Copper Canyon Mexico makes a fantastic destination for an adventure vacation. We've spent a lot of time in the area, and thought we'd pass on a little of what we've learned. This is by no means a guide to traveling in the Copper Canyon region or Mexico. We just wanted to share some tips for those who may be traveling to the area. Our latest info is from OWA guides on our most recent trips, our friends who frequent the area and locals. The information has been updated as of the fall 2009 we will be again returning to Copper Canyon several times in the the spring of 2010.
Current Copper Canyon News and Updates
Here's some of our latest news on the Sierra Tarahumara. Send us your news of the area, trail reports, weather info, etc. and we'll post it to the page!
Supposedly planning and some work continues on the "international" airport slated for construction on the mesa just to the south of Creel and beyond the small enclave of Gasisuche................The water pipeline from Recohuata (the hot springs) is complete and is bringing more water into town, albeit who knows if all the work/construction was worth it. There is now a road that goes all the way down to the bottom of Tararecua Canyon where the water system begins. Potable water is a major concern for the developed areas of the sierra and all options are being explored and in some cases exploited. A new reservoir was completed in '05 near San Juanito and it should help allay some water needs. A mountain bike trail was actually constructed around the lake for recreation and there is a hostel of sorts overlooking the lake.................Mexico has now installed new telephone area codes, adding a third number to the existing number (in most locations). For a complete chart for any town in Mexico, go to www.telmex.com and click on the English Version tab and then the Area Code by State button. There you can type in any town and state and get the new area code. This means that in order to call into the Creel area from the US, you now dial 011+52 (COUNTRY CODE)+635 (Area Code for Creel)+ 7 digit local number. For Batopilas, you now dial 011+52+649 (Area Code for Batopilas)+ 7 digit local number.
Cell service is now solid in the Creel area and in fact for most of the way from Juarez-Chihuahua-Cuahtemoc-Creel. Many US cell providers do not have agreements with Mexico's Telcel, so many US phones won't work in the area. We do know that Cingular service does work well. Wireless internet is available at many hotels and locations in Creel and even Batopilas-- hard to believe it wasn't that many years ago that there was not even reliable lights or phone of any sort in Batopilas................the new toll road between Cuahtemoc and Las Juntas is getting closer to completion. It is the only section of highway between the border and Creel that has not been improved...................................A note about buying water in the area-- bottled water is available all over the place and that's what everyone drinks. The 2 liter bottles actually cost about the same as the larger 20 liter jugs that most locals use. The jugs are returnable and require a deposit. Once you have paid the deposit, each new bottle of water only costs about 20 pesos, but you obviously do have to return your jug each time..............A lot of new rock climbing continues to be developed in the region. Big stuff has been developed around Basaseachic Falls (about 5 hours north of Creel). The well bolted routes offer some great climbing for a variety of levels. A good article on the development in the general area appears in the 2000 edition of the American Alpine Journal. OWA continues to spend several weeks during each summer developing sport routes all around the Creel area and even found old climbing anchors alive and well on the top of most of the prominent rock formations at the Valley of the Monks. The newest area around Creel with the best and toughest routes is at the Cueva de Leones-- located about a mile west out of town and up a drainage. The area has climbing in and around the caves and there is lodging in cabins available on-site............
Batopilas continues to work at restoring their colonial ambience with sewer lines now newly improved, the plaza renovated and the streets cobbled and or cemented. Batopilas locals are working hard to return the town to it's early 1900's appeal..................You can now also get local information on the net thanks to Umarike Expeditions at www.umarike.com.mx ..................there are several new restaurants springing up around Creel as well as good coffee now available at a couple of locations on main street...........................The renowned Riverside Lodge in Batopilas was closed for a couple of years, but is now reopened during the main winter season under the direction of Martin from the Casa Real de Minas...........................A new B&B type spot has also opened up just before you get to the Shepard ruins-- looks like a great spot with a nice view overlooking the river. They have a prominent sign just on the east side of the bridge going into town in Batopilas..........The trail to Cerro Colorado out of Batopilas was mostly converted to a road during the past few years. During some parts of the year it is possible to drive all the way to Cerro-- but during the wet season the road often washes out and the Rio Cerro Colorado and Rio Batopilas are often impassable at Las Juntas. The construction did destroy some mighty fine walking/riding trails on the historic "Camino Real" trail which serviced the area for centuries. Of course it does help the locals. There is also a new road leading off from the Cerro Colorado road at Las Juntas-- it switchbacks way up into the sierra and tops out on the Mesa Manzana to the west of Las Juntas. Supposedly it will someday connect all the way to Urique, but most people don't really ever see that happening. It could offer some worthy riding or hiking, but note that the old main trail which heads down from the mesa to Batopilas is not a mountain bike trail for the normal rider. The route would probably interest "freeriders" who might be deterred by the arduous climb up. There is also a new road out of town that climbs roughly parallel to the old Camino Real heading up to the Reventon. It intersects the old road leading up to the mesa (which ultimately leads on to San Ignacio and Sinaloa), bypassing Satevo. The road does make for hard core 2-3 hour loop from Batopilas to Satevo for cyclists or hikers.
