The Copper Canyon & Northern Mexico

Every writer who visits the “titanic mountains” of the Sierra Madre brags that the Copper Canyon is several times larger and even deeper than the Grand Canyon of Arizona. However impressive this may be, statistics can’t convey the face-to-face impact of Mexico’s great barrancas. Once you’ve peered into a mile-deep gorge, it is easy to appreciate why descriptions of the Copper Canyon sometimes teeter on the edge of hysteria.

An early Mexican historian complained that, “Upon frequently ascending and descending steep and sudden slopes, in which each step of the mule all but suspends one over the abyss, one sees the imminent risk of falling and smashing into a thousand pieces. One cannot believe that this can be called a ‘trail’ and that it leads to a place inhabited by civilized people.”

Comparisons to Arizona’s magnificent but solitary “Big Ditch” almost always fail to take into account that Mexico’s Copper Canyon system of canyonlands covers a vast territory the size of one of our western states. In fact, having hiked, bused and crawled over much of its surface, I now think of this region as an entire country of “grand canyons.”

It is also one of the earth’s richest and most diverse ecosystems, with pine and oak forests, rivers, mountain ranges and remote plateaus. Add a widely scattered population of Tarahumara Indians, prospectors and Mexican ranch families to a delightful range of climate zones and you’ve got.. . paradise?

(The above passage is an excerpt from The People’s Guide to Mexico, by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens. Please do not copy without our permission.)

Exploring Trails in the Copper Canyon:  Hike the Copper Canyon with our friends, Mike Huckaby & Cathy Waterman.