An adventurous expedition riding into the hidden and secret chasms of the Sierra Madre, one of the most wild and spectacular areas of Mexico.
The Spanish arrived in the Copper Canyon in the 17th Century and quickly established themselves in the Tarahumara tribal lands after discovering rich deposits of gold and silver, forcing the Indians to move from the humid depths to the higher tropical elevations of the canyon. These indigenous people still inhabit the area and hold fast to their ancient customs as well as adopting Christianity into their traditional rites. Riders have the rare privilege to encounter a tribe still far removed from the rest of Mexican culture and society and the March itinerary may also allow riders to witness their great celebrations during Holy Week of Semana Santa.
Your adventure will begin in Chihuahua before travelling on to Creel. From there we head to Cusarare where we mount our horses and head deeper away from civilization into the dizzying canyons del Cobre. The ride takes us through the deepest canyons of this remote area: Urique (1870m), Batopilas and Sinforosa (1800m) on sure footed and well cared for horses, riding for up to 8 hours per day and camping under the stars.
This is an exceptional horse riding holiday into a landscape of ethereal splendour; a trip where everyone takes their part and reaps the great personal rewards of having witnessed and ridden through one of the most mysterious landscapes on earth.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from AH of Camarthan on 30/11/2016
Day 1: Arrive Chihuahua
Transfer to your overnight hotel. No lunch or dinner is included today.
Day 2: Visit Chihuahua - Creel
This morning from Chihuahua we will take a road transfer to Creel (around a 4 hour drive) - a town in the far west of Mexico. Here you will meet your riding guide and settle into his guesthouse. Welcome dinner with typical Mexican food, and chat about the riding plan. Overnight
Day 3: Creel - Cusarare - El Tejaban
Transportation of horses and riders to Cusarare (30 minutes) to start our ride adventure riding on the high sierra(from 2000 to 2400 metres of elevation) and its alpine forest to El Tejaban, located at the ridge of the Copper Canyon where impressive views of the Canyon and its steepness can be seen. Camp overnight. 6 hours of riding.
Day 4: El Tejaban - Barranca Del Cobre - Guaycavo
Our first canyon descent by the Camino Real (Colonial trail which connected Batoplias with Chihuahua city) to the ruins of Barranca del Cobre and its river Urique (3 hours). Visit the abandoned mines from where the canyon took its name and swim in the nearby river. Ascent to Guacayvo, a peaceful village nestled in a very narrow canyon. The diversity of flora and fauna of the high sierra and the bottom of the canyon is evident. Camp overnight. 5 hours of riding.
Day 5: Guaycavo - El Cebollin - La Renga
We continue our ascent to El Cebollin (sawmill) where we´ll have our first Canyon´s crossing completed. At this point we will be able to see our first camp site, not far at all on a straight line, but with a canyon of 1100 meters deep below our horses hooves. Then ride by the sierra to La Renga, a strategically located valley lined with apple trees where vehicle support can meet us. Camp overnight . 5 hours of riding.
Day 6: La Renga - Cieneguita De Morales
Ride by the high sierra by a long range enjoying great views of Hondo, and Urique Canyon on our right handside, and Batopilas on our left all the way to Cieneguita de Morales. Camp overnight. 6 hours of riding.
Day 7: Cieneguita – Munerachi
After riding south for four days we now take a southeastern course, mostly by high Sierra and a short descent at the end of the day to Munerachi. Today we´ll be able to admire the magnificence of Batopilas Canyon and perhaps (on the Easter itinerary) witness the celebration of Semana Santa by the Tarahumara Indians, some 50,000 indians still inhabit these canyons. Please note that it is unusual for the isolated Tarahumara people to welcome tourists, we might be welcome to stay and watch, and we might not! Camp overnight. 6 hours of riding.
Day 8: Munerachi - Batopilas
If we were welcome to stay and watch Semana Santa celebration we can also enjoy the festivities of the morning. The celebration usually ends in the morning, so there is usually time to ride down hill to Cerra Colorado (an old mining town) then arrive to Batopilas (460m above sea level) late in the afternoon. Accomodation overnight. 7.5 hours of riding.
Day 9: Batopilas
Today will be a "day off" for the horses, who still have three more days to go. We will visit Hacienda de San Miguel, built by Alexander Shepherd, "the Silver Magnet" at the end of the XIX century. By car visit the "Lost Mission" of Satevo, a Jesuit Mission built in XVII century. Accomodation overnight.
Day 10: Batopilas - Santa Rita
We leave Batopilas Canyon and ride to Santa Rita, where we can enjoy breath-taking scenery; the ravines of Batopilas and Munerachi. Here begins a new historical Silver Trail in the Sierra Madre. During three centuries of mining, silver was extracted and sent to Chihuahua city to be sold. Transportation of this mineral was a real challenge, not only due to the distance (385km), but also the rugged terrain to be traversed. We will ride on paths once trodden by countless brave mules. 5 hours riding.
