Northwest Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountain range encompasses one of the greatest canyon complexes in the world, Barrancas del Cobre. Though called the Copper Canyon in English, it is actually a series of six major intertwined canyons, plus 200 minor ones. Cumulatively, the Barrances are four times larger (and often deeper) than the Grand Canyon.
Crossing this vast wilderness is the Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacifico – “EL Chepe” – one of the most scenic train rides in the world. The rail line is a 400-mile engineering marvel and takes passengers on a 13-hour journey from Los Mochis, on the Pacific coast, to the city of Chihuahua. It snakes through pine-forested highlands across 39 bridges, and through 86 tunnels, with the most spectacular scenery between EL Fuerte and Creel. (Take the train east from Los Mochis; if you travel westbound from Chihuahua, you’ll pass the gorgeous views in the dark.)
At Divisadero the train stops briefly for seemingly endless vistas of the canyons. Another heart-stopping view is provided at the Hotel Mirador, perched at the rim at the Barrancas stop so that each room’s private balcony appears to hang over the canyon edge. From Creel, it’s 20 minutes to the charming, rustic Sierra Lodges, which offers a variety of backcountry hikes with native guides. A hair-raising, 5 hour van ride of 140 miles includes a vertiginous 6,000-foot descent to the old silver-mining town of Batopilas on the canyon floor. The Riverside Lodge, an antiques-filled Victoria-era hacienda, makes for a memorable stay.