Must-Visit Attractions in the Copper Canyon, Mexico

Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental is seven times the size of the Grand Canyon
Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental is seven times the size of the Grand Canyon | © NortePhoto / Alamy
Photo of Ocean Malandra
24 May 2021

Seven times larger than the Grand Canyon, the Copper Canyon is a spectacular natural attraction in Northern Mexico. Here, the El Chepe railroad snakes up from the Pacific coast to the high Chihuahuan Desert, giving you a truly epic itinerary. From towering waterfalls to ancient ruins, here are the must-visit attractions in the Copper Canyon.

Ride the Teleférico de Las Barrancas del Cobre

Train Station
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Creel, Chihuahua, Mexico. Creel station, is a population of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, high up in the Sierra Madre Occidental, in the municipali
© NortePhoto / Alamy
Ready for some incredible views high above bronze rock? The Teleférico de las Barrancas del Cobre will have you at bird’s-eye level in a matter of minutes. One of the main attractions in the mountainous Divisadero region, this Swiss-style cable car cruises over the rugged canyon walls to reveal panoramas of the deep chasm below. The Teleférico is located within the Barrancas Adventure Park – an essential on your itinerary if you love outdoor activities.

Go mountain biking in the Creel highlands

Architectural Landmark
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Rachel Schmidt and Scott Davis mountain biking above the town of Creel in the Copper Canyon area Mexico. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.
© Whit Richardson / Alamy
Grab a fat-tire bicycle and hit the trails surrounding Creel. The forested mountain landscape around the town is laced with trails for lovers of downhill excursions on two wheels. Single- and multi-day mountain bike tours to small villages and natural attractions are all on the cards, so enquire around town.

Visit the Recohuata Hot Springs

Natural Feature
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All that sweaty hiking and biking in the Copper Canyon can be exhausting. So relax to the max at Recohuata Hot Springs. Twinkling at the base of the Tararecua Canyon, it’s an easy day trip from Creel. The series of clear water pools is fed by natural springs, not to mention beautifully maintained and refreshingly clean. Even though it’s within a compound, the surrounding landscape is picture-perfect to behold as you laze. You’ll get more spectacular views on the super-steep 6.8mi (11km) hike there, but many people opt for a tour that includes transport.

Day-trip to the Cusárare Falls, Piedra Volada and Basaseachic Falls

Natural Feature
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Cusarare Falls in Chihuahua, Mexico.
© Cavan Images / Alamy
Chasing waterfalls can become a full-time pursuit in the Copper Canyon. It has the highest falls in the country; Piedra Volada stands at more than 1,476ft (450m) tall. If it’s too far afield for you, worry not; there are several other cascades closer to Creel. Cusárare Falls, with a picturesque pine-forest setting, is near Recohuata Hot Springs, while Basaseachic Falls, the second-highest waterfall in Mexico, is less than a three-hour drive away.

Explore Paquimé Archaeological Park

Park, Ruins, Historical Landmark
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archaeological site of Paquime Casas Grandes in Chihuahua.Paquime is an archaeological zone of Paquime Culture.World Heritage Site by UNESCO. pre
© Luis Gutierrez / / Alamy
A tight, labyrinthine cluster of more than 2,000 once-habitable spaces, all constructed from adobe mudbrick, make up the ancient city Paquimé. After emerging in the 13th century, it was a major trading post between southern Mexico (populated by Mayans and Aztecs) and North American Pueblo cultures. Paquimé is so well preserved that Unesco made it a World Heritage Site. You can get here easily from the nearby town of Casas Grandes – and you really, really should.

Relax beside Lake Arareco

Natural Feature
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Creel, Chihuahua, Mexico.  Make Arareco Scene.
© Charles O. Cecil / Alamy
Lush evergreen forests and large rock formations surround Lake Arareco, a mountain-biking and hiking destination that draws fresh-air fanatics from Creel. Both travelers and residents flock here on the weekends for picnics and barbecues but, come midweek, it’s so peaceful you can hear a pine-needle drop. Keep cool out on the lake by renting a boat.

Tick off Valley of the Monks, Valley of the Frogs & Valley of the Mushrooms

Natural Feature
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Elongated rock formations in the Valley of the Monks / Valle de los Monjes / Bisabirachi near Creel in Alta Sierra Tarahumara, Chihuahua_2F3PFDK
© Arterra Picture Library / Alamy
So named because of the strange and evocative rock formations in each valley, these three landmarks are places of outstanding natural beauty. Despite the remote ambience, they’re only a little way beyond Creel, so it’s no hardship to fit them in on a mountain-bike outing or semi-ambitious hiking loop. If you’re tight on time, the most intriguing is the Valley of the Monks (Valle de los Monjes), leant a mysterious vibe by Stonehenge-like standing stones.

Wander around the town of Creel

Architectural Landmark
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Man walking in a street of Creel a popular tourist destination in the Tarahumara Sierra Mexico and gateway to Copper Canyon
© Luc Novovitch / Alamy
If you plan to spend a significant amount of time exploring the Copper Canyon, you really need to be based in Creel. That’s no bad thing, since it’s one of the Mexican pueblos magicos: a designation that’s just as delightful as it sounds. Historic churches and plazas give the town a charming atmosphere, and you owe it to yourself to explore the Museo de Arte Popular de Chihuahua, which tells the story of the local culture and crafts.

Discover Barrancas del Cobre Adventure Park

Natural Feature, Park
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Ziplining at Divisadero, Copper Canyon, Chihuahua, Mexico.  8350 feet long, longest zip line in the world.  Speed may reach 70 mph on the descent.
© Charles O. Cecil / Alamy
This adrenaline-inducing setup is packed with pulse-raising pursuits to fill a day – you can zipline over dizzying heights, rappel down sheer canyon walls, or attempt the aerial forest walk. Then, dine overlooking the rugged profile of the Copper Canyon at the end of the day. If you don’t like speed or heights, don’t worry; the park also organizes cultural trips into surrounding indigenous communities, led by local guides.

Climb up Peña del Gigante

Natural Feature
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High Mountains in the Copper Canyon in Mexico. Copper Canyon is a group of canyons consisting of six distinct canyons.
© Jorge Duarte Estevao / Alamy
A sheer rock face rising almost 2,950ft (900m) above the canyon floor, Peña del Gigante is the largest monolith in the country. For most, it’s enough to admire it from afar, but, if you’re more the Bear Grylls type, you can tackle the ascent proper. You won’t be alone, of course; various tour companies in Creel can hook you up with the equipment, guides and whatever else you might need to make it to the top.
These recommendations were updated on May 24, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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