There are a couple of basic ways to get to Creel, which we see as the main jumping off point for experiencing the canyons. Your options from the US include driving all the way, taking a bus from any of the border towns, or flying to Chihuahua City or Los Mochis and then traveling by train to Creel or flying to Chihuahua City and taking a bus to Creel (bus from Los Mochis is a long ride!). As for getting into Mexico, note that you can no longer use a Voter Registration as proof of US citizenship. To get an entry visa you are now required to either have a passport or a combination of a photo id (like a driver's license) and a notarized copy of your birth certificate and a photocopy of your birth certificate will not work.
The roads into Creel are surprisingly good and are now paved all the way from either La Junta (Hwy 16 intersection) or Guachochi. That means you can drive on a reasonable road from either the south (via Parral and Guachochi), Hermosillo (via hwy 16), or Chihuahua City (via hwy 16). The highways into Chihuahua City are fine and include a divided four lane from El Paso (hwy 45). Hwy 16 west of Chihuahua City is a divided toll road to Cuahtemoc and is a bit narrow and busy from Cuahtemoc to the turn off at La Junta although work continues west of Cuahtemoc to widen that section. Cuahtemoc is a nice city to spend a night in. We recommend the Hotel Cumbres Inn with US style rooms and a reasonable cafe; doubles are about $65 US-- phone is 011-52-625-582-1336. For meals, there is a very good restaurant in town-- the Rancho Viejo with fine enough meats, good coffee and a nice wine list- located one block east of the Hotel Tarahumara (in the middle of town). The Hotel Victoria has also been recommended as a less expensive alternative.
To bring your vehicle into the country you will need your title in the driver's name (very important) and will have to pay $35 with a visa or AMEX card. It's much simpler if all paperwork is in the same name. If there is a lien on the vehicle you will need a letter (probably best to have it notarized) that gives you permission to take the vehicle into the interior of Mexico from the lien holder. Also beware that most customs offices are now computerized and if they show that you have entered with a vehicle previously and did not surrender your vehicle papers upon exiting the country, you will not be able to register another vehicle until you have proven that the other vehicle is in fact back in the US. Having titles, cards, licenses in a variety of names can cause problems. You will obviously need your driver license.
As for actually driving..........We recommend to NEVER drive after dark, anywhere in Mexico. From the border either at Juarez or Ojinaga you can expect well built toll roads to take you all the way to Chihuahua City. The highway from Juarez is essentially of the same caliber as a US Interstate. The toll road from Ojinaga is not a divided highway, but is well constructed and offers an actual shoulder. The toll road from Chihuahua to Cuahtemoc is divided and nice and should be completed all the way to La Junta in the next year or so. From La Junta the road is a two lane mountain road-- well built, but a true mountain road so expect some slow moving vehicles and always the possibility of livestock or broken down vehicles on the road. RV's can drive to Creel. No guarantees from us about the availability of repair service between Guachochi and La Junta. Driving from El Paso to Chihuahua City is about 4 hours (3 hours from Ojinaga) and then another 4 from there to Creel assuming you get through the city without too much problem. There is an easy bypass from the Juarez highway around the west side of Chihuahua-- be watching for signs directing you to "Cuahtemoc" and you should exit not far past the Coca Cola plant (heaading to the west and then to the south). The bypass will take you through the heart of new Chihuahua-- complete with Applebees, Sam's Club, Super Wal-Mart, Chili's, etc..........yes suburbia is rampant.
