there. The hike back through the blinding snow was quite interesting and I was extremely disappointed when the sun came back out just as I reached the rim. Being the determined sort I re-attempted the trip the day after the storm and was successful.
Once the trail reaches the head of Travertine Canyon the real fun begins. From there the trail heads almost straight down into Travertine, through the Supai formation, for a mile or maybe a little more. The descent is clogged with boulders of all sizes ranging from footballs to small houses. I have never actually been down this trail, only up it, and after doing that would never use it for a descent. Most other guide books that I have read actually recommend this trail for the descent and the Hermit Trail for the ascent if you are doing the Hermit-Tonto-Boucher loop. I think that the people who wrote these must be out of their collective minds, but of course that is only my opinion. Any trail that is this difficult is much easier going up than down when you can see where you are going and can use your hands to hold onto things. You end up taking a lot of chances going down something like this and there are some difficult places where you may have to take off your packs and lower them down with ropes. It is again amazing to think that people at one time, in the not too distant past, used to come down this trail on mules. The people who recommend it for the descent do so because they say that route finding on it can be difficult coming up. I didn't notice this to be a problem. As well as being steep and clogged with rubble and boulders, the descent though the upper sections of Travertine Canyon is also quite beautiful as it is extremely lush with growth and when we did it in May there were also quite a lot of flowers around.
Once you finish the descent you are rewarded with a fairly flat stretch of trail for the next mile or so that will bring you out to the saddle between Whites Butte and the rim. This section of trail travels right along the top of the Redwall Limestone and really opens up your view of the Canyon. When you get to the saddle take a rest as you're going to need all of your strength. There are some more spectacular views and some more Kodak moments to be had from this vantage point. When you are ready you can take the plunge and head down into the southeast drainage of Boucher Canyon and the last difficult section of the descent.
From here down it's only about 1¼ miles, through the Redwall and Muav Limestone, to the junction with the Tonto Trail, but the top ½ mile or so of that is a lot like what you just went through coming down through Travertine. I think the vegetation may actually be a little more dense though. I do a lot of hiking in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and this section of trail reminds me a lot of some of the trails there. It just doesn't seem to fit in the Canyon scheme of things and feels out of place. After that first ½ mile or so the trail simmers down a bit, remaining steep but on a reasonably clear trail. Some sections of the trail get a little narrow and you are travelling right on the edge so again it is not a trail for people who don't like feeling exposed. It remains like this pretty much all the way down to the junction with the Tonto. There are some really nice views of Boucher Creek from most points along this section of trail. The little trees that you can see down there are actually fairly large Cottonwoods located right at Boucher Camp.
The junction with the Tonto is marked by a sizable cairn. Once you reach this point you can relax. The descent along the combined Tonto/Boucher from this point down into Boucher Creek is a breeze. This is not to say that you shouldn't be careful, but the trail is not nearly so steep and it is fairly clear of rocks and the such.
Boucher Creek provides some excellent camping. The creek provides water year round and there are a number of trees that provide some shade during the heat of summer. Be sure to visit Boucher's stone cabin while you are down here. If you have some spare time it is also possible to walk quite a ways up along Boucher Creek into the back of the canyon. There is nothing really tricky about this, you just follow the stream. Sometimes it goes underground for a bit but if you continue upstream you will find it above ground again before travelling very far.
If you are heading for the river, and most people are after coming this far, it's only about a mile away by following Boucher Creek. This creek does some pretty serious meandering and the trail actually leaves the bed a couple of times to take shortcuts. Keep an eye out for cairns along the banks that mark these shortcuts.
Once at the river there are plenty of places to camp. The spot that we used is off to the left just atop a rather sizeable dune which provided an excellent view of the rapids and some early shade late in the afternoon. There is also a large section of Vishnu Schist there that has some potholes just the right size for people to lay in and laze away the afternoon. You'll have to climb up onto the Schist before you'll be able to see these.