Mexico's Copper Canyon
Train and Trek in the Sierra Madre
Copper Canyon is a unique and diverse place that offers a fascinating combination of great natural beauty and interesting human history. You will board the world-renowned Chihuahua-Pacific Railroad at El Fuerte and explore the best of this wilderness. Copper Canyon actually consists of six massive canyons. Combined, these canyons are four times larger than the Grand Canyon. As you journey up the mountains by train you will cross 36 major bridges, pass through 87 tunnels, and gain 8,000 feet of elevation in the Sierra Madres. At Creel, you will leave the train and descend into the canyon to visit the town of Batopilas, where you will get an up-close view of the canyon and its people. You will enjoy the fascinating culture of the indigenous Tarahumara people, and hear the echo of missionaries, industrialists, and revolutionaries in the Copper Canyon area.
DAY 1: Fly into Los Mochis International Airport and meet your group in the evening at the Santa Anita Hotel. Discuss the trip with your guides and new traveling companions over dinner.
DAY 2: From Los Mochis, travel to the historic Spanish colonial village of El Fuerte in the morning. Tour the village and take a river tour to see the El Fuerte petroglyphs. Experience your own Mexican-style welcoming fiesta at the beautiful Posada del Hidalgo hotel.
DAY 3: You will board the Chihuahua-Pacific Railroad in the early morning and begin the steep climb to 8,000 feet in elevation. This is not only a beautiful ride, but also one of the engineering marvels of the world. You will reach Divisadero station by mid-afternoon, get off the train and enjoy the Posada Mirador hotel perched on the edge of the canyon. Here you'll meet Tarahumara vendors selling baskets and other traditional crafts.
DAY 4: You can get out and hike around the canyon rim as the train leaves Divisidero for Creel around noon. Arrive in Creel mid-afternoon and check into the Best Western Lodge at Creel. Spend the afternoon and evening exploring the town and the crafts of the Tarahumara Indians.
DAY 5: Take the dramatic descent to the bottom of the canyon–truly one of the most scenic and exciting drives on the planet. We will roll in to Batopilas, an old mining town nestled between river and canyon. You will stay in a beautiful "Casa" near the town plaza. Visiting Batopilas is a bit like traveling back through time. Look at the slide show of this trip to see what we mean. You'll stay for three nights at the Real de Minas Batopilas hotel.
DAY 6: In the morning, hike along the river to the "Lost Cathedral" of Satevo built by Jesuit missionaries two centuries ago. In the afternoon, visit a remote Tarahumara community and witness a lifestyle that has remained virtually unchanged for 400 years.
DAY 7: In the morning, visit the Shepard mansion ruin, the remnants of a large silver mining operation owned by a renegade American who in a former life was mayor of Washington DC! In the afternoon, take a shuttle to the Batopilas aquaduct and dam, have lunch along the river, swim in the crystal clear water, and soak up the beauty of the area. Hike back to town along the historic Camino Real.
DAY 8: Early in the morning, begin the six-hour ascent to the top of the canyon. Once back in Creel, check into the Best Western Lodge at Creel and then go on a horseback riding excursion into the surrounding hills.
DAY 9: Spend the morning in Creel and then travel by van to Chihuahua City. Arrive in Chihuahua City in the afternoon. Visit the Revolutionary Museum, Pancho Villa's last residence, a fine arts museum, and the cathedral square. Enjoy a last banquet in Mexico with your new friends. Overnight at the Quality hotel.
DAY 10: Have breakfast and finish packing before the transfer to the Chihuahua City Federal Airport for your flights home.
What To Expect
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: Copper Canyon varies significantly in terrain and elevation. Starting from the coastal town of Los Mochis, you will travel by train to 8,000 feet in the Sierra Madres. Then, you will descend 6,000 feet to the canyon floor and wonderful ecosystem in and around Batopilas. You'll go back up the canyon and end on a high plateau in the beautiful city of Chihuahua.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: This is a more unusual touring style adventure than many of Wilderness Inquiry's trips. You'll travel by a variety of means, including train, bus, horse, and foot. Hikes will be a few hours in length. No previous experience is needed to complete this trip.
WEATHER: Temperatures during this season range from 35 F to 80 F. This area should be quite dry, but it is wise to plan for rainy days and pack accordingly.
ACCOMMODATIONS: You will be staying in hotels and villas or lodges. Most rooms are double occupancy with two beds. Participants will be paired by gender or requests to room together. Showers are available at all of the accommodations. Most lodging will be on the first floor and relatively accessible, however certain amenities commonly found in the United States may be lacking (such as grab bars in rest rooms to assist persons with disabilities).
MEALS: We’ll enjoy a variety of fresh, healthy options at local restaurants that include poultry, beef, vegetables and fruit. We pride ourselves on offering good tasting breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. While we’ll enjoy sharing happy hours together, the purchase of alcoholic beverages is not included in the trip fees.
YOUR GROUP: The group size will be approximately 7-12 participants, plus 1 or more Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: A detailed equipment list will be sent to you upon confirmation of your participation.
SINGLE TRAVELERS: If you are traveling alone, you will feel at home with a welcoming group. When rooms are shared, we match same gender solo travelers. If you would like to have your own room throughout the trip, you may purchase a single supplement for an additional fee. Please email or call us if you would like this option.