Day 11: Santa Rita - Teboreachi
A second day of riding on the Silver Trail. Our horses will take us onto to edge of the Sierra Alta, where we will view a spectacular trail which offers views of the two valleys on either side. We arrive at the Raramuri community of Teboreachi (2000m) and visit the remains of the old mining station. These shelters were built with sandstone bricks and were distributed at regular intervals along the road to allow mules to rest and eat. 5 hours riding.
Day 12: Teboreachi - Creel
Last day on horseback. We cross a thick forest and the road takes us to the community of Samachique, where our equestrian adventure ends. We will enjoy a delicious picnic and refreshing beer. A vehicle and truck will be waiting for us and our horses and we will be transported to Creel. Farewell dinner and Margaritas. 4 hours riding.
Day 13: Creel - Chihuahua
Today we take a train from Creel to Chihuahua city but a private vehicle can be arranged if you prefer (additional cost).
Day 14: Chihuahua – Mexico City
Transfer to Chihuahua airport in time for a flight back to Mexico that connects to your international departure.
Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Copper Canyon Trail
Norberto Padilla Rodriguez
As a child Norberto grew up on his family's ranch, dedicating his time and interests to his growing herd of horses, breeding, gentling them and riding them for pleasure. At age eighteen, Norberto enrolled in the Northern Regional University in Chihuahua to pursue a graduate degree in tourism.
At the same time, however, Norberto continued to participate in his favorite sport, rodeo bull-riding. Thanks to rodeo, he had the opportunity to visit many beautiful places in Mexico. (As a professional-status bull-rider, he also earned some of his college expenses as well as some handsome belt buckles.) Norberto also took time out from his studies to travel in the United States, first as a cowboy in Nebraska and Wyoming; later joining a construction company in Atlanta, Georgia. While in the southeastern U.S., he took advantage of opportunities to ride in rodeos in Alabama and South Carolina. Two years later, Norberto returned to Mexico with a head full of dreams, but felt that somehow, his adventures were now behind him.
So, Norberto completed his studies in 1996, and left the rodeo to dedicate himself to a career. It was while managing a hotel in Creel he began to explore the many beautiful and extraordinary places surrounding this gateway town to Copper Canyon. The lovely Tarahumara people so impressed Norberto with their kindness and quiet lifestyle that, as much as he admired them and their environment, he wanted to share his experiences with other appreciative people. But Norberto also knew that to do so, he needed to create an opportunity for others to experience this part of Mexico with minimal impact on the Tarahumara and their environment....
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.
Sons of the Shaking Earth - Eric Wolf. A wonderfully readable introduction to Mexican history.
The Maya (Ancient Peoples and Places) - Michael D Coe
Aztecs: An Interpretation - Inga Clendinnen. A fascinating, thought-provoking and vividly dramatic look into the heart of Aztec society.
Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans - Alan Riding, is an excellent guide to understanding modern Mexico and its love-hate relationship with the United States.
So Far So God: A Journey to Central America - Patrick Marnham. A vivid account of a trip from California, through Mexico to the badlands of Central America. The title comes from the saying 'Poor Mexico! So far from God, so close to the United States.'
Like Water For Chocolate - Laura Esquivel. This book created a huge interest in things Mexican when it was published in 1989. Set in rural Mexico at the time of the revolution, the novel manages to combine fantasy with recipes.
All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy. A poetic tale of three young latter-day cowboys riding south of the border.
European novelists have long been attracted by Mexico. Graham Greene's 1930s travelogue The Lawless Roads and his great novel The Power and the Glory; Aldous Huxley's Beyond the Mexique Bay and DH Lawrence's burdensome The Plumed Serpent, which is intent on asking all the big questions about Mexican life.
The Mango Orchard: The extraordinary true story of a family lost and found A young Englishman who travelled in Columbia, Guatemala and Mexico, in part to trace the fascinating story of his great grandfather's adventures in Central America a century ago. There is a great twist at the end, which we won't spoil.
Of course a mandatory copy of Lonely Plant Guide is invaluable.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The horses are Spanish Barb crosses (generally with some Criollo, Mustang and/or Quarter Horse) and are well trained and know their job; they are sure-footed, gentle and relatively small in contrast to most other breeds. The tack and style of riding is Western.
You are welcome to bring seat savers to fit a Western saddle.
Luggage is transported by pack-mules.
This ride is open to riders who have good experience of trail rides and are comfortable with the adventurous nature of this holiday - some of the ascents and desents are very steep with significant drop offs on narrow paths so this ride will not suit riders who suffer from a fear of heights!
Riders need to be physically fit and have stamina for the long hours in the saddle. The pace of the ride is steady because of the difficult terrain and pack horses which accompany the ride. Riders will need to walk some sections leading their horse.
Riders are asked to groom and tack-up their own horse and to also help with all camp activities - putting up tents and assisting the arrieros (gauchos).
The host is strict on weight limits of riders, if heavier riders want to take part they either have to pay a supplement for a second horse or they can have an option to ride a mule.
