Published November 2001
Los Mochis and El Fuerte: The western terminus of the Chihuahua Al Pacifico (Copper Canyon train) is in Los Mochis, a busy city with a good market and seafood restaurants. We much prefer to board the train (and overnight) in the small, authentically colonial village of El Fuerte, about an hour east.
Bahuichivo: The train is met by the Urique bus and shuttles from Cerocahui. The village has an expensive lodge as well as cheaper rooms. Check out the Paraíso del Oso, a family-style eco-lodge and campground in beautiful surroundings near Cerocahui. The owner encourages independent hiking and camping, and doesnt disdain visitors on a budget.
Urique: A couple of hours beyond Cerocahui by bus, the village lies at the bottom of the Urique Canyon, beside the Urique River. (If you suffer motion sickness, consider medication for this serpentine descent.)
There are several Spartan hotels and one good campground, known simply as "Toms" or "Lo de Tomás." Owned by Americans, this is the place to find peace and quiet (the village is noisy) as well as information on hiking and trail conditions. Plan on spending a couple of full days and two or three nights around Urique.
Divisadero loosely means "overlook." For nearly all of the Copper Canyons visitors, this brief, twenty-minute train stopover is the main point of their trip. The views are high and so are the rates for lodging here. Still, if youre going to splurge, a room on the canyon rim is the place to do it.
Directions for a very steep, "killer" hike from Divisadero down into the canyon can be found locally.
Areponapuchi, locally known as "Arepo", is a village a few miles west of Divisadero, toward Mochis. Arepo is also the Posada Barrancas train stop. I have many friends here, some of whom now operate simple, family-style posadas. There is nothing to do in Areponapuchi but hike, sightsee and enjoy the true flavor of Sierra Madre life.
Creel: This dusty rail and logging town of several thousand inhabitants is re-styling itself into a regional tourist center and Copper Canyon "gateway." Creels small shops, budget hotels and bus connections make it a good base for explorations into several outlying canyons and interesting highland communities. (Restaurants tend to be ho-hum but for some of the Sierras best burritos, try El Tungar, "The Hangover Hospital", next to the railroad tracks.) Three noteworthy sidetrips: the Tarahumara-owned and -operated eco-reserve of Arareco (San Ignacio), with its lake, campground and amazing rock formations; the mission and waterfall at Cusárare; and Batopilas.
Batopilas is a small, colonial-era mining town wedged into the bottom of the precipitous Batopilas Canyon. Hire a van or catch the three-times-a-week "Dramamine Express" bus from Creel. There are several modest hotels but the last we heard, Skip McWilliams upscale, outrageously decorated Riverside Lodge is closed and up for sale.
Several of the trails out of Batopilas go up, up, up to distant mesas and remote ranches. Trails to the west and south can lead to opium and marijuana patches. For your safety and peace of mind, I strongly advise that you take a reliable local guide. (Three excellent choices are Juan Cruz, Manuelito Gil and Trinidad Rodriguez.)
Basaseachic: Known mostly for its tremendous waterfall, the Basaseachic region has a tremendous, yet unrealized potential for tourism and hiking. In addition to being well off the beaten track, getting there by bus isnt yet easy. See our website for more details and suggestions, but basically there are just three buses a day to Basaseachic from Ciudad Cuauhtemoc. If youre trying to get there from Creel, however, youll have to get off the Creel-to-Cuauhtemoc bus at the San Pedro intersection, and catch another bus. The San Pedro "T" intersection is 92 km/57 miles from Creel at the junction of the highway from Cuauhtemoc to Basaseachic. Theres nothing but a small cafe at this rather barren intersection, so be prepared.
Chihuahua City: Chihuahua is an attractive city, with an upbeat, friendly atmosphere that deserves more of a look than most people give it. I suggest a walking and taxi tour that takes in the citys market, museums and historical sites. Stroll the open-air pedestrian mall (across from the cathedral), visit the Cultural Institute, and shop for saddles, quirts, chaps, sombreros and pointy-toed bootsthis is serious cowboy country so the selection is incredible. The city also has some very tempting bakeries.
If youre headed into the Sierra Madre, take a few minutes to exchange U.S. dollars or travelers checks into Mexican pesos at one of the convenient banks or casas de cambio (money exchange shops) in the downtown area.
Other places of interest: Basihuare (on the way to Batopilas), the historic Jesuit center of Sisoguichic, and the area around Divisadero all have excellent scenery and potential for great hiking (but virtually no hikers). San Rafael and Temoris, both on the train route to Los Mochis, see very few visitors and would also be interesting places to lay over for a day or more.