Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon) is a canyon system in the Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico. The Canyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site but doesn’t have a Mexico park status yet (mostly due to problems between the state and native Raramuri).
How to get to the Copper Canyon
The Chihuahua al Pacífico Railroad – or El Chepe – runs from Los Mochis to the city of Chihuahua, passing through the canyon. Although this is considered the most scenic train ride in the world, it doesn’t provide direct views of the canyon itself.
Foreign tourists prefer to purchase 1st class tickets – and if you chose those make sure to purchase in advance – but the 2nd class tickets can be purchased from the conductor and are half of the price of the 1st class tickets.
The area is also well served by buses. You can get to Chihuahua from El Paso-Juarez or Ojinaga-Presidio. Then you can take another buss from Chihuahua to Creel, where you can hope on El Chepe.
A very good option is to drive your own car. The tolls aren’t very high and you have the liberty to choose the itinerary and stops.
When to visit
The best time to visit the canyon is between early spring and early summer and between late summer and early autumn.
What to do
In Creel you can rent mountain bikes and ATVs to explore the area. Unguided tours are possible. Daytrip tours can be taken to Valley of the Monks, Valley of the Frogs or Recohuata (a hot springs area).
There are countless of hiking trails in the area. The only problem is that they are unsigned and no one knows how steep or how hard to negotiate they are. It’s a very good idea to hire a local guide if you want to hike in the area.
Candameña Canyon is the least touristy canyon of the seven canyons in the area. It’s a good idea to hire a guide if you want to explore it.
Piedra Volada Falls is the highest waterfall in Mexico. Again, it’s recommended to hire a guide.
Where to stay
For the most adventurous of travelers, the best idea is to camp. There are plenty of camping grounds in Creel and Urique. You can also go to a local farm and ask for the permission to camp (of course, a small payment is advisable). Plus you will always find a spot to place your tent so you don’t need to worry about booking in advance.
If you are not exactly attracted by camping, you can stay in one of the lodges or guesthouses. However, these cater for tourists who booked the room way in advance (two to four months in advance) so if you took the trip on the spur of the moment, don’t relay on any openings.
If you want to explore the canyon by train on El Chepe train ride, start at El Fuerte and travel uphill to Creel or Chihuahua. The uphill scenery is unbelievable so make sure to have your camera ready (and a lot of space on your card!). Find a comfortable place to stay – maybe at the bar – and enjoy the scenery (at least the first 2 hours of the journey provide great scenes)