Exploring Trails in the Copper Canyon


These are just some of the hikes in our guiding repertoire. Pick one of these or choose one of your own. Guided cost for the group is roughly $300/day. Daily times, goals, and distances are approximate. Allow some extra time for contingencies, and to see more of the region by driving tours such as the waterfalls of Barranca Candamena. There are no signs for trails. Local availability of maps is not guaranteed. We assume no liability for this information.
In hiking descriptions, BPA is the abbreviation for the broad high mesa where the ChePe train stops twice. It stops once at Divisadero for 20 minutes no matter which direction you travel. This stop offers the rare opportunity for most visitors to actually see the canyons while standing still at the canyon rim. It is also the best place to get street food in the Barrancas. Enjoy a la carte chile rellenos and gorditas filled to order. Choose a blue, white or red corn gordita, a fill it with nopales (strips or diced prickly pear cactus) or deshbrada (shredded beef) or papas (potatoes), or half a dozen other tasty, simmering fillings for only 50 pesos each (roughly $3USD). Nobody can eat just one! Most visitors are on their way to Creel and don't stick around, but there's a lot to do here. If you are not into hiking, there is an Austrian-style cablecar, a Tyrolean traverse complex featuring a 6-stage 7-kilometer course and a 2.4 kilometer double route!, and rappelling at the new government-run "Parque Adventura Tarahumara" in addition to a new restaurant and a band shell. Disneyland indeed!
The train also stops 4 km away at Posada Barranca, a whistle stop on the ChePe (Chihuahua al Pacifico "Copper Canyon" Train) named for the two Balderama chain hotels nearby. The nearby village of Areponapuchi is west, downhill, past the Mansion Tarahumara, a European themed hotel also situated on the canyon rim. Most visitors don't get much interaction with the little village "down the road" from the Posada Barrancas train stop as they are whisked aboard tourist buses upon their arrival, but it is an authentic high Sierra town where you can get very basic dry goods and it's got a population of probably 300 people. The trailhead for the Urique River is off the road opposite the church and Berta's General Store. There are numerous guesthouses, and some include breakfast and dinner, which is wonderful because the sierras are the rare exception to the ubiquitous Mexican street food we all know and love. This area has fast, efficient bus service between San Rafael and Chihuahua (3/day, $15 USD, 6 hrs). Extended vehicle parking is also available. Jilo Mancinas in the first house past the store is an excellent hiking or horseback guide. Yes, Jilo actually hikes! Contrary to Lonely Planet, this is the gateway to Copper Canyon. Read the People's Guide to Mexico Blog for some insight and perspective.
CREEL via SAN IGNACIO to PBA (35 km) 5 days to PBA* This hike leaves Creel and follows the arroyo that runs through town to the west. It passes the water treatment facility, crosses the highway and enters a gorge above Rocowata Hot Springs. Hiking detours are on either side of the narrows. About two days downstream, a cross canyon route spans the arroyo at a swinging bridge. Maps: G13A22-Creel, G13A21-San Jose Guacayco, G13A31-San Rafael
CUSARARE via URIQUE RIVER to PBA (45 km) 6 days to PBA Take the daily Guachochi bus to Cusarare(1:45h), and follow the Arroyo Cusarare downstream. You'll have to pay for admission to the falls complex (zipline); and then continue downstream. About a day downstream, the swinging bridge take you on cross canyon routes between Tejeban and Mesa Rohuerachi. Maps: G13A22-Creel, G13A21-San Jose Guacayco, G13A31-San Rafael
TEJEBAN via URIQUE RIVER to PBA (55 km) 6 days You'll need someone to drive you to the ruins of the Hotel Tejeban (22 km from the Batopilas/Guachochi Highway). The extensive mining ruins are directly below the hotel ruins on the other side of the Urique River. This is the heart of the "Barranca del Cobre". Head downstream. This hike passes an abandoned bridge abutment used on the "Silver Trail". Maps: G13A32-Samachique, G13A21-San Jose Guacayco, G13A31-San Rafael
HUMIRA to PBA (70 km) 7-8 days Take the Daily bus from Creel to Batopilas/Guachochi and depart at the Humira Bridge (2.5 hrs). This hike passes the "incised meanders" after an hour or so and pretty fluted rock riffles after another hour. Shorty a arroyo enters on RR, so it is possible to go for a long strenuous day hike upstream ending where this hike begins. Allow several days to Divisadero. Maps: G13A32-Samachique, G13A21-San Jose Guacayco, G13A31-San Rafael
PBA to PAMACHI (30km) 2-3 days Leave PBA on the high trail past the mojonera (rock pile); descend left (east face) at Wooden Cross (Otebiachi Junction). This camino take you up at the low saddle 5 km south of Pamachi. Right at the saddle for Guaguevo. Straight for Guaguachique. Maps G13A31-San Rafael
GUITAYVO to GUAGUEVO (20 km one way) long day Take the morning bus from PBA to San Rafael. Go down the stairs to the RR tracks to hire your guide at the RR station; and then through the saddle at the far end of the ball field (campo de beisbol). Contour right the mesa for the logging road, or take the steep trail up the pine needle covered slope. Maps G13A31-San Rafael
MOGOTABO to PBA (30 km) 2-3 days; Loop This mesa to the east of Divisadero has an obscure route to the river. Hire one of the locals near the rim to guide you down. Enjoy this place. The government had plans to usurp this land for a big hotel. You'll see why. If you're running late, there's a spring against the wall behind a tiny orange grove about two-thirds of the way down (5-8 hrs). The arroyo takes you to the Urique River just downstream the Great Bend. Maps: G13A21-San Jose Guacayco, G13A31-San Rafael
MOGOTABO to PAMACHI (30 km) 2-3 days to Pamachi; 2-3 more back to PBA Take the obscure route to the river. Downstream on the Rio Urique ascend at the 3rd arroyo- river left. If you ascend at the 2nd arroyo, it will add a day to the loop, but it also adds interesting sights and sites. Maps: G13A21-San Jose Guacayco, G13A31-San Rafael
PBA to URIQUE (50 km) 6-7 days, return on public buses ($40) Take the standard route to the river. Downstream on the Rio Urique are lots of great things to see and do. We recommend Entre Amigos in Urique. Maps: G13A21-San Jose Guacayco, G13A31-San Rafael, G13A41-Batopilas
URIQUE to BATOPILAS (30 km) 1-3 days This hike is Caballo Blanco's DAILY routine to get from his house in Batopilas to his favorite internet connection at Entre Amigos Campground in Urique- now sadly obsolete. It can be done in a day. Maybe the first time you shouldn't push it, unless you're a member of Club Mas Loco. There are only a couple of sources of water once you leave the river, so be aware of that if you overnight. The easiest route is by Pie de las Cuesta to La Aguja. There's another route past Los Alisos to El Manzano and down to Cerro Colorado. There are several trails so be specific when you hire your guide. Maps: G13A41-Batopilas

