Copper Canyon, Mexico, Our Way–Part 3–In the Canyons

We go down into the canyons to the small towns of Batopilas and Urique.  We make a thrilling traverse from Copper Canyon to Urique Canyon in a four-wheel drive.

Copper Canyon is more than the train ride along the rim of the canyon.  The Barrancas del Cobre is actually a series of 6 canyons covering an area four times larger than the Grand Canyon.  They are home to the Tarahumara Indians, who are famous for their long distance endurance running.  Our goal was to see the most spectacular parts of the Copper Canyon area, and to do so we wanted to visit the Batopilas and Urique Canyons.  You can get into both by bus, but to do so requires several days of backtracking.  We were hoping to get from one to the other on a fairly new, but very rough road.

The bus for Batopilas was waiting for us on a street corner in Creel at 7:00 am.  It was an old yellow school bus with hard seats, but since the road is paved, it was not too uncomfortable.  Two other sets of tourists got on the bus with us.  We drove west along the canyon rim before dropping down into the canyon via uncountable switchbacks.  The bus stopped for about 10 minutes at the La Bufa lookout to cool the brakes while we enjoyed the views.

We found the hotel that Ivan had arranged for us yesterday.  It was in a beautiful historic building with a central courtyard with fountain, no TV, and no internet. One of the other couples that was on the bus also stayed in this hotel.  They were going on a six-day guided hike to Indian villages.  It was in the plaza a block from our hotel that we saw the kids carrying machine guns playing soccer. 

Batopilas was founded as a silver mining town, and although large fortunes were made here, there is little mining done today.  The town only has a couple of thousand people and is a long skinny town spread up and down the Batopilas River. There is a foot bridge that connects the town and the communities on the other side of the river.

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Later on that afternoon we haggled with a local shop owner over the price of the trip from Batopilas to Urique.  We settled on a price of 4000 pesos, or about $235, for the trip.  The distance is only about 45 miles, but takes half a day of fighting an extremely rough road. We justified the price by knowing that it would save us two to three days of backtracking on buses. We sceduled the trip to give us an extra day in Batopilas.

That afternoon, we hiked along the aqueduct built by the miner Alexander Shepard to provide hydroelectric power to the town.  We did see a few of the local Indians in town, wearing their characteristic white loincloths.  I usually don’t take pictures of the locals if I think it will make them self conscious, and I thought it would be inappropriate to do so here.


The next day we hiked 5 lonely miles to the Lost Cathedral of Satevo.  Below, I’m peeking into the cathedral through a busted door.  About 5 minutes later someone arrived with a key and let us go inside.



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We had a refreshing swim in the river on the hike back out.  The next day we left for our traverse of the two canyons.  We drove up in the High Sierra towards the canyon rim.

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We stopped to take pictures along the divide of the two canyons.  We really enjoyed taking to our driver Chito and his two sons.  He was going to drive his sons back to Chihuahua after dropping us off in Urique.

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Urique was hot and dusty, and we briefly considered asking Chito is he would just take back up out of the canyon.  Fortunately we decided to stay because the subtle charms of Urique gradually grew on us.  We were the only tourists in town, and everyone knew where we were and what we were doing every minute.  We would be asked by people we hadn’t met before how we liked our hike or the last restaurant we ate in.  It wasn’t creepy at all….it was just the natural curiosity of people in a small town.

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Our next day we hiked to the Guadalupe mission.  It was a shorter hike than our hike in Batopilas but involved much more up and down.


We found a secluded beach on the river to take our afternoon swim.

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The next morning we took another old school bus out of the canyon to Bahuichivo on the canyon rim.  It was time to finally take our train ride!


Next:  El Chepe Scenic Train Ride

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