Copper Canyon Chihuahua: A Comprehensive Travel Guide

COPPER CANYON CHIHUAHUA: A COMPREHENSIVE TRAVEL GUIDE

An overlanders guide to road tripping through the amazing Copper Canyon in Mexico’s state of Chihuahua

 

Candameña Canyon mountain landscape views copper canyon chihuahua mexico
Views from the foot of Candameña Canyon

 

Are you ready for an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, one of Mexico’s most breathtaking natural wonders?

 

If you love nature, biodiversity, history, indigenous culture, and authentic villages, then an adventure through Mexico’s Copper Canyon in the state of Chihuahua will be an experience you will never forget.

 

Copper Canyon is immense and absurdly beautiful! Comprised of 6 canyons in total, the area is said to be about 4 times larger, and to an extent, still undiscovered as compared to the neighboring Grand Canyon in the United States.

 

 


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS


 

ROAD TRIP GUIDE OVERVIEW

Region of Mexico: Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range (aka Sierra Tarahumara) in the southwestern part of the state of Chihuahua in northwestern Mexico

Currency: Mexican peso

Language: Spanish, Tarahumara (aka Rarámuri)

Starting point: Hermosillo, (Sonora, Mexico)

Ending point: El Fuerte (Sinaloa, Mexico)

Highlights: Scenic drive, hiking, indigenous culture (Tarahumara), off-the-beaten path, authentic towns, adventure sports, National Park, beautiful landscapes

Time allotted: 10 days

Approximate miles/km to drive: 590 miles / 950 km

Highways/roads to drive: Hermosillo to Cascada de Basaseachi National Park to Creel – Federal Highway 16; road from Creel to Divisadero/Areponapuchi; road from Divisadero/Areponapuchi to Urique; road from Urique to Choix; Choix to El Fuerte – Highway 32.

winding mountain roads canyon views copper canyon Chihuahua
Expect narrow, winding mountain roads and stunning scenery as you drive through Copper Canyon, Chihuahua

Road Conditions:

  • Federal Highway 16 – Highway libre (no tolls) mostly paved, winding road with areas of uneven surfaces and potholes. Two-lane highway with minimal safe passing zones, suitable for all vehicles.
  • Road from Creel to Divisadero/Areponapuchi – Winding, mostly dirt road with occasional potholes, suitable for all vehicles.
  • Road from Divisadero/Areponapuchi to Urique – Treacherous, narrow dirt road. Continuous switchbacks with frequent blind spots and no side rails. Not suitable for large recreational vehicles, as the road is too narrow. High clearance vehicle required.
  • Road from Urique to Choix – Treacherous, narrow dirt road for 200 miles. Most of the road is made up of an uneven surface with frequent potholes. This road is not recommend without 4-wheel drive and a high clearance vehicle.
  • Highway 32 – highway libre (no tolls).  Paved road in good condition. Suitable for all vehicles.

Best time to travel:

  • September through May (best months to visit) – dry season – comfortable daytime temperatures, nights can be cold (below zero in the winter along the canyon’s rim), no mosquitos.
  • June through August – rainy season –  you will find the landscape and waterfalls to be at their peak during this time. High humidity, warm to hot daytime temps, mosquitos are relentless.

Sites of interests: Basaseachic Falls National Park, Creel, Lake Arareco, Valle de los Monjes (Valley of the Monks), Misión San Ignacio, Recohuata hot springs, Cascada de Cusárare, Cusárare, Valle de las Ranas (Valley of the Frogs), Valle de los Hongos (Valley of the Mushrooms), Divisadero, Parque de Aventura Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon Adventure Park), Areponapuchi, Urique, Batopilas, El Fuerte.

Adventure rating: 5 out of 5

What we enjoyed most: A complete DIY adventure in one of the most remote areas of Mexico. The perfect mix of culture, nature and biodiversity.

canyon ridge views copper canyon chihuahua mexico
Copper Canyon is four times larger than the Grand Canyon in the US

 

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INTRODUCTION

This is a DIY travel guide meant to provide guidance for those who wish to travel through Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico. This guide is best suited for those who have a passion for exploring the road-less-traveled. We admit, a road trip through Copper Canyon isn’t for everyone, especially if you don’t have a suitable vehicle for driving Mexico’s unruly backroads. Luckily, there is another option! You can still explore Copper Canyon in Chihuahua by means of the El Chepe train (Ferrocarril Barrancas del Cobre). The train runs from the city of Los Mochis along the rim of Copper Canyon to Chihuahua City. This guide can certainly be tailored for those who prefer the train over driving, as the train will allow you to hop on and off at different locations along the route.

