Chihuahua, I’m in love with you.
If you’ve stumbled upon this article while looking for information regarding taking your beloved dog on a walk in nature, stumble on out of here. My feelings about your pooch are ambivalent at best. The Chihuahua I love, though the birthplace of the eponymous canine, is Mexico’s largest state, and also one of its most beautiful. Soaring granite cliffs, 800-foot waterfalls, snowcapped mountains, evergreen forests, desolate deserts, and the world’s largest canyon system (no big deal), all packed into a state a bit smaller than Michigan.
Headed to Chihuahua? The prospect of trying to cram all this beauty into a short trip may seem daunting. Fortunately, I’ve done the legwork for you. Here are my eight favorite hikes in Chihuahua.
CASCADAS DE BASASEACHIC/PIEDRA VOLADA
Distance: 2 miles to top of falls/6 miles to base of falls
Time: 1 hour/5 hours
One of the most stunning places I have ever been, Parque Nacional Cascada de Basaseachic (Basaseachic Falls National Park) evokes images of Yosemite with its towering granite cliffs, winding canyons, pine forests, and, of course, its record-breaking waterfalls.
Cascada de Basaseachic is the second-tallest waterfall in Mexico, plunging 853 feet to the rocks below. Mexico’s tallest? The neighboring Cascada de Piedra Volada, a whopping 1485-foot cascade. Unfortunately, Piedra Volada is a seasonal waterfall and was dry when we visited in November. Basaseachic, however, runs all year round.
The drive to this natural wonder takes 4.5 hours from the city of Chihuahua, or 2.5 hours from the stunning mountain town of Creel. First, head to the Mirador by following signs from the town of El Entronquito. Here, park and hike just a couple minutes to a lookout platform where you can take in the waterfall in its entirety.
Next, retrace your steps, head north on Highway 16, then turn left and follow more signs till you get to the trailhead that will lead you to the top of the falls. Parking here will cost between 20 and 30 pesos. A gently sloping 2-mile round trip trail takes you to one of the most spectacular places on Earth. Cliffs rise to the heavens on your right, while the falls tumble down into the depths right in front of you. Candameña Canyon snakes away in multiple directions. The river itself passes through a small natural arch before its big drop. Thankfully, the viewing area here is fenced in, as a fall from here would be a terrible idea.
Follow the trail to your left and across the river, and ascend the hill on the other side for another excellent view. Got more time? Follow this trail all the way to the base of the falls, which will take you another 4–5 hours down a steep, rocky trail. Retrace your steps and bask in the beauty.
BARRANCAS DEL COBRE
Distance: 1.25 miles on foot, 2 miles on zipline
Time: 1.5 hours
Barrancas del Cobre, or Copper Canyon, is the largest canyon system in the world, five times larger than the Grand Canyon in the United States. It goes without saying, then, that a multitude of great hiking options abound, as well as the Chepe Express, an epic train that takes you through the entire length of the canyon from Chihuahua to Los Mochis, Sinaloa (a train I fully plan on taking on my next trip to this beautiful state).
For the sake of adventure, though, I’ve selected a hike that also boasts the world’s second-longest zipline, one that will whisk you across an almost 2-mile expanse of the canyon at upwards of 70 miles per hour. It’s called the ZipRider. Start at Parque Aventura Barrancas del Cobre, an hour from Creel, and skip the bus from the parking lot, hiking a half mile to the canyon’s rim. Buy your ticket, head to the zipline platform, and get strapped in. Then, fly.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, the average zipline may bore you. I assure you that this one will not. Not only do you get to soar above the canyon, but you also get to hike up a steep chunk of canyon at the end, leading you to a small rocky plateau in the middle of the canyon. Here, you’ll be greeted with 360-degree views, a small restaurant, and the platform where you’ll board the gondola that takes you back to where you began.
Tickets are $1000 MXN, but worth every peso. The hike portion itself only lasts 20–30 minutes, but the views are unmatched, and you’ll get to clamber over all kinds of boulders on the plateau as well if you still haven’t gotten in enough steps for the day.
