Copper Canyon – Chihuahua, Mexico
A Breathtaking Train Ride Through a Rugged Wilderness
This little-known, inaccessible region of the Sierra Madre contains one of the greatest canyon complexes in the world, inhabited by one of the most isolated peoples, the Tarahumara Indians. Las Barrancas del Cobre, the Copper Canyon, is actually a network of deep gorges, five river systems, six major intertwined canyons, and 200 minor ones that are cumulatively four times larger (and often deeper) than the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Remote and largely unexplored, it is best seen from a window seat aboard the glass-domed deluxe South Orient Line, which travels the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway. Perhaps the most scenic train ride in North America, it is 400 miles and thirteen Wild West hours from Chihuahua to Los Mochis on the Pacific coast, snaking through pine-forested highlands and wild ravines.
To experience the real grandeur of this rugged wilderness, take advantage of the stops. At 7,300 feet, the midway station of Creel offers entry into the heart of the back country, either with organized treks or through a stay at the Copper Canyon Sierra Lodge, where native guides can be hired.
The endless maze of hiking trails through the highlands and lowlands of this enormous canyon land and the opportunity to interact with the shy and beguiling Tarahumara make your stay here unique. There’s no electricity at the Sierra Lodge, but a toqued chef prepares surprisingly good local dishes, and the vast views are what you dreamed of.
The silver-mining village of Batopilas was once one of the wealthiest cities in Mexico; it now sits forgotten on the riverbank at the bottom of the canyon, amid lush subtropical foliage and flowers. Sierra Lodge can arrange for accommodation there, enabling you to take the most thrilling, cliff-hanging road trip you’re ever likely to take: a 6,000-foot descent into the mouth of the canyon that takes six to eight spine-tingling hours. Those who think they’ve seen it all should opt for the “suicide seats” atop the lodge’s Chevy van, a veritable roller coaster.