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HELPFUL TIPS FOR YOUR COPPER CANYON CHIHUAHUA ADVENTURE

  • First and foremost, download the iOverlander app for your phone. We have found this app incredibly useful during our road trip through Mexico. The app provides recommendations of all sorts and is intended for anyone traveling through the Americas. You will find everything from food and accommodation reviews, travel warnings, repair shops, areas frequented by corrupt police and much more. This app has been absolutely indispensable.
  • Gas stations are infrequent. Don’t pass up a chance to fill up your tank even if you have plenty of gas. Be sure to fill up in Hermosillo before heading to Cascada de Basaseachi National Park.
  • Learn basic Spanish. Those who speak English are few and far between in this region of Mexico. Most of the tourists you will run across are Mexican tourists, so if you are at all interested in striking up a conversation with locals and tourists alike, Spanish is essential.
  • Traveling to Copper Canyon in Chihuahua during the summer months? Be sure to bring mosquito repellant, head nets, etc. Mosquitos are a huge problem, thus is dengue. Our host in Urique informed us that the Department of Health comes every 2 months to test all of the locals for Dengue. Be prepared for those pesky creatures!
  • Bring plenty of cash! The only town within Copper Canyon that has an ATM/bank is Creel, with a limit of 6,000 pesos per day. Outside of Creel (not including the larger hubs- Los Mochis, El Fuerte and Chihuahua City), you can bet that nowhere will accept cards, not even gas stations. We spent our last 200 pesos to fill up our tank on the way out of Urique. We ended up having to sleep in our car one night because we didn’t have cash to pay for a room and there were no ATMs in sight!
  • For a complete DIY trip (following this guide), you will need a high clearance vehicle. Four-wheel drive is nice to have but not absolutely necessary. We made the trip with a Subaru Outback and found the ground clearance to be barely sufficient.
dirt mountain road through pine forest to Urique Copper Canyon Chihuahua
Pine forests surround much of the roads through Copper Canyon, Chihuahua
  • Don’t solely rely on google maps (or any other map app) for planning your route. Google maps will display what it believes to be the shortest route from point A to point B, but this does not mean that the road is suitable for all vehicles. We made the mistake of mapping out a route on google maps that made complete sense, but what we didn’t realize was that our car would never make it through the planned route. Luckily, we ran our intended route by locals before venturing off and they warned us not to attempt certain roads. This saved us from getting stuck in the middle of nowhere!
  • Along with not relying on google maps for directions, be sure to add at least 2 hours to the estimated arrival time when driving on Mexico’s backroads. We found that the drive time was significantly underestimated when driving on unpaved roads.
  • Most importantly, do not drive at night! Figure out where you plan to stay well before dark. We felt completely safe driving through Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, but the area does have a reputation for cartel activity. Not only for safety reason, but also because of the condition of the roads; they should not be attempted after dark.

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EXPLORING COPPER CANYON CHIHUAHUA BY TRAIN

train stop sign divisadero el chepe mexico
Explore the beautiful Copper Canyon by riding the El Chepe train – a great alternative to driving

As we mentioned previously, this guide can be tailored for those who wish to explore Copper Canyon in Chihuahua by means of the El Chepe train; therefore, it is worth mentioning how to do this.

The entire route from Los Mochis to Chihuahua City is 418mi (673 km), which takes approximately 13 hours (each way) on a first-class train and 14 hours on a second class train. You can save money and time by choosing to start in El Fuerte rather than Los Mochis.

To maximize your time in Copper Canyon, Chihuahua here are our suggestions after the research we did.

Traveling via El Chepe train

  • First, figure out your starting and stopping points. Most people choose to travel from west (Los Mochis) to east (Chihuahua City). Los Mochis is not particularly interesting and the landscape between Los Mochis and El Fuerte is nothing special. Start your trip in El Fuerte rather than Los Mochis. Most hotels provide transportation to and from the train station.
  • El Chepe only offers one-way tickets. If you plan to travel in both directions you will need to purchase two separate tickets.
  • Purchase tickets beforehand if your plans are concrete. It is possible to purchase the tickets at the train station, but you will run the risk of the train being full. This rarely happens except when travelling to Copper Canyon in Chihuahua during the major holidays (Christmas/Easter).
  • The train company is in the process of building an online platform for purchasing tickets. In the meantime, send an email to chepe@ferromex.mx, maria.sanchez@ferromex.mx, dinorah.acosta@ferromex.mx or ricardo.solis@ferromex.mx (all offer support in English).  Although the official El Chepe site is down at this time, it is said to be back up in the near future.
  • Decide whether you want to travel primera express (first-class), or Clasé Ecónomica (second class). The amenities are basically the same and prices are approximately $100 USD vs. $170 USD. The major difference is that the second-class train runs about an hour longer and makes a few extra stops.

