The Copper Canyon in Chihuahua State is one of the premier sites in northern Mexico to see. This canyon in Mexico is one of the deepest canyons in the world and even more profound than the Grand Canyon in the USA.
We drove our camper van on an 8-day road trip throughout the Copper Canyon in Mexico, from the canyon’s rim down to the bottom, driving alongside the river. We loved every day we were there, and we think you’ll also enjoy your Copper Canyon trip.
Keep reading below if you are thinking about your Copper Canyon road trip. We detail the best places, El Chepe train information, where to sleep, and the best time to visit.
- Is the Copper Canyon in Mexico Worth Visiting?
- Best Time To Visit the Copper Canyon, Mexico
- Best Ways To Visit the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua
- Copper Canyon Tours
- Things To Do in the Copper Canyon, Mexico
- Top Tips When Visiting the Copper Canyon, Mexico
- Is It Safe To Visit the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua?
- Our 8-Day Copper Canyon Mexico Road Trip Itinerary
Is the Copper Canyon in Mexico Worth Visiting?
With so many other canyons in Mexico, you might be asking yourself:
“Is it worth visiting the Copper Canyon in Mexico?”
In short…YES. Absolutely yes. If you’re able to spare a week (or more!), you won’t regret visiting Mexico’s most famous canyon here in Chihuahua state, Mexico. The Copper Canyon is one of the best things to do in Mexico.
And here’s why:
More Extensive and Deeper Than the Grand Canyon
If we’re going just by statistics alone, at their deepest points, the Copper Canyon in Mexico is just a tad deeper (1,879m vs. 1,829m) than its Grand Canyon counterpart in the USA.
But the difference in total area is a more noteworthy comparison between the two. At over 25,000 square miles, Mexico’s famous canyon is just over four times larger than the Grand Canyon.
Breathtaking Horizon Views
There are some incredible views as you travel throughout Mexico’s Copper Canyon. And unlike the Grand Canyon, this canyon in Mexico is lush and green all year round.
Drive to the Bottom of Copper Canyon
When you visit the Copper Canyon, you can go straight to the bottom of the canyon and explore the beautiful towns along the river’s banks. The drive down to the canyon’s bottom was one of the best things to do in the Copper Canyon.
Indigenous Culture – The Raramuri
You will come into contact with the local indigenous community throughout the canyon. Most of the interactions will involve the sale of hand-made souvenirs. But if you are interested in learning more, Copper Canyon tours are available that take you to different villages in the surrounding area to learn and interact on a more personal level.
All You Can Eat Grapefruit, Oranges, & Passionfruit
If you love citrus fruits, visiting the Copper Canyon (especially from November to January) is a must. When we visited in November, our campsite in Urique let us have all the Grapefruit we could eat. And throughout the canyon’s bottom, they were selling delicious oranges and passion fruit grown right there.
Best Time To Visit the Copper Canyon, Mexico
The Copper Canyon region experiences huge temperature swings depending on the time of day and the time of year that you visit.
This is because the canyon is situated in the heart of the Chihuahuan desert, and different canyon regions sit at drastically different altitudes.
For example, the canyon’s base sits roughly 550m above sea level, while the region at the top of the canyon is almost 2,400m in altitude.
So, your visit can be brutally hot, perfectly pleasant, or bitterly cold, depending on when you decide to go. Or, if you’re lucky, you may even experience all three on the same day!
Annual Temperature – Top of Copper Canyon
Creel is the biggest town in the canyon region, situated at an altitude of 2,345m.
Because of its altitude, the summer months in Creel look pleasant enough for a visit, with temperatures averaging 26C (77F) during the day.
But visiting the isolated towns at the bottom of the canyon’s base is an essential highlight of any Copper Canyon road trip. And during the summer months, temperatures can get restlessly hot at 40C (104F).
Annual Temperature – Bottom of Copper Canyon
We visited in early November. And though the nights were chilly at high altitudes, we had perfect temperatures when visiting the towns at the base of the canyon.