VALLE DE LOS MONJES/LOS HONGOS
Distance: 1 mile
Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
If you haven’t noticed by now, much of Chihuahua’s beauty is accessible from the town of Creel. This next hike is no exception. It should be noted that Creel is a worthy destination in its own right. At over 7,000’, this mountain town is surrounded by adventure and boasts Old West architecture. Its lively main street paints shades of a touristy town in backcountry Colorado somewhere.
Just 30 minutes east of town lies Valle de Los Monjes, or Valley of the Monks, so named because its hundreds of soaring hoodoos resemble monks assembled in small groups. Follow signs down a bumpy dirt road (driveable for passenger cars), and either whilst coming or going, stop by Valle de Los Hongos, a small valley featuring groups of large, mushroom-shaped rocks. Though impressive in its own right, this valley is only a precursor to the grandeur that is to come.
At the end of the road, pay the entrance fee of $100 MXN. Park. Even from the parking lot, the views of these hundred-plus-foot-tall rock spires are stupendous. Follow the obvious trail up a slope till you’re completely surrounded by these priestly hoodoos, arrayed in formation throughout a serene valley. I’ve never been in a more quiet, peaceful place, as the only sound I could hear was that of boot on rock.
Scramble. Climb. Explore. Sit. Take photos. Do whatever suits you. Valle de Los Monjes will awe you, inspire you, silence you. Then, head back the way you came.
For an honorable mention, head 30 minutes southeast of Creel to Cascada Cusárare, a 45-minute hike to a 100-foot, thunderous cascade boasting unbelievably blue water.
CAÑON DE NAMURACHI
Distance: 0.5 miles
Time: 45 minutes
Though only a mile round trip, the hike to the end of Cañon de Namurachi will take your breath away. Reminiscent of some of Utah and Arizona’s most beautiful slot canyons, Namurachi features caves, pillars, and a dramatic point where the canyon all but closes over your head.
This canyon lies in the middle of nowhere, about 2 hours from the city of Chihuahua. We visited it on the way to Basaseachic, but it does require a lengthy detour. This detour, however, is definitely worth it.
Arrive, park, pay a small $40 MXN entrance fee, use the surprisingly great restrooms if necessary, then start down the wide trail. Along the serpentine way, you’ll pass cliffs replete with caves and unusual rock formations, as well as evidence of flooding. Pouring rain? Avoid this hike, as it’s not a great place to be during a flash flood.
Soon, you’ll reach a dramatic hall at the end of the trail, where the cliffs on either side of you attempt to reach out and touch one another. Small Catholic shrines have been placed at the base of the cliffs, and dark mineral streaks on either side of the hall give this place a uniquely beautiful appearance. This is a great place to stop and reflect, grab a snack, and snap a photo or three before heading back to your car.
CAÑON LAS MONJAS
Distance: 1 mile
Time: 2 hours
This canyon is, in my humble opinion, the best-kept secret in all of Chihuahua.
If Namurachi was a little too easy for your adventurous side, Las Monjas ups the ante, providing a canyoning, scrambling adventure that you almost assuredly will have to yourself.
If Namurachi was in the middle of nowhere, this canyon actually appears as the definition of nowhere in the dictionary. Also two hours from Chihuahua, but due west of the city instead of southwest, this canyon lies very close to Parque Nacional Cumbres de Majalca as the crow flies, and shares some of its geological formations with this much more frequented neighbor.
We accessed this canyon from the northwest, through Colonia Obregón, but access is also possible from the southeast. Regardless of which access point you choose, the road to Las Monjas is desolate and very bumpy and eroded. On three different occasions, we had to get out and move rocks so that our Chevy Aveo could pass. Make sure you fill up on gas and snacks before heading towards Las Monjas, as there is no cell coverage and no services out here. Google Maps will take you to the primitive parking lot, though, where you’ll find evidence of people having been here, but most likely no other people. Entry is free, as you might imagine.
Walk around the hill in front of you to the right, then curve to the left, and follow the stream as the canyon begins. As you enter the canyon, the river forms a beautiful set of terraced pools carved out of the rock, and Las Monjas (The Nuns) start to rise on either side of you. Several points require a decent scrambling skill set, and at least one cliff requires a low Class 5 move or two to get down to the next part of the canyon. Meanwhile, crazy cliffs and hoodoos tower above you.