Plan in advance

  • Keep in mind that the first-class train runs every day, while the second-class train runs Monday, Thursday and Saturday from Chihuahua to Los Mochis and Tuesday, Friday and Sunday from Los Mochis to Chihuahua. The train leaves at 6am.
  • Don’t plan to make the entire trip in one day. A train ride is great but to truly get a sense of Copper Canyon, Chihuahua and to take advantage of all the recommendations in this travel guide, plan to hop on and off the train and spend some days exploring the area.
  • If you plan to buy your tickets in advance, be sure to specify your exact plans with dates in the email you send. For example: depart El Fuerte on…(mention date of departure); depart Creel on…; depart Divisadero on…, and so on.
  • If you are limited on time, our suggestion is to focus on the area between El Fuerte and Divisadero, which is the most scenic area within Copper Canyon. Don’t bother taking the train all of the way to Chihuahua City, rather spend your time exploring the area around Creel, Divisadero, and if time allows, choose either Urique or Batopilas (both towns located at the bottom of the canyon).

After getting all of those practicalities out of the way, it is time to focus on the best part, the Copper Canyon, Chihuahua day by day travel guide! In this section, you will read a compilation of what we enjoyed most during our time in Chihuahua and Copper Canyon.

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DAY 1 – A NARROW, WINDING ROAD TO BASASEACHIC FALLS NATIONAL PARK

winding mountain roads pine forests copper canyon Chihuahua
The roads through Copper Canyon, Chihuahua are not for the faint of heart

Although not technically within the boundaries of Copper Canyon, a visit to Basaseachic Falls National Park (Cascada de Basaseachi) in Chihuahua serves as the perfect introduction of what’s to come! The highlight of Basaseachic Falls National Park is none other than Basaseachic Falls, Mexico’s second tallest waterfall. Not only is the spectacular scenery a great introduction of what is to come, but the road to the National Park will give you a good sense of what to expect of the roads within Copper Canyon. Unfortunately, the train does not travel to Basaseachic Falls and there is not a regular bus service to the park, so renting a car or hiring a driver are the only options.

Don’t overlook the weather in Copper Canyon  Chihuahua

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Winter brings warm sunny days and cold nights in Candameña Canyon

Rest up after the long drive and get ready to hike to the bottom of Candameña Canyon (Barranca de Candameña) where you will come face to face with the spectacular falls. Spend the night camping at the entrance of the park, or find a hotel in town.

With all of the research we did before our road trip, the one thing we overlooked was the weather. The thought never occurred to us that at any point it would be too cold for camping; after all, this was Mexico, the land of tropical beaches! How naive we were! It wasn’t until waking up in the wee hours of the morning when we realized how cold the winter nights can get in Copper Canyon, Chihuahua. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep much, as the temperature dropped to around 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-5C)! At this point, our plans for backpacking and camping became obsolete and we decided to stick to day hikes and hotels while visiting Chihuahua and Copper Canyon.

If you are planning to visit Copper Canyon and Chihuahua during the warmer months, there are plenty of amazing camping opportunities, which we will mention throughout this post. If you prefer to stick with hotels/hostels, we have you covered. Plan to stay 2 nights in the Basaseachi area and don’t expect to find anything resembling luxury.

Accommodations in Basaseachi:

  • Hotel Basaseachi – Located right outside the park entrance and offering clean and comfortable rooms at around 500 MXN pesos per night ($25 USD), depending on the season.
  • Rancho San Lorenzo – Cabin-style accommodations. A bit pricey for the area, but the rustic cabins fit the alpine vibe quite nicely. Cabins can be rented for around 1500 MXN pesos per night ($75 USD).
  • For the ultimate budget option, camp for free at the campground located inside the park (bathrooms available at campground).

Take advantage of the street food stalls located along the road before the entrance to the National Park. Try the delicious pollo asado!

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DAY 2 – WATERFALLS AND RAINBOWS: A HIKE TO THE FOOT OF CANDAMEÑA CANYON

waterfall rainbow turquoise water canyon mexico
A perfectly formed rainbow at the foot of Candameña Canyon

Get your hiking shoes on and get ready to hike to the bottom of Candameña Canyon. We started hiking right after sunrise and had the trail to ourselves. Before the start of the trail you will reach a viewpoint at the top of Basaseachic Falls. The viewpoint is literally on top of the falls. From here, you will have a great view of the canyon, but you won’t be able to see much of the waterfall. Keep walking past the initial viewpoint and you will reach the trailhead. About midway through the hike you will encounter a fork in the trail. Veer to the right and you will continue down the canyon; to the left you will reach another spectacular viewpoint of the falls. If you have the time and energy you can hike to both the viewpoint and the foot of the canyon in the same day.