The weight limit for this ride is 14 st/198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
You will stay in 4 * hotels in Chihuahua. On the ride there will be 2 person tents and basic hostel/dormitory style accommodation in Creel, Batopilas and Urique.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
The alpine climate of the mountainous regions of Copper Canyon has moderate temperatures from October to November and March to April. The bottom of the canyons is humid and warm and remains that way throughout the year. During the warmest months, April through June, drought is a chronic problem with little rainfall until July when the rainy season begins.
We strongly advise you to consult with your General Practitioner before travelling. The best medical advice regarding suitable immunisations and prophylaxis to enable you to travel safely requires knowledge of your medical history and therefore cannot be covered in this advice sheet. Recommendations are also subject to change and it is important to obtain the most up to date information available.
Camera batteries and film can be bought at the airport in Mexico City. Please ask permission before taking photographs of locals.
Cap or hat for the sun
A bandanna / scarf to protect your neck
A pair of sunglasses
A warm hat (for November/December)
Long sleeved shirts
Sweaters or fleece jackets
A waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex type windbreaker with hood (important!)
A windbreaker or warm jacket for November (in April a warm fleece + Gore -Tex jacket is sufficient)
Warm gloves (for November)
Trousers for the rest of the non-riding trip
Thermal underwear for the evening
Lightweight hiking shoes and waterproof boots or jodphur boots and chaps for hiking - you should be able to walk on rough terrain, sometimes over long distances . Choose shoes with not too smooth soles keep you and your ankle steady
A pair of trainers or light shoes for the rest of the trip
Toiletries including towel, biodegradable soap and shampoo
Sunscreen, facto 30+
A 1 litre water bottle
Camera & replacement batteries
A sleeping bag capacity -5 ° C (-10 ° C in November)
A sleeping mat
Please pack your luggage in a soft travel bag (no suitcases)
During the ride your personal luggage will be transported in saddle bags . It is a good idea to take two waterproof inner bags approximately 45cm x 45cm or strong plastic bags to protect your luggage. A pair of saddlebags are provided to hold your personal effects (water bottles, camera, gloves, snacks etc) - these two pairs of bags must not exceed 10kg (allowance is strictly adhered to, however note a support vehicle does meet you once to be able to change some luggage)
If your sleeping bag and mat are too bulky, the pack horses can take them.
A backpack is not allowed on horseback
Aspirin or Doliprane
Sun cream with high protection for skin and lips
Tablets or Micropur hydroclonazone to disinfect water
Copy of passport
Any clothing etc not needed can be left at the ranch in Creel. Please leave your valuables at home.
Set dates available October to November and March to April, please see website. Other dates available on request, please enquire.
2017: 21 Feb (confirmed)
Other dates on request
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 6-8 pax||2,089|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 4-5 pax||2,309|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 3 pax||2,579|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 2 pax||2,889|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 6-8 pax||2,415|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 4-5 pax||2,675|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 3 pax||2,985|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 2 pax||3,345|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 6-8 pax||2,529|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 4-5 pax||2,805|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 3 pax||3,129|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 2 pax||3,505|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 6-8 pax||23,015|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 4-5 pax||25,479|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 3 pax||28,439|
|2017||14d/13n||9||double pp 2 pax||31,889|
The Sierra Tarahumara Occidental region contains some twenty-three different species of pine and two hundred different species of oak trees. Mexican Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga lindleyana) trees cover the high plateaus in altitudes over 8,000 feet (2,400 m), but due to deforestation in the area, many species of wildlife are endangered. Cougars live in the remotest of regions and are rarely seen. After the summer rainy season these upper regions blossom with wildflowers until October. From 4,000–8,000 feet (1,200–2,400 m), oak trees grow in the huge forests as well as the more shade-tolerant types of trees. In the fall the forests become brilliant with color from Andean Alder (Alnus acuminata) and poplar (Populus spp.) trees. Brushwood and scrubby trees grow on the canyon slopes, which can accommodate the dry season. Huge fig (Ficus spp.) and palm trees thrive at the bottom where water is plentiful and the climate is tropical.
Mexico is a vast country. The Sierra Madre and Rocky Mountains run south from the border with the US. The interior consists of an elevated plateau. Northern Mexico is dry and desert-like, while the south is mountainous jungle containing the ruins of ancient Mayan and Aztec city complexes. These indigenous civilizations are credited with many inventions including: building pyramid-temples, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, highly-accurate calendars, fine arts, intensive agriculture, engineering, an abacus calculation, a complex theology, and the wheel. Without any draft animals the wheel was used only as a toy. The only metals they apparently knew how to use were native copper and gold.
The people of Mexico today are a mixture of descendants from Spanish and other immigrants, mainly Europeans, who settled in Mexico from the sixteenth century onwards, and mestizos - mixed European and indigenous ancestry, as well as the many indigenous groups. It is a nation where affluence, poverty, natural splendour and urban blight rub shoulders. It is also one of the worlds most bio-diverse countries with an incredible and colourful array of fauna and fauna.
Mexico is six to eight hours behind GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.
The international dialling code is +52.