The canyon itself is not that long, less than a mile, but the going is slow. And amazing. If you aren’t much of a rock climber, access to the lower part of the canyon is also possible by scrambling directly up the hill in front of the parking lot, then picking your way carefully down in between the cliffs and cactus. This approach, which we took on the way back, takes about 30 minutes.
Either way, this is a wild, untamed, beautiful place, one that will evoke images of everything from Utah to the High Sierras of Northern California. Go here.
GRUTAS NOMBRE DE DIOS
Distance: 1 mile
Time: 1 hour
Do you prefer your hikes underground? Head to Grutas Nombre de Dios.
Right outside the city of Chihuahua, this cave system boasts a smorgasbord of interesting rock formations, enormous halls, and subterranean waterways. An hour-long guided tour, which costs only $60 MXN, will take you on a mile-long hike underground through 17 different halls. You’ll view the Tower of Pisa, the Waterfall, the Heart, the Altar, and many more figures created by nature, some of which require a little imagination to make out. At the end, you’ll catch a shuttle back to the main entrance!
Craving even more adventure? Options for rappelling, spelunking underground rivers, and descending into six unexplored caverns are available.
For a sporty, subterranean honorable mention, explore Grutas de Coyame, right off the road en route to Cañon del Pegüis.
CAÑON DEL PEGUIS
Distance: 0.5 miles
Time: 2 hours
Okay, so this one isn’t actually much of a hike. It is, however, a spectacular kayaking trip through a stunning desert canyon. It merits inclusion on its beauty alone, although you do encounter two small trail sections, if you’re trying to get in your steps.
Head two hours north from the city of Chihuahua, stopping by a canyon viewpoint right off of Highway 16, where you can hike five minutes down a hill to peer down sheer canyon walls to the slithering river below. Next, continue northeast on the highway a couple more miles until you reach a junction with a dirt road heading across the desert. Take this bumpy road till you reach a parking lot. Pay a small parking fee, pay for your kayak rental ($200 MXN per hour as of 2021), then hike down a short trail to the banks of the Río Conchos. Here, the entrance to the canyon rears up to your right.
You’ll be met by a friendly gentleman who will help you into your kayak and send you on your way. Right around the first bend, the grandeur of this magical place becomes readily apparent, as the canyon walls you stood atop just minutes before now rise over a thousand feet above you. When we went in November, the river was pretty shallow, so at several spots we had to portage our kayak a hundred feet or so (more steps to add to your daily total).
As you kayak deeper into the canyon, the golden hues of the canyon walls reflect off the placid river as eagles soar above. Paddle onward until you decide to turn around, then take in views in the opposite direction as you return.
PICOS DE LA LUNA
Distance: 3 miles
Time: 2 hours
Don’t have much time to get out of the city of Chihuahua? Don’t despair. Many short hikes ring this underrated, beautiful city. My favorite? Picos de La Luna. Though only 3 miles long, this accessible hike affords you sweeping city views, unique rock formations, and a couple thigh-busting climbs.
Located on a mountain in between downtown Chihuahua and its international airport, this hike starts at an unassuming dead end near the neighborhood of Rodolfo Aguilar. Google Maps provides accurate directions. Entry is free. Park your car on the side of the road and start walking up the obvious trail. After a mile or so, you’ll crest a ridge, getting your first view of the moon rocks from which this hike gets its name. Keep following the trail as it climbs. Finally, you’ll reach the bottom of a steep ridge replete with gendarmes and hoodoos. Scramble up to the viewpoint of your choice in between these otherworldly spires, and drink in the view.
If you have time to catch a sunset, grab an honorable mention hike by climbing straight up the short, sweet slopes of Cerro del Pescadito, a conical hill just outside of town near the neighborhood of Quintas Sebastián. After a lung-busting 30-minute hike with nary a switchback in sight, you’ll arrive at a summit, graced with a white cross, that boasts sweeping views of the city and the rolling hills that surround it.
To be honest, Chihuahua blew me away. Thanks to Instagram, I expected great things, and my expectations were completely surpassed. If you’re ready to see Mexico’s natural beauty in a whole new light, visit Chihuahua. Learn from my mistake and book your trip for longer than the six days I was here. Prepare to be amazed.