Reserve time for exploring the foot of Candameña Canyon

The hike took us about 2 hours each way at a moderate pace. Once you arrive at the foot of the canyon, keep walking until you are close enough to the falls to feel the refreshing spray of the water spilling into the aqua colored pools below. It was here where we witnessed nature working in flawless harmony, forming a perfectly symmetrical rainbow that varied in intensity depending on the direction of the wind. We found the floor of the canyon to be a beautiful oasis just waiting to be explored. Be sure to leave enough time for relaxing, swimming or exploring the stunning landscape.

waterfall canyon landscape hiking copper canyon chihuahua mexico
Make time for exploring Candameña Canyon before hiking back to the rim

Once back at the car we were approached by a local who insisted that we pay him for parking our car. The man had no ticket or receipt to offer us and we had read beforehand that the park was free. We refused to pay him and went on our way. Be aware of locals attempting to take advantage of tourists.

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DAY 3 -WELCOME TO CREEL, CHIHUAHUA: COPPER CANYON’S PUEBLO MÁGICO

church tarahumara women indigenous blue sky Creel chihuahua mexico
Welcome to Creel, Chihuahua: the gateway for exploring Copper Canyon

Today, you will officially enter Copper Canyon, the natural wonder of Chihuahua. Creel can be considered the tourism hub of Copper Canyon. You will find several tour agencies in Creel where you can sign up for day excursions throughout Copper Canyon. There are dozens of shops, restaurants and hotels in this small town, all of which primarily cater to tourists. The real charm of Creel is located outside the town.

If you rode the train into Copper Canyon, plan to get off and spend two nights in Creel, Chihuahua. Considering all of the attractions of the area are located outside of town, you have the option of renting a bike, hiring a driver, or signing up for day tours. Tours start around 300 MXN pesos ($15 USD) and go up from there depending on where you visit. If you drove to Creel, all of the sights can be reached by car.

Spend the afternoon exploring Creel and devising a plan for the following day. Be sure to check out the handmade crafts sold by the indigenous Tarahumara women throughout the streets of Creel. Buying these unique items not only serves as a great memory, but it also helps to support the indigenous community whose livelihood is being threatened by a multitude of factors.

Accommodations in Creel

Luxury

Mid-Range

Budget

*To get an idea of the cost for a standard, mid-range room in Creel, we paid 600 MXN peso per night ($30 USD).

Eating in Creel

We tried a couple restaurants located on the main street in downtown Creel and weren’t impressed. After a couple of overpriced, lackluster meals we decided to walk 10 minutes from the touristic area and find smaller places where locals were eating. In doing so, we paid less than half of what we paid for a meal in the restaurants and enjoyed the food so much more!

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DAY 4 – DISCOVERING THE TARAHUMARA CULTURE AROUND CREEL

Indigenous Tarahumara family mom child baby bright colored clothes copper canyon chihuahua mexico
Indigenous Tarahumara reside solely in the confines of Copper Canyon

Creel, Chihuahua  is home to the Indigenous Tarahumara living within Copper Canyon. Today, you will explore the outskirts of town and get a glimpse into what life is like for this indigenous community. Depending on how you travel, you may only have time for a few of the activities near Creel; although, it is possible to see everything in one day. We will discuss each attraction and you can decide how to plan your day.

Cascada de Cusárare

This was our first stop as it is the farthest activity from Creel (apx. 25 km). Mexico’s government (Chihuahua) has allowed the Tarahumara community to exploit the land within Copper Canyon and retain a profit from tourist activities. This being said, you will encounter someone from the Tarahumara community at the entrance to Cascada de Cusárare and be asked to pay an entrance fee of 30 MXN pesos/person. A small fee that goes to help a struggling community. If you don’t have a high clearance vehicle do not attempt to drive to the falls, rather park at the entrance and walk 20 minutes to the entrance of the falls. Cascada de Cusárare is stunning, but the real charm is the walk to the falls. As you walk, you will find a market filled with traditional handicrafts and folk art of the Tarahumara people.

Cusárare, Chihuahua, Copper Canyon

Be sure to stop at the town of Cusárare, Chihuahua during your time in Copper Canyon. The highlight of this sleepy town is simply people watching and observing a unique culture go about their day to day lives. The Jesuit mission church stands in the center of town. Built in 1744 by the Jesuit missionaries to convert the native Tarahumara Indians to Catholicism. We struck up a conversation with a local who happened to be a retired community leader. He gave us a fascinating history lesson of the town and Tarahumara community.