The buses in Mexico are much better than you would ever imagine in. In areas you will still find the old style school buses heaped with people and chickens, but the bigger companies do often feature Mercedes busses with videos and truly reserved seats that make few stops. There are frequent busses into Chihuahua City from every direction. From Ojinaga (across from Presidio, TX) the bus ride is about 3.5 hours to Chihuahua City with 1 stop and costs only $24 US. From Juarez, the riding time is about 4.5 hours and the cost is about $32/person. Omnibus and Chihuahuenses are the top two lines into Chihuahua City. At the Chihuahua Central (bus station-- the one in the city is great!) you can catch an Estrella Blanca bus into Creel (there's also now 1 Chihuahuenses bus daily)-- about 7 departures daily. Cost is about $25 US. The busses to Creel are OK, but second class with numerous stops after you get into the sierra. Ride time is about 5 hours with 1 bathroom stop in Cuahtemoc (some of the busses have toilets, but they are often out of service). First bus out of Chihuahua for Creel departs at 7 am and arrives in Creel around noon. Returning from Creel, costs are the same and departures begin at 7 AM (arriving Chihuahua City about noon). Bus schedules are pretty accurate. The Estrella Blanca station in Creel is located right across from Train Station to the west. Since the busses originate in Creel, there is very little demand for seats initially.
We are not Copper Canyon train experts. We do know you can get to Creel either from Chihuahua City or Los Mochis each day on both the 1st and 2nd Class trains.Departures are early AM from each location, with the 2nd class departing about an hour after the first class. The Chihuahua City train generally arrives just after noon. The Los Mochis train arrives around 3 or later in the PM. Departures each way from Creel depend on when the train arrives headed your direction. We've heard there's not much food available en route, so you might want to bring a snack. We also understand that you can put a bike on the second class train, but not the first class. Bikes can be shipped on the freight train that arrives each day a few hours after First Class train. The trains do tend to be delayed fairly regularly. The cost of the first class from Los Mochis to Creel is around $85 and the 2nd class about $45 US. Visit http://railsnw.com/tours/copper/chepe.htm for reservations and more details.
The Area We generally like to spend several days in the Creel area. Creel sits at around 7,600 ft above sea level, giving it a cool climate and a beautiful backdrop of pine forests most people would not expect to find in Mexico. During the dry season (December- June) things are pretty brown and dusty all over the area, but it's not much different than what you find in all mountain areas in late winter. July and August are remarkably cool and lush thanks to the daily monsoon. September/October are a bit drier and very pleasant. By late October frost begins and things quickly change to fall. Bugs are never really a problem in the area. Creel is accessible via the famous Chihuahua al Pacifico train (note that the second class train which is the only one which allows bikes is only running every other day), numerous daily buses or by a good paved highway from either the north or now from the south and Guachochi.
Adventure Things to do Around Creel
Besides being driven around in the local tour vehicles there are a lot of active and interesting things to do in the Creel area. There are great opportunities for day hikes, rock climbing, trekking, backpacking and probably some of the best mountain biking in the world-- all accessible and do-able right from town. If you just want to do the normal tourist vehicle thing, tours are offered daily from most of the hotels or you can line up your own in the morning at the plaza where you will find a whole array of suburbans and vans lined up at your service.
Local attractions which are mostly all advertised and known locally include Recohuata Hot Springs (about 98 degrees; located at the bottom of Tararecua Canyon; 1600 vertical feet down from the top; generally plan to share the area with other tourists), The Valley of the Monks (a stunning valley of free-standing rock spires; about 6 miles from Creel past San Ignacio Mission), Lake Arereco (a nice mountain looking lake that can be accessed right from the main road south of Creel or by a variety of interesting trails via San Ignacio), and Cusarare Falls (a spectacular 100 foot fall on the San Ignacio River/Creek accessed by a great, maintained trail where you will find numerous local Tarahumara women working on and selling crafts). These destinations are pretty much the spots that all tourists visit-- they are worth the visit, but bear in mind that there is an entire sierra beckoning at your door that is spectacular and rarely visited!
Like all of the Tarahumara country, the area around Creel is covered with trails, offering mountain bikers and hikers almost limitless possibilities. Trails become more numerous as you near population centers, so Creel is almost overloaded with a maze of trails (if that's possible). The area around Creel to the east which includes San Ignacio is managed by the local San Ignacio ejido for tourism and there are entrance gates at several locations where you are charged 15 pesos/person to enter and enjoy the area. Likewise, expect to pay 15 pesos/person at Recohuata, Cusarare and the Valley of the Monks. This money does go to the ejido and helps them justify allowing access to these areas-- so the money goes to a great cause. Be sure and ride or walk with caution, since the trails do belong to the locals (who are by the way friendly and can generally point you in the right direction). It's generally not acceptable to approach homes too closely, dogs can be a problem, and beware of sporadic fences and barbed wire which sometimes just appear across what appears to be well used trails. During the warmer months it is possible that you'll encounter snakes along virtually any trail including some that are heavily travelled. There is a small species of Rattlesnake (Chachamuri') that is fairly common-- they aren't overly aggressive, but are dangerous).
