Copper Canyon

The road from Yecora to Creel is a top notch motorcycle road. It is full of endless curves at high elevations with bountiful scenic views.

My new motorcycle was loving the road almost as much as I was. The morning air was cool as we rode at elevations from 5,000 feet at our starting point of Yecora to nearly 9,000 feet before dropping down to 7,700 feet in Creel.

We arrived in the town of Creel early enough in the afternoon to walk around town and get a feel for the place. The city has a population of about 5,000 people and was originally a logging community, although it is now clearly a tourist town and is the launch point for exploring Copper Canyon. The city has a high percentage of Ramamuri native Americans who we saw in town walking in their colorful clothing.

There is a train tour popular mostly with the Mexicans and some gringos that goes from Los Moches to Chihuahua. You can read more about it HERE. This railroad took almost 90 years and 90 million dollars to complete. The website touts it as a piece of engineering achievement. Opened after decades of construction in 1961, the railway was designed to connect the Pacific Ocean with Mexico’s central desert territory and Chihuahua.

Most people jump off at Creel for a chance to take tours to the rim of the canyon. We walked to the train station to see the train but the scheduled arrival was delayed so we never did get to see it.

We did pass this hospital along the way.

Wisely, we didn’t need to take advantage of that part of the Mexican healthcare system. Oddly enough, those were the only pictures I took of the town. Hmmmm, well, imagine a small Mexican town with a railroad running right through the middle with lots of vendor stalls ready for the tourists to depart the train. Or, use Google to search for Creel and look at better pictures taken by others.

We did stay at a nice hotel, the Lodge at Creel. It billed itself as an eco-lodge which meant they could charge more than the surrounding typical tourist hotels. They did have solar panels on the roof so that must justify the additional cost.

Richard took a picture of us with the bikes. It was nice having him around so we could get a few pictures with both of us.

The next day we were ready for the 6,000 foot drop into Copper Canyon. We were pretty sure it would get warmer from our starting temperatures.

Good thing I brought my heated liner, the Artic Circle sticker seemed appropriate. We decided to make a detour to the tourist destination of Divisadero where there is some of the best views of the canyon. Finally I got a few good pictures.

There are stunning views from various platforms along the ridge.

This is the hotel on the cliff that is many of the advertising photos. We rode past it and it looked empty. Might be a good place to stay with fantastic views.

Maybe it was the time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the lack of tour busses but we had the place to ourselves.

Next, the real adventure began, the 80 mile trek into the canyon where we would drop from 7,500 feet to less than 2,000 feet. This used to be a steep dirt road with frequent landslides, sharp curves and shear drop offs along the road. Now however, it’s a paved road with landslides, curves and drop offs.

“Paved” is relative.

I’m glad we weren’t on the road when this boulder came down.

Clearing the road of debris obviously wasn’t a priority. We had our full attention on the road around every corner.

Then the road got bad….

Now I understood why we didn’t see any tour buses going up or down the road. Towards the end, the road really started to drop….

Finally at the bottom we crossed this one lane bridge into the very small town of Batopilas population 1,200.

It’s a small town, according to Wikipedia, they only have had electricity since 1989. This tourist map of the whole town was painted on the wall at the beer store.

We had reservations at The Copper Canyon Lodge. I had the address in my GPS but we ended up riding in circles trying to find it. It was challenging riding on the steep bumpy cobblestone roads. Plus, when we dropped into the canyon it quickly warmed up and we were cooking hot in all our riding gear. Wisely, Deby and Richard stopped their bikes and let me ride around in circles. I knew I was close, I mean, there was only a couple of streets in the whole town right? During one of my circles I noticed a cowboy looking Mexican guy standing on the corner watching me. He had a typical wide brimmed cowboy hat, boots and a big belt with a bigger buckle. I particularly noticed the decent sized dagger attached to his belt. I finally stopped and asked in my best Spanish “donde esta el Lodge?” He replied “Aqui”, what? I looked and didn’t see a door in the big walled building or any type of sign so I left and rode around the block again. I rode past Deby and Richard who were wondering what I was doing. When I came back around the block again I stopped at the cowboy’s corner and asked, “aqui??” “Si” he responded… confused I asked, “la puerta?” “Agui, aqui” he responded again. Finally I was starting to catch on…. the tiny unmarked door across the street from his corner was the entrance to the hotel. He wanted us to park there and load through the door. He watched as I left him yet again to collect Deby and Richard and bring him around the block to the hotel entrance. Geesh. He was waiting here the whole time just for us, the only guests in this huge hotel. We later learned the whole block WAS the hotel!

Here is a picture of Deby and our host at the unmarked door.

Here is a zoomed out picture of the place, door at left. Never did see a sign for the Copper Canyon Lodge.

What we didn’t expect was the inside….

It was an old hacienda and in typical fashion was non-descript on the outside but big with grand furnishings on the inside.

Our room had a balcony that overlooked the main street in town.

We came across the mural below that depicts the history of the town including the Tarahumara Indians who are famous marathon runners from the area. A best selling book called Born To Run tells the story of these indigenous people, known for long distance running. Most will run wearing the traditional zapetas (loin cloths) and huerarches (sandals). We saw a number of these guys in their loin cloths around town bud didn’t get any photos. I plan on reading the book during this trip. Richard read it and highly recommended it.

Per our custom we wandered aimlessly around town before dark. Clearly we were the only tourists. I asked a local shopkeeper, an elderly woman who spoke English where the tourists were. She said they haven’t been coming to the town for a long time.

It’s a super interesting town on the banks of a narrow rocky river.

Deby had to go down to the river to look for rocks.

Winter darkness came early, especially at the bottom of the 6,000 foot canyon so after a basic dinner we huddled into our cozy concrete walled room to read and drift off to sleep, proud to have survived the ride down.

In the morning we had a wonderful breakfast prepared by our daggered host and we slowly packed the bikes and prepared for the uphill version of our previous day’s ride. The scenery was just as fantastic going up with the sun at different angles. I got a good picture of Richard admiring the views.

We successfully climbed out the Copper Canyon and before we reached Creel we turned on the skinny two lane road East towards our destination of Durango. Crazy thing, my GPS didn’t know how to get there and Google maps kept getting lost. We finally resorted the the best navigation method of all, we followed the signs!

Next….. an epic ride down and up the espinazo del diablo carretera, or in English – The Spine of the Devil.

Hey – thanks for following and commenting. It’s really fun to hear from friends old and new. Sorry I can’t always answer all the comments but we read them all.

Donn and Deby

6 thoughts on “Copper Canyon

  1. We have really enjoyed reading your adventures. Thanks for including us once again. Lee and Jim

  2. I met you and Deby on your1st GPS Kevin ride. I really enjoy following your many trips. Your a lucky man to have such a capable wife! Your posts and pics are very well done. Enjoy the trip as we enjoy following you guys.

  3. OK you guys ….. what an adventure !!! Thanks for the views ….. Ww might soon be getting out of our rabbit hole here in Mequon to get back to Chile …. You’re an inspiration!!!

    Tom and Julia ….

  4. Who needs a train? The canyon trip was worth it for the hotel’s painted ceiling alone. And to see horses being ridden down the street.

  5. Just Wow! So cool to see through your eyes, my dad is back here with us, I will have to show him his old stomping grounds in your posts. That hotel was amazing! I remember the Tarahumara very well as a kid growing up in that area. I’m thinking that we flew often over that area several times in the Cessna 195. My brothers took that train ride back in the day! But to see it from the ground would be amazing!

    Great post as always you two!

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