Due to the summer’s intense heat at the canyon’s bottom, we suggest visiting between the Fall and Spring months.
Best Ways To Visit the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua
With Your Own Vehicle or Car Rental
The best way to visit the Copper Canyon is by driving your own vehicle or renting a car. Having your wheels allows you to explore the canyon at your own pace. And because all the places to see within the canyon region are so spread out, you’ll constantly be driving from one place to another.
Using public buses to visit the Copper Canyon in Mexico is doable. But be aware that most buses to Urique and Batopilas only leave in the morning. So, this may not be the best option if you have limited time here.
El Chepe Train
The El Chepe Train is considered one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world! By riding the Copper Canyon train, you experience unique canyon views you cannot see by car. Many people combine Mexico’s El Chepe train AND traveling by vehicle when visiting Mexico’s famous canyon.
If your budget allows, taking the El Chepe Copper Canyon train is one of the best things to do in Mexico. The railway took over 60 years to complete and spans over 650km of track, running between Chihuahua City, in Chihuahua State, to Los Mochis, in Sinaloa State.
The El Chepe train travels through 86 tunnels, 37 bridges, and numerous photo opportunities of the Copper Canyon. Riding the El Chepe train is a quintessential bucket list adventure for many travelers.
Although you can travel from the first station to the last in one day, it’s worth it to ‘hop on & hop off” the El Chepe train to get the most comprehensive Copper Canyon experience.
Train Route & Schedule
From end to end and including ‘most’ of the stations in between, the El Chepe train route looks like this:
Los Mochis – El Fuerte – Bahuichivo – Posada Barrancas – Divisadero – Creel – Cuauhtémoc – Chihuahua City
You can board the train at any station and head in any direction.
Note: Only one train departs per day in either direction. The trains start their departure each day from Los Mochis and Chihuahua City at 6 AM.
Between Chihuahua City and Los Mochis, El Chepe train tickets cost around 2,000 pesos (~$100) per person for an economy ticket. Executive class tickets can cost about 2,700 pesos (~$135)
However, if you decide to hop on & off, you will have to pay for multiple cheaper tickets.
Copper Canyon Tours
Several excellent Copper Canyon tours operate from Creel, the central transportation hub within the Copper Canyon. These tours can help you get the most out of your Copper Canyon visit.
3 Amigos – For adventure and adrenaline junkies, the 3 Amigos tour agency in Creel is one of the best. They specialize in simply getting out and exploring the canyon. Whether it’s by foot, mountain bikes, or even ATVs, they have tours for all interests.
Eco AlterNATIVE Tours – This great Copper Canyon tour agency focuses on unique, responsible cultural tours. Daniela and her Tarahumara husband are cultural anthropologists and can educate visitors about the Raramuri/Tarahumara culture. Tours include sightseeing, hiking, Tarahumara village visits, and food tasting.
Things To Do in the Copper Canyon, Mexico
There are so many things to do in the Copper Canyon that planning a trip to see the ‘Barrancas del Cobre’ can feel overwhelming. Especially if your days to visit these canyons in Mexico are limited.
We spent eight days exploring the Copper Canyon, and below, we put together a list of things to do and places to see in the Copper Canyon that were worth stopping and exploring.
1. Make a Pit Stop in Creel Town, Chihuahua
Creel is the largest town within the Copper Canyon region.
Unfortunately, this town lacks any sights of the Copper Canyon or the surrounding beauty. So Creel only serves as a place to stock up on supplies, such as groceries and gas.
If you are interested in joining a Copper Canyon tour, numerous tour offices in Creel provide plenty of hiking, culture immersion, and transportation options throughout the canyon.
Museo De Arte Popular De Chihuahua
Creel has an impressive museum with informative exhibits showcasing the Copper Canyon’s history and the local Raramuri/Tarahumara culture and arts. If you want to pick up high-quality local crafts, the Museo de Arte Popular de Chihuahua is an excellent place.