Some of the best riding in the world is just above Creel on the mesa to the east-- expect a lot of variety including slick rock, loose rock, buffed areas, breathtaking climbs and serious descents with all the technical problems you could ever want. This is the area where La Onza, "The Copper Canyon Race" is held each summer in July with hundreds of racers. There is also some great single track on the mest to west of town-- some of which includes the course of "Cristo Rey" bike race held each fall during the Sept 16 celebrations. Of course you can also stick to the much more moderate double tracks and old logging roads with lots of combinations that include both. The road through San Ignacio is a great beginner ride and you can loop it to the south at Gonogochi to take in the lake (that can make for a very long day). Our favorite hard riding is on the mesa between Creel and the Rio Conchos. That area can get a bit confusing, but you can nearly always drop down to the San Ignacio road if all else fails. It is also a nice ride to the hot springs with an option for an all road ride or a more direct single track/double track combo. There is plenty of potential for epic rides right out of Creel-- most traveling via a combination of buffed single track, old logging roads and typically some sections of faint/rocky/difficult trail that might be unrideable. Check with Arturo Gutierrez if you'd like a day of exploring-- 8 hours of riding can get you into some mighty strange places down there! Also check with him for his riding map of the area. Plans are underway to mark and develop some specific mountain bike routes in the area. Be checking back as this plan develops.
All of the same areas make for great day hikes, but check distances. Hitchhiking one way is always possible and you can also arrange to get dropped at your destination and then walk back.
In addition to great hiking and mountain biking, there are many crags in the area offering fine sport climbing and bouldering. The rock quality varies, but the volcanic tuff generally offers interesting pocketed climbs that are generally vertical to overhung and lots of fun. The biggest problem for climbing in the area is lack of development- but that is changing. There are some nice bolted sport routes at Chapultepec Park right down the street from Margarita's Plaza Mexicana, but access is limited. You will need to contact Arturo at Umarike for access to the climbs. There has also been a good deal of development near the Creel sewer plant on both sides of the road during the past couple of summers (thanks to OWA) with that area providing some 10-15 moderate sport routes. Another area, a bit further down the road and on the east side offers some fine bouldering. The best hard climbing in the area is now found at the "Cueva de Leones", located up a drainage just to the west of Creel. It is walkable from town and offers an abundance of climbs on solid rock-- mostly in the 5.10/5.11 range. The area is owned/managed by the Ejido of Creel and they offer some nice cabins with hot water, fireplaces and electricity right at the crag. They can be reached at 011-52-635-45-60032 from the US.
The soft rock and general lack of cracks makes some of the routes not realistically leadable. There are quite a few climbs bolted for lead, if you know where to look. If you're a sport climber and thinking of heading to the area with your drill, we do suggest you check with the locals about that whole issue and plan to bring glue-ins or long 1/2 inch bolts. We have experimented with removeable bolts and have found them great-- except when the rock is wet.
The area 20 miles south of Creel near Humira has had some serious routes put up in the past, but the bolts have either been chopped or removed to be used for something else. The climbs in that area (right along the highway) have potential, but tend to be hard. We've noticed some potential along the downhill Cusarare trail and there is fantastic bouldering all over the area. The area around Basaseachic Falls has seen some serious development during the past year and there is actually a private crag with lodging adjacent to the national park there. A lot of fun climbs with plenty of potential for more. There has been a bit of development just to the east of Divisadero-- above the main trail and near the top of the canyon (all visable from the Divisadero overlook). So, stay tuned as responsible development continues in the area.
Creel offers a great climate most of the year. Winter is generally dry with warm days and cold nights (be prepared for lows in the teens during the winter, but days are generally sunny and in the 50's/60's; beware though that this is the mountains and it can be awfully cold and snowy for short stretches from December-February). By March the nights are less cold and winds can become bothersome with dust. Summer is pleasant with highs in the high 80's and things really start getting greener and somewhat cooler when the rainy season kicks in in July. Beware of typical mountain storms in the rainy season and the lightning can be phenomenal. The fall is a great time of the year with plenty of green grass and almost perfect temperatures.