Recohuata Hot Springs

If you decide to visit the Recohuata Hot Springs in Copper Canyon, Chihuahua, you will want to reserve half a day for this activity. Located apx. 22 km from Creel. To get to the hot springs you will

need to drive  11 km down a dirt road to the parking lot and then hike down the canyon. The hike down is steep and takes about one hour (plan for even longer on the way up). The views surrounding the hot springs are outstanding. Even as avid hot spring lovers, it was hard to justify the time commitment it takes to visit Recohuata Hot Springs.

Valle de las Ranas (Valley of the Frogs) and the Valle de los Hongos (Valley of the Mushrooms)

The next three attractions are located within a close vicinity of one another and apx 11 Km from Creel. Upon arrival, you will pay an entrance fee of 40 MXN pesos/person and have access to Valley of the Frogs, Valley of the Mushrooms and San Ignacio Mission. Explore the ancient rock formations that resemble frogs and mushrooms. This may sound silly, but we found this area to be quite fascinating!

San Ignacio Mission

Another Jesuit mission church with a fascinating history. The village is home to the Tarahumara community who live throughout the land surrounding the church. If you are lucky enough to visit on a Sunday, you will have the chance to see how the Tarahumara people worship.

Valle de los Monjes (Valley of the Monks)

This was one of our favorite stops in Creel! These rock formations resembling monks date back 20 million years ago. The local legend says that the rocks are indeed monks that have been petrified after several hours of meditation. A haven for geologists and photographers alike.

Lake Arareko

A distinctive “U” shaped lake located about 10 km from Creel, Chihuahua in Copper Canyon. Surrounding the lake you will find the Tarahumara selling their handmade crafts. The lake is a beautiful blue color surrounded by pine forests and ancient rock formations. Visit at sunset for the most vibrant colors.

Museo Casa de las Artesanías

To end your cultural tour of Creel and the Tarahumara community, visit Museo Casa de las Artesanías. Located near the train station in the center of Creel. The museum offers a history lesson of the Copper Canyon region in Chihuahua and the Tarahumara community. Definitely worth a visit!

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DAY 5 – MESMERIZING CANYON VIEWS IN DIVISADERO

Canyon views sunset man gazing Copper Canyon Chihuahua Mexico
Divisadero offers spectacular views of Copper Canyon. Be sure to stay for sunset.

 

Ask anyone who has traveled to Copper Canyon in Chihuahua about their most memorable experience and chances are they will mention Divisadero. Divisadero has everything: stunning canyon views, endless opportunities for hiking, indigenous culture, adventure sports and much more. Even if you are the type of traveler who likes to steer clear of touristic areas, this place is worth the visit. You can easily escape the crowds by hiking into the canyon, as not many tourists venture far from the main activities. If you are taking the train, hop off in Divisadero and plan to spend two nights exploring the area.

There is only one accommodation offered in Divisadero and it is a bit pricey, but the views from the hotel are phenomenal. If you are a budget minded traveler like us, head over to Areponapuchi.

Accommodations in Divisadero/Areponapuchi

Luxury

Mid-range

Budget

  • Unofficial camping at the adventure park (free)

Camping in Copper Canyon Chihuahua

Before realizing how cold the nights could get in December, our initial plan was to camp within the canyon. If you are up for an adventure and the weather cooperates, go for it! Here is how it can be done:

– From the adventure park, take the teleférico (cable car) down into the canyon with all of your camping gear (just like you are going backpacking).

– Once in the canyon, head down the stairs where you will find the start of the trails. There are several trails you can take, but we recommend heading in the direction of Ruta de los Gigantes. There are signs directing you towards the route and local guides are there to point you in the right direction. You don’t have to walk far before the canyon opens up to the most incredible views.

– Walk until you find a suitable spot to setup camp and before too long, you will have the canyon to yourself. Be sure to wake up for sunrise, as the canyon’s beauty is at its peak during sunrise and sunset. Be advised that the last teleférico runs at 4:15 pm; you will have no way to reach the rim until the following morning.

Rent a cozy cabin at Copper Canyon Trailhead Inn

Although we had to abandon our initial plan of backpacking into Copper Canyon, Chihuahua, we had an amazing experience staying at Copper Canyon Trailhead Inn. We rented a cozy cabin with a wood stove for 850 MXN pesos/night ($43 USD). If camping is not your thing, we highly recommend you stay here. There are options to rent cabins, or standard rooms for around 750 MXN pesos ($37 USD). The host, Rogelio (Roy), is the most welcoming and helpful host you could ask for. If you are traveling via the El Chepe train, Roy will arrange to pick you up at the train station and bring you to his place. He also offers rides to the adventure park and custom tours. Roy does not have internet and relies on a friend from the states to answer email inquiries. The best way to reach him is by calling (+52)635-294-7111, or (+52)635-199-9206.

