Copper Canyon

December 2006


Anita, Ron, and
Steve in front of
the Rio Vista Hotel

Patio area

Chepe Train

Passenger car

Bar car

View from train

Tarahumara women
at San Raphael

Plaza in Creel

Hotel Margarita's
interior patio

Tarahumara woman
selling goods

Tarahumara child

Bike ride

Mission church

Rock house

Rock house

Frog rock

The Monks

Cusarare Waterfall

Jesuit mission

El Mirador Hotel

View of Hotel El
Mirador from above

View from balcony
of Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon

Tarahumara home at
base of cliff

Sunrise view from

Train station at
Divisadero--Lupé at
far left

Plaza in El Fuerte

On November 30 we all took off for El Fuerte where we were to stay at the Rio Vista Hotel. The drive took us about 6 hours which included a stop in Culiacan  for lunch. The hotel was very lovely with a view of the El Fuerte River. The owner Charl built most of the facility by himself, and he has turned it into popular place for cruisers traveling to Copper Canyon. El Fuerte is a small but lovely town that supports the large tourist business related to Copper Canyon.

Steve, Zelda, and I decided to sit out on the patio overlooking the river in order to enjoy the view while Ron and Anita, Gary and Judiee, and Evelyn and Harry all took off for a quick walk around town. When they returned, we all enjoyed a margarita or beer, and then we went in for a delicious fresh water bass dinner.

The morning of December 1 we were driven to the train station. When the train arrived from Los Moches around 8:45, we got on the train and took our seats on the right side of the car in order to have the best view of the canyon. We took the four seats facing each other, which made it easy to chat and view the spectacular scenery as we rolled along.

The train ride up to Creel took us about 6 hours with stops in San Raphael and Divisaderos. At these stops the Tarahumara women would come to the train with beautifully hand-woven baskets and other trinkets to sell. The Tarahumara Indians are world famous for their long-distance running abilities. Many of them have stayed high in the mountains, but some live close to the towns along the train route. 

We were picked up in Creel by the shuttle and taken to Hotel Margarita's. We all had rooms on the second floor, and the rooms were very nice with two double beds, a TV (only Spanish stations), and a large bath. The hotel served two meals a day—breakfast and dinner—which were included in the price of the room. The meals were not gourmet, but they were good.

We spent the rest of that afternoon walking around Creel looking in the shops and walking around the plaza where the Tarahumara women were selling their goods. The children are also very involved in selling their goods, and they are just adorable and so sweet. One toddler, who was just about 2 years old, came up with a hand full of items and held them up for us to see.

It was getting much cooler, so we ended up at a small bar that had a large and very warm fire going.  We decided to make it an early evening so that we could spend the next day sightseeing.

We enjoyed breakfast, and then we took off to see what tours were available. We had all decided not to take the trip to the bottom of the canyon for a variety of reasons. Instead, Ron and Anita decided to go horseback riding, Evelyn and Harry stayed in town (unfortunately, Evelyn stepped off a curb and injured her ankle), Steve and I joined Gary and Judiee for a bike ride, and Zelda just enjoyed the afternoon reading at the hotel.

The man who rented us the mountain bikes told us that the 22 kilometer ride was mainly on paved roads with only a few hills. Well……the ride was mostly on dirt roads and included more than just a few hills. We rode onto the Tarahumara land stopping to look at the interesting rock formations. We also saw the mission school that the Rotary Club of Albuquerque supports financially. We stopped at the old mission church and then made our way to beautiful Arareco Lake. We then circled around to head back to Creel. In all we were gone a total of three hours, but we saw quite a bit of the surrounding area and got our exercise at the same time. It was an absolutely beautiful day with clear blue skies and mild temperatures.

The next day all of us climbed into a tour van provided by the Hotel Margarita, and we took off to see more sights in the area. We drove back to the Indian land where we stopped at a cave home for a Tarahumara family, and we were told that the members of the family had been living there for the past 300 years. We were allowed to go inside to see how they live. There were, of course, baskets and other items for sale. They had a fire going and there was a closed off area for the family to sleep in and another for the animals to stay in during the night. We then drove to see the rock formations in the shapes of frogs and mushrooms. We stopped at a mission church that was built in the 1500s, but, unfortunately, the church was locked so we moved on to see a rock formation called the monks. They were very interesting and most of the group went on a hike up the hill where there was a beautiful view of one of the canyons.