A note about phone numbers: the number shown includes the city code and number. To call Mexico from the US add 011 and then the country code for Mexico which is 52. The code for Creel is 635 and Batopilas is 649. Those numbers are then followed by the 7 digit local number as listed. Hotel rates do vary throughout the region depending on time of year. Summer and holiday rates (mostly Christmas and Easter) will be higher since demand is high.
The Best Western is probably the nicest place to stay in town and always a sure bet. They offer three types of accommodations including private log cabins that can sleep up to 10 with a kitchen and deluxe private rooms (about $95/double/day, 1-07) that include great heat, satellite TV, fireplaces and nice atmosphere. They have good secure parking, but it is a bit limited during really busy times. Accommodations do not include meals but they do have one of the best restaurants in town and a very nice, quiet bar. Their pizza can be especially good if you're in the mood for that. Their local number is 456-0200 or reservations can be made directly thru Best Western. The owner, Federico is friendly and speaks English and French. The restaurant and pub are open to the public. Visit their homepage at www.thelodgeatcreel.com .
The Villa Mexicana (formerly the KOA) is another good choice. It's located on the main street toward the south end of town. Completed in '98, the facility includes RV spaces for 70, 20 cabins (some with kitchens), a community kitchen for tenters, restaurant, bar, convenience store, liquor store, washateria, playground, basketball court and small conference center. It does really have about everything you need. You can expect to pay about $10/night for camping and about $65-$115/night (7-07) for cabins that sleep 4 or larger ones that can accommodate 6, with private bath and linens. TV's with CNN were recently added to the cabins. The restaurant offers good food in a nice surrounding with a fireplace. They also have a bar. Check them out at www.koacoppercanyon.com . Their phone number is 011-52-635-456-0665.
Another option is Margarita's Plaza Mexicana (take the name with a grain of salt). Margarita's is probably the best known hotel in the area for foreign travelers. There is an "old" (Casa Huespedes) and a "new" Margarita's Plaza Mexicana. Both offer clean, heated rooms, private baths, generally hot water, breakfast and dinner. The new Margarita's is more expensive about $50/night double with 2 meals) and offers newer facilities and, for those who tire quickly of beans and tortillas, somewhat better food. Parking is something of a hassle at both her locations although they do have access to a protected area if you request it. Do note that we have never had trouble with break-ins in our vehicles. The old Margarita's is definitely more popular with the Eurail crowd, and the atmosphere is quite similar to a European youth hostel, filled with trekkers, and backpackers from all over the world. They do offer both private rooms and dorm rooms (if you can stand a room full of coughers). Rates are currently about $20-$35/person/day at the Casa Huespedes with 2 meals depending on the type of accommodation. To make reservations call or fax them at 456-0245 from the US. (rates are as of 8/05)
Another newer hotel, the Sierra Bonita is located on the hill to the east of town overlooking the town. Its rooms have kitchens, mostly queen beds, fireplaces and satellite tv. They reportedly have some of the best food in town with a little different menu and a "disco" (about what you'd expect it to be) from time to time. It is private, quiet and they do take American Express. Rates are about $100/double.
Another option is the Posada Creel which is on the other side of the tracks near the main plaza. The rooms are clean and the rates good (about $28/room/w/bath; $20/room/shared bath) but the place is pretty noisy, some of the gas heaters seem to be leaking propane, and hot water is not reliable at all. The Parador ($65/double/NO meals, 8-05) and Motel Cascada Inn ($65/double, 4-05)(new additions completed as of 1/00) are both nice enough and include local or limited satellite TV, hot water and heat along with decent restaurants/bars and good parking. Another main street option is the Los Pinos ($35/double 3-05) which has private parking, heat, local tv and hot water in a typical motel setting. There has also been a proliferation of lodges and smaller hotels that will be opening during the course of 2006-- so stay tuned as we get a handle on what they have to offer.