An unruly road to the best viewpoint in Divisadero

If you are standing at one of the viewpoints located near Hotel Divisadero Barrancas, look up towards the rim of the surrounding canyon and you may see silhouettes of people. We were determined to figure out how to get to this lookout before sunset. After asking around we learned that the way to the viewpoint was via a 20 minute drive up an unruly road that our car may or may not be able to withstand. Well, we had to give it a try and we made it three quarters of the way up before having to park and walk the remainder of the distance.

To get to the view point from Hotel Divisadero Barrancas, drive out of the parking area in the direction of Creel. You will immediately see a dirt road to your right; take this road and you will reach this outstanding viewpoint. If you don’t have a suitable vehicle you can rent an ATV near the hotel and whip up the road with no difficulties at all. Try and plan to visit at sunset when the lighting is at its peak. Feeling ambitious? This is also an amazing place to camp. You will have unparalleled views of the stars at night and the sunrise in the morning.

 

canyon views sunset view point copper canyon Chihuahua Mexico
A 20 minute drive up an unruly road will get you to the best view point in Divisadero

Eating in Divisadero/Areponapuchi

There are limited street vendors in Divisadero and Areponapuchi, aside from the food stalls located outside the adventure park. We heard other travelers rave about the restaurant located in Divisadero’s only hotel, Hotel Divisadero Barrancas, but the restaurant was out of our price range. Instead, we chose to try all of the limited dining option in Areponapuchi. It wasn’t until our last night that we discovered the “gem” of the town; a quaint family owned restaurant called Los Magueyes. The restaurant is only a five minute walk from Copper Canyon Trailhead Inn and a main dish goes for around 100 MXN pesos ($5USD).

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DAY 6 – CHOOSE YOUR DIVISADERO ADVENTURE

zipline plunging canyon views adventure park Divisadero copper canyon Chihuahua Mexico
Get your adrenaline going and ride the world’s longest zipline at the adventure park in Divisadero

 

cable car canyon views copper canyon Chihuahua Mexico
Take the teleférico down into the canyon to access hiking trails and other view points

For many people who travel to Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, the biggest appeal are the adventure sports offered in Divisadero. The highlight attraction is the ZipRider, said to be the longest zipline in the world. There is not only one zipline, but rather over 3 miles of lines spread out across 7 different zipline attractions. Other adventure activities include climbing the canyon walls, crossing five hanging bridges of varying difficulty (ferrata), cycling through the canyon, and much more. The cost for the highlight attraction, the ZipRider, is 1000 MXN pesos ($50USD) and the other activities go down from there.

 

 

Hiking options from the adventure park

We love adventure but we consider ourselves to be mellow travelers. This being said, we opted to skip the adventure activities and stick to what we like best, hiking and photography. We rode the teleférico into the canyon and spent the day exploring on foot. Most of the trails in Copper Canyon (Chihuahua) have been formed by the Tarahumara community. There are literally a maze of trails running through the canyon; all of which are unsigned, running in various directions, with seemingly no concept of grade or steepness. Luckily, there are plenty of established routes listed once you disembark the teleférico. We choose to hike without a guide, but there are hiking guides for hire depending on how far you want to hike into the canyon. We explored Ruta de los Gigantes, Ruta de las Escuelas, and hiked down to the indigenous Tarahumara village of Bacajipare, not far from the teleférico.

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Unbeatable canyon views from the start of the hiking trails

Stay for the sunset

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Sunset views from the adventure park in Divisadero

Choose your adventure for the day and be sure to stay for sunset. The adventure park closes at 5pm so by sunset almost everyone is gone. We had the place to ourselves as we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen. If  you don’t suffer from a fear of heights, take the famous photo standing on piedra volada before leaving the park.

 

canyon views rocks man standing edge of canyon terrifying height adventure park copper canyon Chihuahua Mexico
Be sure to take the famous photo from piedra volada before leaving the adventure park

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DAY 7 – THE GRUELING ROAD TO URIQUE, THE FOOT OF COPPER CANYON CHIHUAHUA

canyon lush green river urique copper canyon Mexico
A birds eye view of Urique Canyon- view from Cerro del Gallego lookout

Urique is a charming community situated at the bottom of Urique Canyon; the deepest of all of the six canyons that make up the Copper Canyon system in Chihuahua. We had to choose between going to Urique or Batopilas. Urique won over Batopilas simply due to its close proximity to Divisadero. If you choose to go to Batopilas, you will need to head back in the direction of Creel and and follow signs towards Batopilas Canyon.

