Around 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon every year, but only a small percentage of these people venture below the rim. In my years of experience trekking in the canyon I quickly learned that this is where the true magic of this natural wonder lies.
The Hermit/Boucher loop is an epic 3 day adventure below the rim in a more remote part of the canyon’s West side. This trek is what you would consider a lolly-pop loop meaning we will only cover the same ground in the last few miles on the last day. This trip is not for the faint hearted nor is any backpacking trip below the rim for that matter. So, when you’re thinking of undertaking this remarkable challenge prepare yourself for an experience that you will always remember and a level of beauty that few will ever know.
Day one: If Santa Fe is our starting point day one will be a day on the road, and our destination for the evening will be Flagstaff, AZ. Otherwise if you’re coming from another location outside of Santa Fe (out of state) our meeting point will be in Flagstaff. Hotel accommodations will be made according to group size. Prices may vary depending on peoples comfort levels and/or privacy needs. The only thing on our to do list for day one is to put the finishing touches on our gear and enjoy the inviting mountain town.
Day two: We will drive to the last town before the Park entrance (Tusyan). From here we will take a taxi service provided by the Grand Canyon to our trailhead at Hermit’s Rest (6600 ft). The descent will begin. Although the going may seem easy we will take our time negotiating the way down. Our first rest will be at Santa Maria’s spring where we will have our first real glimpse into the gorge of Hermit Creek. At this point we’ll have hiked about 2 and a half miles and descended a little over 1500 feet. The next several miles will be spent traversing the supai group formation. The views from up here are spectacular. Amazing vantage points lead the way to the notorious “Cathedral stairs” (switchbacks that descend through the redwall formation). Before the switchbacks another rest may be a good idea as we are about to drop down more than a thousand feet. Finally we will reach the tonto plateau, and we will officially be in the desert. The change in eco systems is highly apparent, and the terrain will also begin to level out. We will make our first night’s camp along the stream of Hermit Canyon. Total mileage for the day will be 8.2 with a 3,600 foot descent.
Day three: Today will not be too difficult, and will be more of a day spent enjoying the inner canyon and these lower elevations. We should be able to break camp and have the opportunity to not feel rushed. We may even get to sleep in 🙂 The first part of our day will be on the tonto plateau where excellent views and the deep feeling of solitude will be had. Our first rest will be a few miles in at the dramatic Travertine canyon. Here we will get a glimpse of what the next day holds. Back onto the plateau as we traverse around Whites Butte and to our destination for the night at the junction with the Boucher Trail. After we set up camp we will set out for a short afternoon hike to the Colorado river. With much lighter packs the going should feel like a breeze. Once we near the river we will be confronted with the roaring sound of Boucher Rapids. The Colorado’s sandy beach is a rare spectacle that again only few get to experience. When we’re ready we’ll make our way back to camp for our last night below the rim.
Day four: The Boucher trail is one of my favorite trails in the Canyon. It’s challenging route finding mixed with a special feeling of remoteness make this an excitingly empowering climb out. We will spend the first few miles ascending the redwall, eventually reaching a high point just South of Whites Butte. The route up to this point is really cool and will have you wondering about the individuals who pioneered these wild routes. I’m imagining a very well earned rest will be greatly appreciated at this point. We’ll have climbed about 1500 ft from our camp. Then the interesting traverse around the head of Travertine Canyon will leave us all feeling satisfied and challenged. Yuma Point is just ahead where there are some of the most expansive views in the park. Take it in! After that the long and beautiful bench walk will connect us with the Dripping Springs Trail. From here its 2.8 miles to the rim and only 1,400 feet more to go. The last leg indeed! We can do this and we will! A fairly easy going first mile will close out our loop and the climb back to our starting point at Hermits Rest will begin. Oh how well we we’ll remember joyfully skipping down these same switchbacks just a couple days ago. The vegetation changes incredibly as we near the rim. Finally we will crest. We did it! We just completed one of the most epic trips this miraculous place has to offer! Turn around and take some breaths. This is the Grand Canyon. There’s no comparison. Another night in Flagstaff before the return home.