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Tonto West (Boucher - Tonto - Bright Angel)

Cold and sleepy Grand Canyon pink rattlesnake
Elevation plot: Indian gardens to South rim
Elevation plot: Monument Creek to Indian Gardens
Along the Tonto trail
Map: Tonto West - Boucher to Tonto to Bright Angel
Elevation plot: Boucher creek to Monument creek
Elevation plot: Boucher trail to Boucher creek
Inner gorge - Grand Canyon
On the edge on the Boucher trail
Along the Hermit trail


How to Get There
This hike is located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

From Flagstaff, take HWY 180 north towards the Grand Canyon. Once you enter the park, you'll head towards the Grand Canyon Village. During the busy season, you will need to take the shuttle from Grand Canyon Village to the Hermit Rest trailhead.
Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon and Marble Canyon area

Hike details

34.20 [Miles] Total
Hike Distance- Details
9.1 miles from Hermits rest to Boucher creek
8.7 miles from Boucher creek to Monument creek
10.9 miles from Monument creek to Indian Gardens
4.5 miles from Indian Gardens to the South Rim
32.00 [Hours]
This hike was a four day (three night) backpack adventure
Elevation Change
3,600 Total gain/loss [Feet]
Elevation Details
3600 ft down into Boucher creek and then up the same elevation to the South rim. Along the Tonto trail is also plenty of ups and downs. There's plenty of elevation change on this hike!
Hike Trail Type
Special Features


Best Season
  • March
  • April
  • October
  • November
Worst Season
  • June
  • July
  • August
Season Details
Date Hike completed
October 06, 2016


Solitude Details
Only a handful of groups are allowed permits to camp and hike along the Western section of the Tonto trail. Expect to enjoy plenty of solitude until you reach the Bright Angel trail.


Difficulty Rating
difficulty detail
Due to the long distance and severe elevation changes, this is a difficult hike. Make sure you already have Grand Canyon backpacking experience before you try this one.


Permit Info
A backcountry permit is required for this hike to camp below the rim of the Grand Canyon.
Be Aware of
Shuttle ride required, extreme temperature changes, route finding

, For Winter Hiking: Remember that the South Rim is damned cold in the winter. Snow and Ice will cover the trail for the first few miles. Crampons recommended.

, For Summer Hiking: Get an early start and don't hike during the heat of the day. Remember that the bottom of the canyon will be MUCH hotter than the top.

Hike the Tonto Trail (West) in Grand Canyon national park, Arizona. This includes the Boucher trail, the Tonto trail, and the Bright Angel trail.

The Tonto trail runs along the inner gorge of the Grand Canyon and remains one of the best backpacking trips to find some solitude in this National Park. The western section of the Tonto can be enjoyed by starting down the Boucher trail and heading east to climb out the Bright Angel trail. Much of this trail is only sporadically maintained. Though easy to follow (nearly all trail junctions are signed), there is some route finding and the trails are significantly more rugged than corridor trails. The easiest way to get to the Boucher trail is to hike from the Hermit trailhead. To get to the trailhead, take the (free) shuttle from the Grand Canyon Village to the Hermit Rest stop. Allow 60 minutes for this, as the shuttle makes seven stops on the way for the gawking tourists. At Hermit Rest is a gift shop, restrooms, and water. Alternatively, the park service gives you the code for the gate if you want to take your car, but you'll have to pick it up again after the hike.

Start on the Hermit trail. Although this trail is not maintained, it is still in reasonably good shape. As the trail descends down the white sandstone region, enjoy the work put in by the Santa Fe railroad when they built this trail in 1910. After 1.2 miles of hiking, you reach the junction of Waldron trail (JCT_1R on the map), which is an alternate route to the rim of the canyon. Stay on the Hermit trail by keeping right here. After 1.5 miles of hiking, you reach the junction of the Dripping Springs trailhead (JCT_2L on the map). To the right is the Hermit Trail to Hermit creek. Stay left here.

You will be walking along the top of the redwall as you skirt the edge of Hermit Canyon. The views of Hermit Canyon are impressive here. After 2.75 miles of hiking, you reach the junction of the Boucher trail (JCT_3R on map). Turn right here to finally start hiking on the Boucher trail. The Boucher trail stays flat as it heads out towards Columbus point. The trail gets quite close to Hermit canyon creating some excitement. You'll lose some elevation as the trail drops into Travertine canyon, then after getting to the saddle at Whites Butte, the trail drops quickly down to Boucher canyon. You'll reach the unsigned junction (watch for cairns) with the Tonto trail (JCT_4 on the map) but after this long day you'll want to camp. We spent our first night camped in Boucher Creek (CAMP1 on the map). This is a primitive area, so there are no toilets or designated campsites. There are clear places that people have camped in the past, so please use one of those. This is a very pleasant area that has year round water. On day two we backtracked to the Tonto (JCT_4) and started hiking East on the Tonto trail. The Tonto trail looks generally flat on the map, but in reality it ducks down and back into side canyons, so there is some elevation change. The first major landmark is Hermit creek. This perennial creek is a designated camping area and is quite scenic. Continuing from the canyon you'll pass the remnants of Hermit camp before reaching the junction with the Hermit trail (JCT_5L on the map). Stay left here to stay on the Tonto trail. There are plenty of great views of the inner gorge as you finally reach Monument creek. The creek was named from the obvious rock pillar in the middle of the perennial creek. There are designated camping sites here (CAMP2 on the map), year round water and a toilet. On day three we continued on the Tonto trail through Salt Creek (seasonal water). After Salt creek, the trail contours around Dana butte until it reaches Horn creek (seasonal water, but not recommended for drinking due to potential contamination by a closed uranium mine upstream). From Horn creek, you'll contour around the Battleship and it is easy to see Indian Gardens with its huge cottonwood trees. The Tonto trail continues East, but we'll be camping in lovely Indian Gardens. Year round treated water, organized camping, and bathrooms are available at this very popular campground. Day four is only 4.5 miles up the Bright Angel trail, but you'll climb over 3000 ft. The trail is well graded so it is a steady climb. This section of trail is one of the most popular in the canyon, so expect to meet lots of people here, especially near the top. Enjoy that feeling of accomplishment as you stop at the South rim to look at the magnificent views of where you hiked.


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