A great place to hike in the Copper Canyon region is the Valley of the Monks in Creel. // © 2017 Mark Chesnut/LatinFlyer.com
Feature image (above): El Chepe train is a passenger train that travels through the scenic Copper Canyon. // © 2017 Mark Chesnut/LatinFlyer.com
The Copper Canyon — actually a group of canyons that are bigger than the Grand Canyon — is one of Mexico’s most legendary natural attractions. Following are some of many ways to enjoy this scenic region, which stretches from the northern state of Chihuahua into the Pacific coastal state of Sinaloa.
El Chepe Train
The Chihuahua-Pacific train, more commonly called El Chepe, is one of the last passenger trains left in Mexico. Running between the city of Chihuahua (capital of the eponymous state) and Sinaloa, it traverses 86 tunnels and 37 bridges on its picturesque ride through the heart of the Copper Canyon territory.
The ride can feel like a trip back in time as the train pulls out of the city of Chihuahua and heads into the hills. The comfortable, airline-style seats (albeit with more legroom, of course) and dining car make it easy for passengers to enjoy the view.
This tiny town, a popular stop on the El Chepe train route, exudes a scenic ambiance from the moment passengers leave the train. A bustling open-air market at the train tracks sells a variety of arts, crafts and food, while the canyon view from the nearby road is absolutely breathtaking.
Just a couple minutes by foot from the train stop and market is Hotel Divisadero Barrancas, which sits dramatically at the very edge of the canyon cliff. The views from here are equally memorable, especially for guests who choose a balcony room in the building farthest from the lobby.
Barrancas del Cobre Adventure Park
Travelers looking for more excitement than just a quiet hike should include a visit to this open-air park, which has a number of rides and experiences for various levels of bravery.
The Zip Rider, which is something like a seated zipline, shoots people off a cliff for a bird’s-eye view of the canyon. Those in search of a slower, calmer way to fly should opt for the sky gondola, which provides a 40-minute ride that’s great for photos. Rappelling and rock climbing are also offered here.
This town — an official Pueblo Magico (Magic Town), per the Mexico Tourism Board — is larger than Divisadero. While it doesn’t have the other settlement’s stunning views, it does offer plenty of activities.
Travelers can take peaceful boat rides on Lake Arareco, and hike through Valley of the Monks, a bizarre grouping of rock formations (which, according to some, resemble giant monks).
Downtown Creel is also pleasant for strolling, and has a variety of small shops and a tiny town square. Top hotel choices here include Quinta Mision Eco Hotel Resort & Convention Center, which features an excellent restaurant and large, well-appointed rooms, and Best Western Plus The Lodge at Creel, which recently obtained its “Plus” designation and incorporates lovely wood details and furnishings, in an almost log-cabin-like ambiance.
5 TIPS FOR THE BEST COPPER CANYON EXPERIENCE
Dress for the Weather
Some travelers may associate Mexico with warm weather, but temperatures can be cool in the canyon, especially at night.
It’s easy to go for several hours without being near an outlet to recharge phones, cameras and computers. Bring your own power source, and you won’t miss out on any photo opportunities.
Pack What You Need
Whether staying on the Chepe train or hiking through the beautiful scenery, visitors will likely also go for several hours at a stretch without coming across a convenience store or restaurant. Bring water and snacks.
Overnight in the Right Places
There are plenty of beautiful and interesting places to spend the night while taking the Chepe train through the Copper Canyon. Researching what each destination offers will help travelers to make the right decision about where to stop, and which activities are most attractive.
Read Up on the Full Experience
The Copper Canyon is more than just a beautiful canyon. It’s about indigenous Tarahumara culture, delicious cuisine, adventure travel excitement and lots of side trips. The more you know, the better the experience will be.