PASSPORT/VISA: U.S. citizens need a passport to enter Mexico, and it must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your planned departure. One blank passport page is typically required for entry stamp. No tourist visa is required for U.S. citizens for stays under 180 days. We encourage you to check the State Department website for the most up-to-date entry requirements: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/mexico.htmlA note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
Mexico’s remote Copper Canyon offers visitor to the Sierra Madre Mountains a glimpse back in time, a taste of an indigenous native culture, and a breath-taking mountain and canyon landscape. Located in the southwestern part of the state of Chihuahua, Copper Canyon actually consists of six massive canyons. Combined, these canyons are four times larger than the Grand Canyon in Arizona and, in places, deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Copper Canyon is also known as Sierra Tarahumara, named after the area’s semi-nomadic inhabitants who live in the cliffs, mesas, and caves of the canyon. The Tarahumaras (Spanish name) or the Raramuri (their own name) are descendants of the tribes of Northern Mexico that fled from the Spanish conquest by taking to the mountains.
As the Spanish encroached on their civilization, the shy and private Tarahumara retreated to the inaccessible canyons of the Sierra Tarahumara. After prospectors discovered mineral wealth, many areas where Tarahumara Indians lived became desirable lands for mining companies, forcing the Tarahumara once again to head farther into the remote canyons. Today, the Tarahumara remain Mexico’s second largest native Indian group with between 50,000 and 70,000 people. They live in caves, under cliffs, and in small wood and stone cabins in remote areas.
The Tarahumara have achieved renown as long-distance runners, surprising many by winning races wearing their tire-soled sandals. Walking and running is their main mode of transportation and many of the small communities lie far apart. The Tarahumara remain very religious and desire privacy and respect. Two larger events are Semana Santa (Easter Week) and the Fiesta Guadalupana in December. Other celebrations utilize tesguino, an alcoholic beverage made by the Tarahumara from corn and grasses.
Visitors will enjoy a scenic train ride from Los Mochis on the Pacific coast to the country’s arid inland. The 406-mile route includes several stops in the fabled Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon). The train cuts through sheer canyons, hugging the sides of towering cliffs and offering dizzying glimpses of rivers far below.
Stops along the way include the colonial town of El Fuerte, providing excellent views down into the 7,544-foot depths of Copper Canyon; Areponapuchi, teetering right on the canyon’s edge; Creel, a base for hikers and the regional center for the local Tarahumara people; and the Mennonite hub of Cuauhtemoc.
The dramatic 806-foot Cascada de Basaseachi is the highest waterfall in Mexico. Located 87 miles northwest of Creel, the waterfall is worth the drive and hike to reach it. Creel is also a good base for reaching the 98-foot Cascada Cusarare waterfall, 14 miles south of the town. This fall is much smaller than Cascada de Basaseachi but gorgeous and worth the effort.
The Sierra Tarahumara region contains some twenty-three different species of pine and two hundred different species of oak trees. Mexican Douglas-fir trees cover the high plateaus in altitudes over 8,000 feet (2,400 meters), but due to deforestation in the area, many species of wildlife are endangered. Cougars live in the remotest of regions but are rarely seen. After the summer rainy season, these upper regions blossom with wildflowers until October. From 4,000–8,000 feet (1,200–2,400 meters), oak trees grow in the huge forests as well as the more shade-tolerant types of trees. In the fall the forests become brilliant with color from Andean Alder and poplar trees. Brushwood and scrubby trees grow on the canyon slopes, which can survive the dry season. Huge fig and palm trees thrive at the bottom where water is plentiful and the climate is tropical.
The alpine climate of the mountainous regions of Copper Canyon has moderate temperatures from October to November and March to April. The bottom of the canyons remains humid and warm and stays that way throughout the year. During the warmest months, April through June, drought poses a chronic problem with little rainfall until July when the rainy season begins.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How safe are international trips with Wilderness Inquiry?
Safety is our top priority on all Wilderness Inquiry trips. We maintain awareness of all State Department travel advisories and ensure our itineraries follow appropriate routes. We have an excellent record of safety on all international trips and only run trips when we feel confident in participants having an excellent experience.
Which immunizations do you recommend when traveling to an international destination?
Prior to departure, we recommend that you check with your doctor as early as possible to ensure you are up to date on your standard immunizations. Your doctor is in the best position to recommend specific vaccinations to specific destinations.
Do I need international travel insurance if my health insurance doesn’t cover me on an international trip?
Can I pay more to have my own room on a lodge-based trip?
Yes, most times a single supplement is available on a lodge-based trip. Exact cost and availability depends on the trip.
What are the meeting places for Copper Canyon? Where do I fly into and out from?
Meet your group at Los Mochis Federal Airport in the late afternoon. Get shuttled to El Fuerte where you will partake in your own Mexican-style welcoming fiesta at a beautiful Hotel.
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No Dates Scheduled
WI leads trips to Copper Canyon but currently has no dates scheduled. Our staff consider this one of our best trips, so it's great to consider if you have your own group. Please contact us if you have at least 8 people who want to plan a trip together.