At more than 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) above sea level, Creel gets cold and sometimes snowy in winter. Summers are hot and sunny, with occasional heavy rains.
Creel is an Old West-style town without a lot of creature comforts. Despite new hotels and the paving of a few main streets, its appearance has changed little in recent decades. Even the locals bemoan the lack of appealing restaurants, so don’t expect Creel to satisfy an upscale vacation fantasy. Those who go to enjoy the Sierra Tarahumara’s natural beauty, however, will not be disappointed.
Some travelers arrive by bus or car from Chihuahua City, although the most popular mode of transportation is the famous Chihuahua al Pacífico Railway. A day or two’s detour is plenty of time to for casual exploration, although many travelers stay up to a week, enjoying the pine-scented air, day trips and hikes to lakes, waterfalls, Tarahumara cave dwellings and hot springs.
Well within hiking and mountain biking distance of Creel, Arareko is a small lakeside community. Boats are available for fishing and a walking trail rings the water. Near the shore there are simple cabins, and primitive camping is allowed. But most people stop here only briefly on van or Suburban tours from town. After visiting Arareko and its diminutive mission church, visitors soldier on to see weirdly weathered boulders in the surrounding valleys, which the local people have named according to their shapes. Visit the Valley of Breasts (Valle de Chichis), Frog Valley (Valle de Ranas), or Mushroom Valley (Valle de Ongos). Monolithic spires in yet another enclave constitute the Valley of Erect Penises; tourism folk have decided to call it the Valley of Nuns.
Not far beyond Arareko, the mission church at Cusárare, built in 1741, is beautiful in its simplicity. Geometric, red ochre designs decorate the whitewashed walls; high ceilings are supported by square, rough wooden beams. There are no pews; during Sunday Mass the women stand on one side of the room, the men on the other. Visitors to Cusaráre, about a 20-minute drive from Creel, usually take a walk to the namesake waterfall or simply enjoy the serenity at the rustic yet comfortable Sierra Lodge, which provides three squares a day.
The road north of Creel leads to the municipal seat, Bocoyna, and to Sisoguichi, a folkloric mission town off the beaten (and paved) path. Creel is also a jumping off point for tours throughout the Copper Canyon. International expeditions are staged here; rappelling, rock climbing, and mountain bike trips are increasingly popular.
For more things to do as well as hotels and restaurants, check out our Creel Travel Guide.