Well behaved Dogs are a welcome addition to any trip in Copper Canyon
Remolino can't find a proper resting place for a bone in slickrock country.

Guided Hiking

The hikes barely described above assume a lot about your skills with hiking, map and compass navigation, and Spanish language skills. You'll also have to consider that the locals may absolutely not disagree with you. It's considered disrespectful. So if you hire a guide on the spot and he repeatedly nods and confirms your meager description of the route you want to attempt, it might be a learning experience for you both. Also, you should provide a decent backpack and sleeping bag and pad if your guide doesn't show up with that stuff. And you should provide his meals. The meals can be simple, but they should be ample. Tortillas and beans, maybe a can of sardines, coffee, lots of sugar are their staples. Carne, chili, dulces are always appreciated. Bear in mind that more than anything, your guide needs work. He may not have socks, or decent footwear, and he can put up with a lot of discomfort in order to provide for his family.

Backcountry Hiking

The best times of year to hike are spring and fall, when the days are longer, and it's not too hot in the canyon bottoms. The week before Easter is wildly popular, as is harvest time around Halloween. Easter is a peak travel period and is Mexico's unofficial family camping week! Easter Sunday in 2014 is April 20! You may want to hike to take advantage of festivals like Saint's Days in various villages or special events like the Ultramarathon or Mushroom Festival. Summer is a great time to experience monsoon season. Be aware that rivers may be raging torrents. Landslides can hamper your vacation. Winter is a great time to hike because Mexican winter is sheer joy compared to some parts of the United States and Canada. Liquid water, hot springs, fresh fruit and vegetables, and cold beer on the plus-side contrast with short days and cold water river crossings on the negative side.

Be aware that a moderate hike in canyon country is a relative term considering you'll potentially descend a vertical mile (5000 feet/1600M) to the rivers. Most people can't practice by going down 300 flights of stairs, but that's its equivalent. Two hundred flights of stairs before lunch, then 300 flights afterwards! You need to be in good physical shape, particularly your knees. A good sense of balance is essential, even with hiking poles. Going up is much easier!! You can hire us to guide for you. With a minimum of 4 participants you can sign up for these trips 60 days before your intended dates. There are a number of trailheads in the area from which to choose. The backpacks are more demanding than hikes, but allow passage through some routes too difficult for burros, and also require a little river travel. This involves boulder hopping and wading. Remember that on our burro-assisted hikes all you will be carrying is a daypack!!

Custom Itinerary

Backpacking trips are "Made to Order". We know the route and the time necessary to do the hike. You need to consider how long it will take to get to the canyon rim, and from the rim back to your starting point. We need 60 days advance notice to prepare any logistics for the hike. "A little river travel" can also easily be expanded to become canyoning, so be sure to inquire. We define canyoning as "no ropes". The routes and level of difficulty can be tailored to your level of experience. Novice backpackers need not worry, though. You don't have to get far away from the crowd to enjoy the splendid natural environment and tranquility that the canyon country has to offer. We'll even help you choose a new route if you've been here before and want to expand your repertoire. Generally, customized hiking trips can be arranged for about $300/day. All trips have two English speaking guides for safety reasons regardless of group size or the number of locals employed.


Booking can be done by e-mail. Itineraries, waivers, and a plethora of paperwork can be posted once you contact us, or download Forms (pdf) here. Down payments can be sent by Zelle. Balance of payments due 30 days before departure can be sent by check or bank transfer.

Contact Us
Escorted Hikes and Burro Expeditions in Mexico's Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon Trails • 1334 W Pennington St. • Tucson, AZ 85745 • 520-324-0209