There are a lot of places to eat in Creel-- most of them quite similar offering a variety of typical Mexican food, beef, chicken, etc for a decent price. Most are located right on Main Street and we really haven't heard of much problem with people getting sick from the food. The Cabana, Tio Molcas, Estella's and Veronica's (where you'll get the best quesadillas, but no beer) are all sure bets for the least amount of money. Veronica's does now offer a good vegetarian plate-- sauteed fajita style veggies. The restaurant and the bar at the Parador is a little pricy, and the food is about the same as everywhere else. The bar can be quite a bit quieter than some of the others if you are looking to carry on a coherent conversation. The Cascada Inn has a rather large menu and the food is good. They have a fireplace and are friendly. The Caballo Bayo and associated Laylo Lounge is now locally owned and friendly. No word on the food quality of late, but the bar is comfortable and often can be the spot to check out the local TV football game if you just can't resist. The restaurants and bars at the Best Western and KOA/Villa Mexicana are open to the public, offer the best food and are seldomly very busy. Margarita's small bar offers the best prices and often the noisiest crowd, but don't go in if you can't tolerate a whole lot of cigarette smoke in cramped surroundings. Tio Molcas also has added a bar in the back recently. Pizza del Rey is the local pizza joint and it's passable. The bottom line is that you won't find a great meal in Creel-- but you will be able to eat well, probably won't get sick if you avoid the salads, and it won't cost you a whole lot! Pollos el Gordo out on the main highway across from the Pemex offers tasty roasted chicken and potatoes. If you are shopping for your own food, there are a couple of options. The Super Vazquez (2 locations each owned by a different brother right across from each other on the main highway) offers the most selection. We like the Abarotes Perez on main street (down near the Pizza del Rey) for a smaller location downtown offering high quality supplies. If you are staying at the KOA, the little store right across the road from the entrance run by Sr. Limones (note "Limones" is scrawled on the side of the building) offers some staple items and mighty good conversation.
Mountain Bike Rental / Guiding / Trail Info
The best person in town for any adventure traveler to know is Arturo Gutierrez. Arturo is available to guide 1/2 day, all day, or multi-day mountain-bike, climbing or hiking trips. He now has an extensive web site which features information on his services as well as some great area news and information on various businesses in the area. Check it out at www.umarike.com.mx
He also has high quality mountain bikes available for rental by the day ($15 US/half day and $20/full day). There are other bikes available in town, but don't expect them to be much of a ride or in good repair. Some of Arturo's bikes have shocks. Arturo can also do most bike repairs, offers a limited selection of spare bike parts in his shop, rents climbing and camping gear, and serves a great espresso/capuccino if you beg.
Arturo is an excellent rider, and has spent years mapping the area's trails (his maps are available at his shop for 10 pesos). If anyone has the info on a particular trail, it's him. Arturo is also familiar with rock climbing and has done some climbing in the area. He's completely fluent in English and reliable.
You can now contact Arturo Gutierrez via phone at 011-52-635-456-0248 or email.
Making the trip down to Batopilas is a definite must. The drive from Creel to Batopilas has been called the most scenic drive/ride in North America, and its easy to see why. The road to the halfway point at the La Casita intersection is all paved (just completed in March '96). From that point the road narrows and is all gravel (dusty but good during the dry season). There is a new gas station being contructed in the La Casita area, but it is still not operational as of 1-01 although it does appear to be getting close. The road passes thru two small villages (Basigochi and Kirare) before making the big plunge straight into the canyon via an incredible set of switchbacks at La Bufa. The switchbacks on the Kirare side of the canyon were recently widened and improved, but beware of landslides during wet weather. The road descends some 3000 feet, crosses a bridge, then clings to the side of the canyon for 18 breathtaking miles before reaching the town of Batopilas. Mountain biking the 40 mile section from La Casita to Batopilas is a world class backroad ride if there ever was one with a total of 9300 feet of descending and some nice climbs (about 2300 feet worth) to keep you honest. There is a small store at La Bufa with cold drinks and gatorade for refueling the body en route). As you drive down, bear in mind that there was no real road to Batopilas at all until the late 70's. The visible trail on the north side of the canyon was the main access into the area for years until the road was completed and while it looks promising as a mountain bike route, is very much unrideable for long sections. Also note that the known record for ascending from Batopilas to La Casita on a mountain bike is 4.5 hours!
Batopilas is a small town, limited by the steep canyon walls to one street in width. The town dates back to the 1600's, and is home to what was once an incredibly rich silver mine, operated originally by the Spanish and later by a U.S. ex-patriot, Alexander Shepard and his family up into the early 20th century. The town defies description. It was the third place in N America to have electricity (in the 1890's). This is an interesting place with the look and feel of what Mexico is supposed to be like with narrow streets and whitewashed buildings and a busy central plaza.
From Batopilas, day trips can be made to Satevo and Cerro Colorado.