Subaru car dirt mountain road copper canyon Mexico
The road to Urique is an adventure in itself

One possible deciding factor for choosing whether to visit Urique vs. Batopilas is the conditions of the two roads. The road to Batopilas has recently been paved, while the road to Urique consists of a series of narrow, steep switchbacks with room for about 1.5 standard sized cars. Throw in blind corners, terrifying cliffs, absolutely zero side rails and you have your road to Urique. This being said, if you factor in the road conditions, the driving time to Batopilas vs. Urique is likely comparable.

A stop in Bahuichivo

On the way to Urique be sure to stop at the town of Bahuichivo for lunch. As recommended by our host in Areponapuchi, we paid a visit to Restaurant los Aguachiles and ordered none other than their famous dish, aguachiles. The portions are massive so it may be wise to share. If you are taking the El Chepe train, the closest stop to Urique is at Bahuichivo. There are shuttle services offered in Urique that will pick you up and drop you off at the train station in Bahuichivo (we will make a mention to this later on in the text).

Don’t miss Mirador Cerro del Gallego

rock formation yogi bear canyon copper canyon Mexico
Stop at Hotel Paraíso del Oso for a photo of Yogi Bear- do you see it?

Continue your journey to Urique, Copper Canyon, Chihuahua and stop at Hotel Paraíso del Oso for a photo of Yogi Bear (a rock formation resembling the famous cartoon bear). After you pass the town of Cerocahui you will see a lookout to your right; stop here for an incredible photo of the valley. Soon after passing Cerocahui the road becomes an uneven, dirt surface until you reach Urique. Stop at Mirador Cerro del Gallego for incredible views of the Urique Canyon and the Urique River below. It is here, a few miles before the view point, that the road becomes steep and narrow. Drive with extreme caution!

Embrace the tropical climate of Urique

The total driving time from Areponapuchi to Urique, Copper Canyon, Chihuahua took us between 5-6 hours (not including stops). We arrived shortly before sunset and found the weather to be quite pleasant as compared to Creel and Divisadero. Both Urique and Batopilas have tropical climates, so the winter temperatures are mild compared with towns along the canyon’s rim.

The enjoyable mild temperatures meant that we could camp! We spent two incredible nights at Campamentos del Río, a nontraditional campground located along the Urique River within the property of a local of Urique. We can’t possibly give enough praise to this wonderful place! Luis and Teresa, the owners of the property, were the most hospitable and welcoming hosts you could ask for. Teresa prepared each meal from scratch using locally sourced products, as well as produce from their small farm and garden. We will never forget the meals we had here!

Reaching Urique when traveling by train

If you are traveling through Copper Canyon, Chihuahua via the El Chepe train and want to visit Urique, one option is to arrange to be picked up at the train station in Bahuichivo. This can be arranged with the owner of Campamentos del Río, Luis, even if you aren’t planning to stay here. Another option is to take the bus from Bahuichivo to Urique. The bus schedule coordinates around the arrival of the train. If you are taking the second-class train, the bus will be there waiting for you upon arrival. If you are taking the first-class train, you will have to wait about an hour for the bus to show.

Accommodations in Urique

Mid-range

  • Paraiso Escondido Urique – Secure parking, excellent restaurant and nice rooms for around 400 pesos/night ($20 USD).
  • Entre Amigos (the most famous and popular accommodation for travelers) – Offers guest houses, individual rooms, beds in the hostel and campsites.

Budget

  • Campamentos del Río – we paid 150 pesos/night for camping. Camping gear is available for rent at an additional cost. A dormitory is currently under construction and should be ready by summer of 2019. Meals prepared by host on-site for 70 pesos/meal ($3.50 USD). Call (+52) 635-589-2915, or (+52) 635-293-7502 for reservations, or just show up! They are located directly across from Entre Amigos, in case you have difficulty locating them on the map.

Eating in Urique

Most of the hotels in town offer meals for less than 100 pesos ($5USD) for guests. If you wish to try a restaurant in town, check out Tita’s Restaurant Plaza for great service and food at a reasonable cost. Keep in mind that Urique is considered a “dry town,” meaning alcohol is prohibited. This being said, it is not excessively enforced and certain places are allowed to serve beer with meals. For a traditional drink, ask around for Tesguino, made from sprouted and fermented corn.

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DAY 8 – A DAY OF RELAXATION IN URIQUE, COPPER CANYON CHIHUAHUA

Colorful houses on a street in Urique, Mexico
The colorful streets of Urique

 

Spend the day exploring the small town of Urique on foot or bicycle, or simply relax while listening to the blissful sounds of birds chirping and enjoying the tropical vegetation. If you are traveling in the summer, be aware that you will likely experience thunderstorms and an excessive amount of the worst kinds of biting bugs!

