Copper Canyon, Mexico: Travel/Tourist Information Guide

An immense and impressive series of canyons extends through the north-western part of Mexico in the Sierra Tarahumara, called Copper Canyon. From the six main canyons that make up the Las Barrancas del Cobre system, four are deeper then the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Apart from its natural beauty, this land is riddled with Jesuit monasteries, abandoned mines, 20th century villas and old cave dwellings. Sought out for the region’s culture or simply for the thrill of adventure, Copper Canyon remains as one of the last truly wild places in Mexico.

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In the past 10 to 15 million years, volcanic activity and tectonic plate movement have created this mountain range, with peaks reaching as high as 3,650m. Over time, the strong erosion of wind and water shaped the landscape to form the canyon system now known as Las Barrancas Del Cobre. The depth of the canyons varies from 1520m in Barranca Oteros to 1870m in Barranca Unique.

When the Spanish arrived in the region, miners and missionaries were among the first to settle. Jesuits built multiple churches, while miners discovered gold, silver and copper. The indigenous people, which the Spanish named Tarahumara (Raramuri, or “The running people”) were either enslaved for mining efforts or forced off desirable lands. Only 10 of the 50 indigenous tribes survived to date.

In the town of El Fuerte, to the west, travelers can visit the old fort, the 1854 built Iglesias del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus church and the Cultural House in the town’s center. The town of San Ignacio de Arareko houses its own set of missionary churches, while outside the town boat rentals are available for fishing in the Lago Arareko reservation. Around 70 miles south of the town of Creel, the Basaseachic National Park is home to a couple of Mexico’s highest waterfalls, the Piedra Volada and Basaseachic waterfalls.

Getting around Copper Canyon

Visitors can choose from to explore the canyons through numerous ways, from hiking and biking to driving. Many places like Rancho del Oso, near the colonial town of Cerocahui, offer trips on horseback through the canyons with guides. One of the more popular ways is by train. The Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico (Chihuahua-Pacific Railway) runs along Canyon Unique between Chihuahua and Los Mochis.