Cycling Mexico’s Copper Canyons

In late 2011, we made a little road trip down Mexico’s Pacific Coast. On the way are the Copper Canyon’s, a series of deep gorges that cut through the Sierra Madre.

We ditched the car for five days and cycled just a small part of this terrain. Here’s a video from our trip along with some notes and observations.

The Train from El Fuerte to Creel

Many tourists will be familiar with ‘El Chepe’ – the train that runs from Los Mochis, up through the Urique Canyon and onto Creel and Chihuahua. We liked the idea of a one way trip back through the mountains.

Most advice we received was that it was no longer possible to take bikes on the train, but we turned up anyway, and after a fair amount of pleading with the conductor, we were able to strap our bikes to the engine for the ride. It helped that we tagged along behind an insistent German cycle tourist who brandished his ticket like a weapon, and wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Los Mochis might be a better place than El Fuerte, to board with a bike as you’ll have more time to argue.

Creel

We took the train as far as Creel. In December it felt like a cold folorn frontier town and there were very few tourists there. Margharitas is the place to go for backpackers… P150 including dinner & breakfast.

On to Batopilas

The road is hilly but well paved towards Guaycoche and the junction to Batopilas (aka La Casita) After the turn-off, there’s another 20kms of paved road before it turns to dirt. The downhill to Batopilas is spectacular and beautiful, but be warned there is still almost three thousand feet of uphill mixed in. Batopilas is a quaint little town and quite a pleasant place to stay for a few days.

Maps, Side trails and Jeep Roads

We didn’t find any maps of the region worth buying. Google does the best job, and we cached satellite images to track our way. But still navigation was not easy… the region is criss-crossed by 4×4 tracks and its hard to figure out where next. The key to getting around is to know the names of key towns, and ask directions from lots of people.

There appeared to be many interesting horse trails off to the side, leading up to passes, and up into other canyons. I would kill for a couple months to explore some of these. If you want to meet the native Raramuri Indians, this would be the way. We saw many of these native people standing by the side of the road, but none running like they supposedly do in the book ‘Born to Run’

Terrain

Roads here can be steep! Very steep. Pack light and have low gears!

Mexico, Safety, and Driving Down

If I haven’t already posted elsewhere on this blog, we found the drive down from Tuscon to be a breeze. Crossing into Mexico is hardly complicated. We didn’t drive at night, and we had no problems with crooked police, robbers, or narco’s. – At least, no more than you’d get driving through the Bay Area. It’s easy to leave your car at the train station, under the watchful eye of one of the locals for 50pesos a night.

All in all, I’d say this region has some of the best and most challenging cycle touring I’ve done. There’s no shortage of campgrounds; the locals are warm and friendly; it’s still relatively undiscovered and the scenery is spectacular

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