Copper Canyon known as the Cañon del Cobre, is located in the legendary Sierra Madre mountains in northern Mexico. The Sierra Madre mountains are the southern end of the Rocky Mountains that cross over into Mexico. The canyon is composed of 6 interconnected canyons that combined are significantly larger and in some places deeper than the Grand Canyon in the United States.
Above is a graphic from geo-mexico.com website comparing the two canyons size. Copper Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon, it is not nearly as wide as the Grand Canyon is. Copper Canyon refers to one small part of the overall network of connected canyons which is more properly called by geographers the Urique Canyon System. The Canyon was created much the same way the Grand Canyon was created, thousands of years of erosion from rushing rivers through the landscape carving away the rock to form the canyons. Some of the many rivers that have created the canyons in this region are the Rio Verde, Rio Batopilas, Rio Urique, Rio Fuerte, Rio Conchos, Rio Balleza, Rio Mayo, Rio Tutuaca, Rio Aros and Rio Papigochi. Rio means “river” in Spanish. This area also contains Mexico’s two highest waterfalls, Piedra Volada with a fall of 1,494 feet and Basaseachic with a fall of 812 feet.
The canyon has a very diverse ecosystem. It ranges from a low alpine climate at the canyon rim at 8000 feet to hot, humid and tropical climate at 1800 feet at the base of the canyon. If you travel there during August and September there is over 140 different varieties of flowering plants visible throughout the area. There is a very large bird population with over 300 confirmed species. There is a wide variety of animal life living in and around the canyon including black bear, otters, mountain lions, wild boar, parrots, squirrels, raccoons, snakes, foxes, eagles, and white tail deer.
Native Indians called the Tarahumara lived in caves in and around the canyons for for thousands of years.
Access to the Canyon is limited. El Chepe, the Chihuahua Railroad runs 400 miles from Chihuahua south west to Los Mochis Mexico. It has been called the most scenic railroad on earth. It passed through 86 tunnels and over 37 bridges along it’s rout. Most of the dramatic scenery is located closer to Los Mochis so many people start their trip from there. There is a first class and a second class train available which runs both directions along the 400 mile trip. The second class train has 16 stops while the first class train has 13. The amenities are fairly similar in both trains but the first class does take about an hour less. During the winter months this is important because the days are shorter and you may miss some of the scenery.
One of the more popular attractions here is the Recowata Hot Springs. The springs sit about 13 miles outside the town of Creel. It is accessible by car, bike, horseback or even by foot. The springs themselves are very hot, about 145 degrees but the springs feed into the river which cools it to comfortable levels.
There are some pretty unique rock formations that have formed over time that look like frogs and mushrooms called the Valley of Frogs and the Valley of Mushrooms. The rock formations where formed by erosion of the volcanic and sedimentary rock layers. Another really cool rock formation is called Balancing Rock. It is the highest vertical rock face in the country, dropping a straight which has the highest vertical wall of Mexico at 2,290 feet to the Candameña River at its base.
Paquime is an ancient archaeological site that dates back prior to the Hispanic settlements. It is about 200 miles from the city of Chihuahua and about 5 miles from Casas Grandes. This area was one of the oldest commercial and religious centers in northern Mexico.
For more information about tour packages, accommodations and the train ride click here.