Where To Sleep in Creel
La Troje de Adobo – A budget option but beautiful interior design with Raramuti/Tarahumara arts and fabrics throughout the lodge.
Hotel La Estación – A must-stay for train lovers. Every room is dedicated and designed to a different stop along the El Chepe railway.
Best Western The Lodge At Creel – If you love the feel of the Wild West, this hotel has a beautiful western interior with cow skins and antlers lining the hotel walls.
2. Picturesque Copper Canyon Views From Divisadero
A stop in Divisadero, Chihuahua, is a must when on your Copper Canyon road trip. Here is where you get the most jaw-dropping views of the entire Barrancas del Cobre region.
Parque de Aventura
Also located in Divisadero is an incredible Adventure Park that offers many activities geared toward helping you get the most out of these fantastic Copper Canyon sights. You can zipline, ride a cable car, or even climb up and repel down the canyon walls.
Grab Some Local Eats at the Train Station
Just across the street from Divasero’s observatory platform is the station for the El Chepe train. This station has numerous informal food stalls selling tacos, quesadillas, and soups.
Where To Sleep in Divisadero
Hotel Divisadero Barrancas – This hotel is hard to match for the best views of the Copper Canyon. Gaze out over the canyon from your room, the lounge, or the delicious hotel restaurant.
3. Bone Chilling Drive Down to Urique Town (Bottom of Copper Canyon)
No visit to Mexico’s Copper Canyon is complete without visiting Urique town, a beautifully located village at the bottom of the canyon. Once in Urique, you’ll be surrounded by the canyon’s steep walls and lush scenery. The Copper Canyon may be in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, but there’s no desert here.
But the journey to Urique is just as memorable as the town itself. The last 10km before you get to Urique, the dirt path begins its steep descent down the canyon walls. No guard rails prevent your vehicle from falling off the edge of the cliffside, and the road down can get relatively narrow at times.
The dirt road down to Urique was one of the most heart-pounding drives we’ve ever been on. Though a 4×4 is not required, high clearance is helpful. It took us 45 minutes to drive the 10km down.
Things To Do: Mirador Cerro Del Gallego
Just before the road begins its steep descent to Urique, there is a small viewpoint and parking lot. From here, you get excellent views of the Copper Canyon. And if you look down, you can even see Urique town with the river running alongside it. If you look harder, you can see the tiny switchback road you’ll be driving to get to Urique.
Where To Sleep in Urique
Entre Amigos – Set in a beautiful garden farm on the north side of town. Excellent shade and all the grapefruits you can eat, literally.
Campamentos del Rio – Across the street from Entre Amigos, you can camp or stay in their cabanas with beautiful river views. Theresa can cook all the meals you need.
Hotel El Paraíso Escondido – Clean rooms with TVs and, more importantly, air conditioners. This is important if traveling here during the summer.
Hotel Barrancas De Urique – After jumping into the pool, you can have home-style meals with a view of the river and canyon.
Stay Safe in Urique
Urique is a safe town to visit for tourists, but the region is known for growing poppy and marijuana plants. You might even see some unusually high-end SUVs driving around. However, this does not concern tourists who stay on the main roads and don’t explore too far away from Urique.
4. Visit Beautiful Batopilas Town (Bottom of Copper Canyon)
Like Urique, Batopilas is a small town at the bottom of a different section of the Copper Canyon. If you are in Urique, you must drive back to Creel and head down a different road to Batopilas.
Unlike the rough and bumpy path to Urique, the road to Batopilas is paved the entire way. This means the journey is faster, but it also has tourists. But Batopilas is more developed than Urique, and the town center is gorgeous.
Where To Sleep in Batopilas
Hotel Juanitas – Basic rooms located right off the main town square. No wifi or cell reception here.
Riverside Lodge – The perfect place to splash out when visiting Batopilas. Huge labyrinth of a hotel with unique room furnishings.