It was time for lunch so we went back to Creel and picked up some Pollo Carbon with is grilled chicken along with tortillas, onions, and salsa. The driver took us up to Lake Arareco where we sat and ate our delicious lunch. After lunch we drove about 20 miles to Cusarare Falls. To get to the falls, we had to actually drive across a river bed several times. We made it to the head of the trail where we then walked about a quarter mile to a lookout point above the falls. There was a set of steps leading all the way down to the bottom of the falls so Gary, Judiee, and I decided to walk down. We stayed for a few minutes taking some photos and then had to climb back up the steps—all 246 of them. What a great workout! We bought some nice baskets that the Tarahumara women had for sale, and we gave some lollipops to the younger children who were there. 

We then made a short drive to a 300-year-old Jesuit mission church. This church was open, and we were allowed to go inside. The interior was stark—there were no pews or chairs, and the floor was made of rough-cut timbers. The altar was plain except for three paintings that hung at the front of it. These paintings were done in the 1700s and were very well preserved.

It was now about three in the afternoon so we headed back to Creel. We had had a very full and interesting day, but we were all ready for hot showers and a nice dinner.

The next day we caught the bus to Divisaderos, which was about an hour away. The bus ride gave us a different view of the landscape. We were picked up by the shuttle from the Posada Barrancas El Mirador Hotel and taken to check in. The Mirador is built on the rim of the canyon—but technically not Copper Canyon. Copper Canyon is huge and is comprised of a number of smaller canyons. All I can say is that the view we had was spectacular. We went up to see the room and were thrilled at the wonderful view we had from the balcony. We then enjoyed a delicious sea bass lunch that left us absolutely stuffed, so we decided to return to the room to relax for a couple of hours. We went to the lobby around 3 in the afternoon to take a guided tour along the rim of the canyon. Lupé, our tour guide, gave us a wonderful walking tour while telling us about the area. We had a chance to take some great pictures looking back at the hotel and some of the canyon itself.

We started back to our room but didn’t make it past the Indian women selling their baskets and shawls. We found some lovely baskets—some made of pine needles and others made of reeds and some shawls. We stayed to watch the women as they sat weaving these beautiful baskets.

A little later the hotel had a happy hour in the lobby followed by dinner. The dinner was a very delicious and very tender steak along with vegetables and bread.

The next morning we awoke to a spectacular sunrise over the canyon. We had an opportunity to get some great pictures, and then Steve and I decided to walk back out to the rim to get some pictures of the hotel while the sun was out. When we were finished, we took a walk on a path that ran beneath the cliff where the hotel was and passed several Tarahumara dwellings along the way. We came to the end of the path and turned around to return to our room to get ready to leave.

Lupé drove us to the train station where we would catch the train back to El Fuerte. The train arrived around 12:45 so we climbed aboard. The weather was again beautiful so we just relaxed and enjoyed the ride. We arrived in El Fuerte after dark, but the van from Rio Vista Hotel was waiting for us and took us to hotel. We all got checked in and then went to town for dinner.

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast and then packed the cars for the drive back to Mazatlan. We then walked next door to the fort that houses a museum about the history of El Fuerte. It was very interesting, but the no see-ums were very bad, so Steve went to the car to get the Off spray. Zelda received the worst of the bites, and later in the car she developed large welts on her legs. We also walked to the central plaza and then walked through an old hotel that was fantastic.

By 10 a.m. it was time to head back. The drive back was uneventful, and we arrived after dark. I think that everyone was more than happy to be back at their boats.

Copper Canyon is a spectacular place, and it was well worth the trip. We wish that we could have gone to the bottom of the canyon, but still we enjoyed the trip very much, and we would love to return there some day. We were also lucky to travel with six wonderful and fun cruisers.