Satevo is home to the "Lost Cathedral," a beautiful domed church which was never really lost. Restoration of the 300+ year old church has essentially been completed. The key to the church can be located at the house to your left as you come up from the bridge. Go in and look around and leave a small donation which helps cover the costs of ongoing maintenance and repairs. There are a couple of small stores in town where you can buy drinks and the ever present Maria's (cookies) and can probably get someone to come over and unlock the door to the church if you can't find the key elsewhere. Travel beyond Satevo toward San Ignacio is typically not recommended although we have ridden the steep road up to El Reventon (2200 feet vertical gain in about 8 miles) which offers some great views back down to Batopilas and down the other side to Rodeo and San Ignacio and the wild frontier of Sinaloa. This is a tough ride if you're just looking for somewhere to get in some miles but the views are beautiful and it is possible to descend back directly to Batopilas via the old camino real (known as the Cuchillo)-- a terrifying ride if you choose to do that or a nice hike if you are sane. Don't stray too far out here and be sure and be back in Batopilas by dark.
Cerro Colorado is a small town up stream and up a side canyon from Batopilas, located directly under the spectacular peak of the same name. The route to Cerro Colorado follows a new road which has pretty much destroyed the great trail (a section of the original Camino Real used by the Spaniards to haul everything in and out of the area) which used to lead up there. The road should mellow in appearance some with time and does make the route finding to the area much simpler and is pretty much all rideable via mountain bike. The road can be driven in the right conditions, but is definitely not made for cars or most other two wheel, low clearance vehicles. If you drive, drive with caution and go prepared for the worst. The route is still a nice day hike or ride in itself and as of March 2002 the remaining sections that have actual trail have been cleaned up making it once again a very pleasant hike or ride. There is a small store in Cerro Colorado and you can arrange for excellent meals at the house of Sra Hernandez just next to the store (the store was moved to new environs directly across the road during '98). Plan on spending about $6 for a filling meal with fresh coffee. This is about the best cup of local coffee in Copper Canyon (freshly dark roasted) so be sure and ask for some! The trail continues from Cerro Colorado up to the Tarahumara village of Munerachi which is worth the extra time if you have it (a day trip to Munerachi from Batopilas isn't really feasible unless you can drive to Cerro). Munerachi is a 3 hour walk from Batopilas along the Rio Cerro Colorado and offers a real glimpse at what life in the roadless/carless/truckless parts of Mexico is like. Much of the Munerachi trail is rideable if you are into hard technical single track. You can also follow another main trail from Cerro Colorado back up into the high country to Yesca and then down into the town of Urique in Urique Canyon (from Urique you can get a ride out of the canyon and eventually to Divisidero and Creel. This trip is do-able via backpack or with burro support in 4 days, but should be attempted only by knowledgeable backcountry travelers who understand the nuances of remote travel in Mexico or with an experienced guide.
Bus service to Batopilas from Creel (doubtless a wild ride) is available every other day supposedly leaving Creel at 6 AM from the Hotel Los Pinos (check for current schedule at the hotel), while a Suburban or van makes the trip on the alternate days. One way fare is around US$7. You can also arrange for transport to and from Batopilas from many of the hotels including Margaritas and the Best Western in Creel, but plan to pay plenty more.
Batopilas and the lower canyon areas are great places to be in the winter (November-April) with near tropical weather. The summer months are not the same and are almost unbearably hot with temps reaching into the 100's with lots of humidity. Beware of poor road conditions during the rainy season. We don't really recommend the lower canyons as a destination during the summer!
In Batopilas, our first choice for lodging is the Casa Real de Minas-- a renovated facility with 8 rooms with private baths located near the central plaza. The hotel has a gated courtyard onto which the rooms open.. The hotel is clean, tastefully decorated (if that matters to you) and the owner, Martin and Antonia the manager are friendly, helpful and do honor their reservations (a real plus in this land of succumbing to the first person to show up with cash). A second building with 5 nice rooms has recently been completed increasing their capacity. Rates are $40/double/night without any meals (as of 1/03). They can provide special meals with prior arrangement-- served right in courtyard with candlelight and linens and prepared by Martin's mother! You can call the Real de Minas directly at 011-52-649-456-9045.
Our second choice of accommodations in the plaza area of Batopilas would be the Hotel Mary. The Hotel Mary is right across from the church (which means you should be prepared to hear the bells in their full glory) and offers a relaxing courtyard area for guests. Most of the rooms have private baths and hot water is relatively reliable. Rates at the Mary are about $12/person/day (no meals included) and owner Manuel is a friendly, helpful guy.