5. Camp and Hike Around Lake Arareko (Near Creel)
Owned and operated by the local Raramuri/Tarahumara indigenous population, Lake Arareko is just 14km south of Creel.
Entrance is only 20 pesos per person, and the lake views and surrounding environment are worth it. You may be strong armed into purchasing inexpensive souvenirs from the local children!
We also hiked around Lake Arareko, which took about 2.5 hours. The path wasn’t always clear, but we had the help of three guide dogs to lead the way 🙂
There are no lodging options in Lake Arareko. But if you have a tent or camper van, you can camp along the lakeside, which is a beautiful and tranquil experience.
6. Sunrise at Valle De Los Monjes
A few kilometers from Lake Arareko is Valle de los Monjes, or ‘Valley of the Monks’.
This region gets its name from the uniquely shaped rock formations, which the local Tarahumara think closely relates to the shape of monks.
We’ll let you be the judge!
The highlight of our short stay here was waking up before sunrise to catch the sun’s rays as they slowly flooded the valley with morning light.
Top Tips When Visiting the Copper Canyon, Mexico
1. Take Your Time!
Most of the interactions will involve the sale of hand-made souvenirs. But if you are interested in learning more, Copper Canyon tours are available that take you to different villages in the surrounding area to learn and interact on a more personal level.
2. Avoid the Summer Months
If you plan to visit Urique and Batopilas at the canyon base, avoiding the summer months is essential unless you like basking in 40 degrees Celsius weather. When we visited in November, we found the top of the canyon around Creel to be quite chilly at night, but the bottom was very comfortable, weather-wise.
3. Bring Your Own Car or Rent One
Having your own wheels to explore all around the Copper Canyon is both cost-efficient and more fun! You can visit all the places on your own schedule without a guide pushing you along. Plus, the drive down to Urique from Creel is an exciting experience not to be missed.
4. Support the Raramuri Indigenous Population
The Raramuri/Tarahumara people are some of Mexico’s poorest indigenous populations. Farming is hard at the high altitudes around Creel, and much of the tourist dollars go to non-local businesses. Purchasing a few inexpensive but beautiful hand-crafted artisan products is a great way to help support the indigenous population.
5. Don’t Run Out of Gas
If you plan to explore Urique and Batopilas, always fill up on gas (or diesel) at Creel before you leave town. Gas stations are few and far between here in the Copper Canyon.
Is It Safe To Visit the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua?
Although Urique and Batopilas are considered safe for tourists, it’s essential to know that Poppy and Marijuana plants are grown throughout the bottom of the Copper Canyon. Seeing oddly expensive vehicles or even a gun or two is not unusual. In total, we spotted six assault rifles. But tourists who keep on the main road and don’t go looking for trouble aren’t targeted and are very often safe from harm.
In and around Creel, we felt completely safe. We even camped three nights around Lake Arareko and Valle de Los Monjes without trouble. Locals are kind and honest.
Our 8-Day Copper Canyon Mexico Road Trip Itinerary
- Drive to Creel from Chihuahua City.
- Stock up on food and gas in Creel.
- Drive to Lake Arareko and camp beside the lake.
- Hike for 2.5 hours around Lake Arareko
- Relax the rest of the day.
- Camp a second night beside the lake.
- Drive back to Creel and stock up on more groceries and gas
- Drive to Divisadero and the lookout point
- Continue down to Urique
- Sleep at Entre Amigos campground
- All day in Urique
- Walk around town and relax at the campground
- Sleep 2nd night at Entre Amigos
- All day in Urique
- Hike along riverside
- Sleep 3rd night at Entre Amigos
- Drive back to Creel
- Stock up on more groceries and gas
- Drive to Valle de Los Monjes
- Sleep overnight at the parking lot
- Drive down to Batopilas
- Walk around town
- Boondock under the pedestrian bridge for the night
- Drive out of the Copper Canyon
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