Exploring Trails in the Copper Canyon

400 MILES IN THE SIERRA MADRE, more or less;

Loosely Retracing the Steps of

including, but not limited to
Carl Lumholtz (as described in Unknown Mexico: Explorations in the Sierra Madre and Other Regions, 1890-1898);

Adolph Bandolier, Society of Jesuits Juan Forte, Juan Bautista de Anza, and Ales Hrdlicka, among other Illustrious & Intrepid Souls

Beginning in Sonora at Rancho Calabozo on the Aros River in November, 2012
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Keep it light. Half the trip is uphill.
Keep it light. Half the trip is uphill.

The timing is perfect for our trek through the Sierras of Sonora and Chihuahua. We normally have a fall season in our guiding business, but business has been slow of late. Nevertheless, we miss our friends in the area and instead of driving down for a short visit, we thought we would walk on down and sit for a spell, without having to rush off. We constantly maintain a list of exciting hikes and interesting places in the area that sustains us through the off-season, and as spring inexorably brings new bud to trees, the end of monsoons draws us to the canyon country like moths to a flame.

The purpose of the trek is more difficult to define because there are so many reasons. We hope to raise awareness of the indigenous culture of the region. The Sierra Madre Occidental is home to indigenous tribes like the Pima Alta, Yaqui, maybe remnants of Opata, although we think all that currently exists are words in the local dialect, and the Tarahumara. There are also enclaves of Mennonite, Mormon, ex-patriot Americans, and old world European miners. Just look at the overgrown cemeteries of towns with faded glory, and you realize just how many old Welsh, French and English names are scattered about. To this day, most of that European influence can only be seen in anachronistic architecture like balconies and wrought ironwork.

We're looking forward to meeting the locals who endeavor to make a living in a harsh environment. These remote mountains are home to a hardy and fiercely independent group of people. They can live off the land. The serranos have more in common with their indigenous cousins than their "civilized" brethren in the cities. They build their houses with what nature has to offer- mud adobe, pine vigas, cedar shake roofing. They cure their ailments the same way. They take what they need, but ever aware of tomorrow, they leave a little for later. They've been here for 500 years so that says something about their sustainability.

This is a region where some folks still practice subsistence gold mining. They make roofing shingles with very little of the trappings that civilization utilizes and discards. There is wildcat logging, and a competitive

Lumholtz' quote is an apt description: To look on these mountains is a soul inspiring sensation.
Lumholtz' quote is an apt description: To look on these mountains is a soul inspiring sensation.

contraband industry, and a fledging tourism industry. This region is a wonderful location for multiday adventures including horsebackriding, mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, and birding. There are also peaceful secluded ranches for those seeking solitude, for reflection or meditation. Many of the locals are still aware of the botanical uses of their plants, a skill rapidly disappearing or being replaced by mass marketing of untested concoctions or new legal patents on those same old plants. They still have faith in cuaraderos and hechiceros. We're aware of the violence in the region, but spending a lot of time there already, we're more aware of the disproportionate reporting of that violence, and of the detrimental effect it has on the inhabitants. And, we have faith in them.

Week One: Rancho Calabozo to Tutuaca, Chihuahua

Leaving the ranch, our first obstacle is crossing the Rio Aros. Then onwards, south and east, towards the mine at Dolores, Rancho El Nogal, and the village of Tuatuaca. We expect to see thick-billed parrots and a Mogollon-culture pictograph site.

Follow our progress, or hike it on your own.

El Yerbaniz
El Refugio
San Antonio

Week Two: Tutuaca to Cascada Basaseachi

Steep canyons, and high ridges: several cordilleras to cross before arriving at Barranca Candameña, home to Mexico's highest and 3rd highest waterfalls. If in the area make it a point to visit Cascada Basaseachi at 840 feet (240M) and Cascada Piedra Volada (1200 ft/370M).

Week Three: Cascada Basaseachi to Cabanas Noritari, San Juanito.

This week involves heading some deep canyons like the Candamena, Huevachi and Sarachique that tempt us to descend remote diamonds-in-the-rough towns like Cajurichi, Calaveras, Aguateachi, La Soledad, Uruachi, Maguarichi, Rio de las Casas.

Words to the Wise
"To look at these mountains is a soul inspiring sensation;
but to travel over them is exhaustive to muscle and patience.
And the possibility of losing at any moment
perhaps the most valuable part of your outfit
is a constant and severe strain on your mind.
Nobody except those who have travelled in the Mexican mountains
can understand and appreciate the difficulties and anxieties
attending such a journey.
— Carl Lumholtz

Week Four: Cabanas Noritari to Cusarare

Primarily a descent from Presa Situriachi and across various mesa to Bocoyna.

Week Five: Cusarare to Urique

Lots of route choices; to Noragachi, or Batopilas directly. No, in recreating our faithful hike, first we go to Urique. We might take a tour of the new Divisadero Adventure Park with 7 km of zipline (tyrolean traverse), and an Austrian cabler before we begin a 5000 foot descent to the river.

Week Six: Urique to Batopilas

Week Seven: Batopilas to Guachochi

Week Eight: Guachochi to Noragachi

Week Nine: Norogachi to Carichi


Escorted Hikes and Burro Expeditions in Mexico's Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon Trails, LLC ― www.coppercanyontrails.org ― 1334 West Pennington Street ― Tucson, AZ 85745 ― Phone: 520-324-0209