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Boucher Rapids
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park
boucher rapids
The Tonto Trail below Boucher camp runs down Boucher Creek. The cliff in the near background is Vishnu Schist; those in the middle background are Tapeats Sandstone (view west).


The hike from Boucher Camp to the Colorado River is an easy, 50-minute stroll down Boucher Canyon. If you find yourself on the Tonto Trail in Boucher Canyon, this side trip is a must. In addition, this is probably the easiest route from the Tonto Trail to the river because the route starts down in the Vishnu Schist and the walking is easy.

People often hike into Boucher Canyon as part of a 3- or 4-day, 21-mile loop trip using the Boucher, Tonto, and Hermit trails. This is a popular backpacking trip, so plan ahead and make backcountry reservations early. In the Boucher Canyon backcountry zone (BN9), camping is at large, which means that you can camp anywhere. There are several nice campsites where the Tonto Trail first intersects Boucher Creek from the east. Other nice campsites in BN9 can be found on saddles along the trail (dry camps) and at the mouth of Boucher Canyon on the Colorado River. Permanent water is available in Boucher Creek and at the river.

Link to map.

boucher rapids
Boucher Canyon below Topaz Canyon (view north).

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...the side trip down Boucher Canyon is safe and easy, but don't fall into the river. The Tonto Trail, needed to get to Boucher Canyon, has a reputation for being difficult and obscure. This is true for the Tonto west of Boucher Canyon, but the Tonto Trail east of Boucher Canyon is wide and easy to follow. The Boucher Trail is said to be difficult.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this hike is long, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

boucher rapids
The S-curves in lower Boucher Canyon (view northwest).

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, about 5 hours southeast of Las Vegas.

From Las Vegas, drive out to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The trailhead for this route is the Tonto Trail in Boucher Canyon, and the closest trailhead on the South Rim is Hermits Rest. From the South Rim Visitor Center (Table 1, Site 811), ride the shuttle bus or drive to the Hermits Rest trailhead (Site 815). For details, see the Hermit Trail description.

boucher rapids
Colorado River at Boucher Canyon (view east).

The Hike

From the camping area in Boucher Canyon, it is about 1.25 miles and 50 minutes to the Colorado River.

From the camping area (Table 2, Wpt. 1; 1210 hrs), hike down Boucher Creek to the confluence of Boucher Canyon and Topaz Canyon (Wpt. 2; 1225 hrs). To this point, the route follows the Tonto Trail, which just runs down the streambed. Close to camp, you can get out of the wash by walking along the north wall of the canyon.

Below Topaz Canyon, the route leaves the Tonto Trail and runs down Boucher Canyon (not that you can tell the difference between the trail and the canyon).

boucher rapids
Colorado River and Boucher Rapids (view west from the Tonto Trail between Travertine and Boucher Canyons). Much of the beach to the left of the rapids is sandy.

In Boucher Canyon, the route runs generally northwest down the canyon. The canyon makes two jogs on the way northwest, then curves hard to the south (right) and goes through a narrow section with a couple of low, water-polished cascades [1250 hrs]. You can shortcut the canyon here by climbing over the low ridge. The short cut is more obvious on the way upstream.

Below the water-polished cascades, the canyon curves back to the north through tight S-curves [1255 hrs]. The curves make the hike to the river farther than you might think. After the S-curves, there is a short straight northwest section of canyon, then you hear a roar, and look up to see the river (Wpt. 3; 1300 hrs).

The canyon opens onto a beach with sand dunes, rocky places, and some Saltcedar thickets. The sand dunes look like a nice place to camp, but the river is pretty loud. On the edge of the river, you can hear that odd whirring noise the river makes.

When you are ready to head back, retrace your steps to the Tonto Trail.

Table 1. Highway Coordinates (NAD27, UTM Zone 12S). NOTE: This is UTM Zone 12. Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site # Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
0811 Visitor Center, Canyon View Information Plaza 36.05897 112.10848 400166 3990857 7,092 Yes
0815 Hermits Rest trailhead 36.06044 112.21170 390870 3991131 6,642 Yes

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates based on GPS data (NAD27; UTM Zone 12S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft)
01 Camping area 388470 3996275 2,780
02 Topaz Canyon 388380 3996710 2,650
03 Colorado River 389335 3997260 2,320

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120424

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