Visit the indigenous community of Guadalupe Coronado

Much of Urique’s population and the surrounding area is comprised of the Tarahumara community. It is possible to hike or drive to the indigenous community of Guadalupe Coronado, located about 15 minutes by car from Urique. On the way, make a stop right before you cross the bridge over the Urique River. The road will veer to the left and in no time you will come across an old mining tunnel. In Urique you will find remnants of its past as an old mining community, established hundreds of years ago.

Urique’s famous marathon

If you are lucky enough to travel to Urique in early March, don’t miss the Ultra Maratón Caballo Blanco. The event attracts runners from all over the world to Chihuahua, Mexico for the chance to run 50 miles through the challenging and rugged Copper Canyon. The name Rarámuri (what the indigenous people of the Tarahumara refer to themselves as) literally means “those who run fast.” The Rarámuri have an international reputation for being some of the world’s fastest long-distance runners. The Rarámuri’s culture of running is ultimately what started this ultra-marathon. Check out the book “Born to Run” for the story behind the Rarámuri and their incredible athletic abilities.

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DAY 9 – PLANNING YOUR COPPER CANYON CHIHUAHUA EXIT STRATEGY

road dirt tree scenic landscape copper canyon chihuahua Mexico
Don’t rely on google maps for planning your route out of Copper Canyon

 

There is no easy way out of Urique. We originally planned a route where we would drive from Urique to Batopilas that didn’t entail going back the same way we came. Unfortunately, even though google maps says you can do it, you can’t. Thankfully we asked about the condition of the road running directly from Urique to Batopilas before attempting the route. We were told by locals that only off-road vehicles should attempt this road. If you have the desire and the time, you can hike the 52 km route from Urique to Batopilas, a supposedly spectacular backpacking trip.

The road to Choix

dirt road hazardous canyon landscape copper canyon Chihuahua Mexico
200 miles of rough, dirt roads from Urique to Choix – drive with extreme caution

Our Copper Canyon, Chihuahua exit strategy consisted of driving the same treacherous road that led us into Urique. From there, instead of heading back towards the direction of Urique, we took the road-less-traveled through Tubares to the town of Choix. In hindsight, we would have avoided this route. Instead, we would have chosen to backtrack through Creel and take the main highways to El Fuerte. The road to Choix is absolutely stunning, but unless you have a high clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle, do not attempt this road. If you choose to take the road to Choix, be aware that the road passes through very remote areas of Copper Canyon, Chihuahua and services are null. It took us two full days of stressful driving to reach Choix. We’ve never been so happy to finally see a paved road as we were when we reached Choix!

 

abandoned church mountain town copper canyon chihuahua Mexico
You will see abandoned towns alongside the road from Urique to Choix

Head west to El Fuerte

Complete your Copper Canyon, Chihuahua tour in El Fuerte; a short one hour drive from Choix. Plan to spend at least one day exploring the lively city of El Fuerte.

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DAY 10 – A DAY IN SINALOA’S PUEBLO MÁGICO: EL FUERTE

colorful town sign el fuerte copper canyon Chihuahua Mexico
Reflect on the amazing time you had exploring Copper Canyon while enjoying the lively town of El Fuerte

 

After spending several days in remote Copper Canyon, Chihuahua, the lively town of El Fuerte will be a welcomed change. El Fuerte is full of life, history, architectural beauty and great street food. Visit the historic central plaza where you will find beautiful colonial buildings, the city hall, street vendors and much more. Don’t miss the El Fuerte Museum for panoramic views of the city and surroundings, as well as exhibitions about the history of El Fuerte. Five kilometers outside of El Fuerte you will find the Hill of Masks; a sight where you will find ancient petroglyphs carved into stone.

Accommodations in El Fuerte

church street lamp street views el fuerte copper canyon chihuahua Mexico
We hope you enjoyed El Fuerte as much as we did

Luxury

Mid-range

Budget

  • Hostel Guerrero

*We stayed at Hostel Guerrero and paid 350 pesos ($17 USD) for a private room/bathroom and breakfast. The rooms are very basic, but the outdoor common area made up for it!

Eating in El Fuerte

Avoid the main plaza where you will find that the majority of  restaurants are geared towards tourists. Instead, stick to the open-air market and street food stalls where the locals eat. The options for street food are abundant in El Fuerte and we greatly enjoyed every place we tried.

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Happy Travels

We hope that you enjoy your whirlwind adventure through Copper Canyon, Chihuahua! We would love to hear your questions and/or experiences about traveling through the stunning Copper Canyon. Feel free to reach out to us in the comments section below, and, as always, may you find that authentic and fulfilling adventure that makes your soul smile!

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