Batopilas-Urique | Copper Canyon, Mexico, 1999

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Cam Honan on the climb out of Cerro Colorado | 1999

Distance :  52 km approx.

Avg.Time :  3 days

Start / Finish :

  • Both of these little towns are gems. Batopilas can be reached by regular bus service from Creel. This bus ride used to rate up there with some of the classics down in Peru/Bolivia, however in the late 90’s they considerably improved the standard of the road, thus making it not quite the “edge-of-your-seat” affair it once was.
  • Urique is accessed by a daily minibus from Bahuicivo train station, situated on the Copper Canyon railway.

Season :

  • October to March.
  • October/November are the best months for hiking in the Copper Canyon region. Coming immediately after the rainy season (June to September), the creeks generally have water and the temperatures are neither too hot, nor too cold.

Maps / Info :

  • Las Barrancas del Cobre or Copper Canyon region, is a system of six canyons (one of which is the Copper Canyon itself) situated in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. Significantly larger in area than the Grand Canyon, the region has been inhabited for centuries by the Tarahumaras (or Raramuris), an extraordinary people known for their indefatigable ability to run long distances.
  • An article titled A People Apart , which appeared in the November, 2008 edition of National Geographic Magazine, gives an excellent overview of the social, economic and environmental challenges facing the Tarahumaras.

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  • If you are hiking extensively in the Copper Canyon region, I recommend buying John Fayhee’s, Mexico’s Copper Canyon Country (1994 2nd Edition). Not so much a guidebook as it is a travelogue, I found it to be well written, informative, often humorous and most importantly for independent hikers, has useful topographic map references for much of the region. In the 1990’s, Fayhee’s book was the only detailed source of hiking information available on the Copper Canyon region. From what I have seen during my research for this website (2010), not much has changed in subsequent years.
  • The entire Batopilas to Urique route is covered on the INEGI 1:50,000 Batopilas G13A41 map.  You can usually pick this map up at the Mission store in Creel (on the Plaza), the INEGI office in Chihuahua, or order it online at omnimap.com
  • Supplies can be bought in Batopilas, however a wider range is available in Creel.

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Route / Conditions :

  • The most popular multi day trek in the Copper Canyon region.
  • IMPORTANT : Before leaving Cerro Colorado, be sure to drink up and fill your water bottles to the brim. Carry at least 4 litres, as it is a long, shadeless, and often (depending on the previous rainy season) waterless climb. In 1999 there was a ranchito (small ranch) about half-way up the 1200 metre ascent, where you could obtain water. Do not rely on this still being the case.
  • You will eventually top out at the canyon rim, an incredibly scenic spot, close to where Piedra Redonda (which we did not see) is marked on the Batopilas topo map (Grid Reference 241028). Here you will find a good flat area for camping. Unfortunately, the nearest reliable water source is still 1-1.5 hours WNW of here.

 

  • At this point, the trail marked on the topo map appears to differ from the main trail visible on the ground (quite a common occurrence on virtually all Copper Canyon maps). Not to worry. Follow the obvious track WNW, eventually passing a small ranch, soon after which you will begin the long descent to the Urique river.
  • A few hours before reaching the river, there is good camping (watch out for Tarantula spiders!) and water available at the small village of Los Alisos (Batopilas topo map: Grid Reference 173060).
  • Considering the amount of livestock in the area, I recommend treating all water.
  • UPDATE 2015: In 2013, Justin Lichter and I hiked from Urique to Batopilas (i.e. the reverse direction to 1999) as part of our Copper Canyon Traverse. The trail from the floor of Urique Canyon up to the plateau that separates the villages is in excellent shape. The first part of it is maintained thanks to the annual “Caballo Blanco” Ultramarathon race. Once the plateau is attained, there is now a dirt road that leads across and subsequently all the way down to the village of Cerro Colorado.

Notes :

  • I recommend spending at least a couple of days in Batopilas before starting your hike. It’s an amazing little town, with a very rich and colourful history. Don’t miss the side trip to Satevo mission.

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