Another solid option is the Hotel Juanita located between the plaza and the river and next to the Monse. There is a small sign located off the southeast corner of the plaza. There are 9 rooms with private baths (plenty of hot water) with a nice courtyard and balcony overlooking the river, but the rooms can be stuffy during the warmer months and there have been several instances of Juanita not honoring reservations. Rates are $28/double as of 1-01.
An old favorite is the La Palmera. It's the first place you'll pass after entering Batopilas and features 7 basic rooms with private baths and hot water. The place is a long walk from the plaza, but does offer a nice courtyard. The managers can often provide basic bean/tortillas for meals to save you from having to walk the 1 Km to the Plaza area every time you get hungry. Expect to pay about $10/person/day without meals. We haven't heard much about the Palmera in a while, so we'd like some input.
A fifth hotel is the Hotel Batopilas just a block away from the Mary. It's just a slight step down from the Mary in quality, but will do. Rates are cheap. Other accommodations in town include the Chula Vista (the two story building just down from the Palmera and the Monse which is located right on the plaza and has been described as a poor person's version of the Old Margarita's in Creel. The Monse is a quiet place and the owner's speak some English. They generally require lights out and no noise after 9 PM. The Monse also has a 4 bedroom house available by the night just upstream from the plaza.
Most of the year you can just show up in Batopilas and find some place to stay, but during the holidays that isn't always true and once you've made the drive or trek or ride down it's not always feasible to turn around and head back to Creel. You can make some sort of reservations for the hotels by calling the caseta in Batopilas and getting them to send for someone from the hotel of your choice who can at least theoretically reserve rooms for you. The caseta local numbers are 456-0624 or 456-0632. The area code for Batopilas is 649---------- so to call the caseta from the US, you could dial 011-52-649-456-0624!.
Gourmet cooking is not currently in style in Batopilas, but you can certainly get some good solid food. The old mainstay of Batopilas dining is still served on the front porch of the home of Dona Mica. Everyone was saddened when Dona Mica passed away in late 2001, but business does go on as before. The house is located just a couple of blocks south of the main plaza and adjacent to the plazita-- ask anyone and they can point you there. It's important that you arrange for your meal ahead of time and you will get whatever it is that's being cooked-- but it's always tasty and filling and supper goes for only 50 pesos/person. Use her salsa sparingly. Our current favorite spot is Reyna's. Her place is located about a block north (upstream) from the Hotel Mary down a side alley toward the river. She makes fine enchiladas and a hearty big breakfast. Do line her up in advance. Another option is Carolina's located on the main drag about a quarter mile upstream from the plaza. They have a good breakfast for about 35 pesos, good soups, and they can tailor the menu to fit your needs. There is OK food at the Quinto Patio at the Hotel Mary. Plan on paying about 45 pesos/person/meal and you will not have a lot of choice about what to eat-- just roll with the flow and you'll be satisfied. Another solid possibility is the Puente Colgante (Swinging Bridge). As with all the others, stop by the restaurant early in the day and put in your order for what you'd like and they will have it ready that evening). They do offer good trout and a t-bone steak for meat lovers. We have found the Swinging Bridge good and they have recently had a change in management (as of winter 04) which has led to larger portions! Note that if you arrive in town after 8 pm you may have trouble lining up food at a restaurant and don't expect to find anything open for an early morning breakfast or coffee. Beer was legalized for sale in Batopilas in January '99, but there a just two official places to buy it-- the Zajuan bar (across from the Quinto Patio on a side street and overlooking the river) and the Puente Colgante, but you can still go the traditional bootleg route (a couple of small stores sell warm Tecate for about $1 each) or bring your own if you want to drink it at your hotel (the Casa Real has a refrigerator for your use). Just remember that it is a good idea in Batopilas to arrange for your meals ahead of time-- typically you can set up a time and menu and will likely end up with a better experience.
Other Batopilas Notes- There is one art/craft store in town on the street above the old Riverside Lodge. It's run by an American and does have some nice things although we like what we see for sale at Don Bush's in La Bufa even better....................There are several local guides available for day trips or longer based out of Bato. Look for signs or talk with Martin at the Casa Real. We have worked with Manuelito-- he speaks some English, is very reliable and really does know a lot about the area-- and he also has a vehicle.............There is still just one place to make a long distance phone call in Batopilas-- at the caseta located on the corner at the plaza. Cost is about 70 cents/minute but it is pretty easy to call out. As of late 2001, phone sevice did arrive in Batopilas in relatively full force with most businesses now having their own phone lines...............
Have a great trip, and let us know how it goes! We would appreciate your comments and experiences so e mail them to us at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.