Spring Break 2001

Copper Canyon, Mexico

a cool dip on hike above Urique

view from our first hotel

Tarhumara basket weaver

on top of the world

Richard making tortillas

the hike to Urique

Mexico has such a rich culture
more pictures


basket weaver

Tarahumara women have strong character


Copper Canyon is so gorgeous
more pictures


Copper Canyon Hiking

If you are looking for a hiking trip with incredible scenery, feeling of remoteness and a cultural experience, the Mexico's Copper Canyon is a trip you should look into. Known as the Grand Canyon of Mexico, this series of Canyons is the third largest Canyon in the world. Richard and I decided to limit ourselves to the Urique Canyon area. This area is accessible by the only train left in Mexico. It runs from Los Mochis on the Baja coast through interior Mexico to Chihuahua. We made stops in El Fuerte near the coast, Posada Barrancas and Cerocahui on the canyon rim and Urique at the bottom of the Canyon. In each of these areas we stayed for a few days and did day hikes.

This particular area is so remore that it was difficult to make arrangements ahead of time on our own. We worked through a travel agent in Texas who has local guides in each of these areas. We told Colombus Travel what it is we wanted in our trip and they were very accommodating. Most of the Colombus clientele are not avid hikers. They had arranged a separate guide each day to hike with us. We had a local Tarahumara guide all to ourselves each day. None of them spoke any English so my rusty Spanish was a necessity. Richard followed behind me with the Spanish dictionary and we were able to get by pretty well. We meandered through the Canyon passing local Tarahumara women making their pine needle and cactus baskets and hauling them up to the Rim each day to try to sell to touristas and men carrying furniture, grain and supplies on burro from place to place on these narrow, steep, rocky trails. This region is home of the Tarahumara Indian who are famous for running competitions throughout the canyons. One guide mentioned that every Sunday community members of all ages participate in races through the hills, usually 20 miles or more, just for fun. They will often have a stone "ball" they kick along like a long distance soccer game! The Tarahumara live near the bottom of the Canyon, where it is warmer, in winter and toward the Rim during the summer. They have little places or cave dwellings throughout the Canyon. It was fun to have a local guide to travel with us who could share the local history and surroundings with us. We saw the cave where our guide Mario's grandmother was born before Pancho Villa went to war with the Tarahumara and Mexicans and chased them further into the Canyon. One of our guides, Victoriano, was part of a group of Tarahumara who was sponsored by an American to run in the Leadville 100 running race in Colorado and won. This was five years ago when he was 55. The guides usually knew people we passed on the trail and we stopped to converse for a bit.

It was interesting to hear the local perception and feeling of how ecotourism has impacted their area. The government in Mexico is realizing the development potential in this area. Many of us know how crowded the Grand Canyon has become. Mexico is not known for it's consideration of ecological impact or impact to the indigenous people of the area. There is not much lodging available for tourists at this time. But we saw one large hotel which was newly built right next to a Tarahumara cave dwelling where a family still lives. This huge hotel has no septic tank and is disposing waste which drains right down the canyon. There is no electricity in some of the area. The government is trying to expand the road system and add power to these remote areas.

This is a good time to travel to the area and enjoy the vast areas for hiking while the region is still relatively unknown and unspoiled. There are endless hiking opportunities. Anything from extended backpack trips on your own or burro supported to day hiking. We're looking at the Urique to Batopillas hiking options for our next trip to the area!

Nina Tartakoff and Richard Kemnitz

Back to home page