"Mexico" Mike - Ex-media spokesman, Mexico Tourism Ministry. Named Mexico expert by NY Times, Wall Street Journal, TX Monthly, Guardian (UK), Mexico City News, Atención (San Miguel de Allende), Irish Times
Driving across the Sierra Madres (Copper Canyon) On A Really Back road
Crossing the Sierras through the Copper Canyon --
Route 24 between Hidalgo del Parral and Culiacan by Bill Fitzgerald.
Many thanks to Bill Fitzgerald for the story below. I have always wanted to do this trip but never got to it. He is the first person to tell us what it was like.
Please post the news about Route 2 between Parral and Culiacan on your web site for others to use.>I felt like an explorer on that trip. Since then I have not gotten out on any other adventures.The roads were so bad the old suburban (my faithful auto) vibrated when it got back onto pavement, and I had to get new rims, and a few front end parts to straighten the ones that got bent, and some new drive shaft parts and so on. -- Bill Fitzgerald.
From Hidalgo westward the paved road goes to Guadalupe y Calvos,
then on dirt to Badiraguato, then on pavement to Culiacan. Between Guadalupe y Calvos (current end of pavement on the east),
and Badiraguato (end of pavement on the west), it is just pioneering from
village to village asking directions (in the village and from every passing
car, which are not many) to the next village. The roads were all dirt, but
they had been washed out in places. You could cross these places, but it
was very rough -- really bumping slowly over boulder fields. There were deep ruts in the road, but they were made in the wet season, and at this time -- the dry season, there was a track through the ruts. I found the grades or clearances were never more than a two wheel drive high clearance vehicle could pull, because that type of vehicle (about a one ton, flat bed, two
wheel drive truck) is what is used to haul goods into the villages, but the grades were very long, both up and down. The roads went over big ridge after big ridge, and braided and twisted, with not a vestige of signage, and directions were vague (go beyond the village and take the tracks to the south) or (the road is "muy limpio" that is, very clean).
For maps, see this link. Click on Durango near Hidalgo del Parral. To see the rest, click on Sinaloa near Culiacan, to the east.
Don't need no stinking map.
The maps were accurate as to villages and river drainages, but none
of the maps (and I had the latest INEGA maps) was accurate as to the
presence of the roads we were on. The local people knew the road well to
the next little town, but their directions beyond that were unreliable. The
grades up and down over several ridge systems were extended. I actually
boiled (partially vaporized) the brake fluid on the front disc brakes when they got very hot, and the brakes were spongy after that. The way we took, there was a largeish river to ford. I waded it first to make sure it never got to deep, and piled rocks on the other side to aim for. The crossing was about 80 to 100 yards. I was only grateful (about 4 times an hour) that it
was the dry season.
This is the area where drugs are produced, and there were some odd
things. In the bottom of one valley there was a large (four engine) old
piston passenger plane sitting on the valley floor, not far from the road.
It had gotten in, but had not gotten out. Chickens now roosted in it's
shade, and the engines had been stripped. There were some very large paved
airstrips you could see out on the mountain ridges, that were behind long roads that ended in barred gates. In this remote central portion of the passage, there were long stretches of road with nothing along the road, though roads branched off to what appeared to be ranches, away at remote spots. The people were gracious as they always are, and we pulled through
though it took us about a day and a half of constant driving. We were told either that it was impossible or that it was simple. Neither was true.
The sequence of villages, from memory after Guadalupe y Calvos was
(1) Delores, (2) San Jose de los Llanos. This stretch took a full day of
driving, and the last village (San Jose) did not have a hotel, and we were
put up by the generosity of the lady store owner. The next day we went from
San Jose de los LLanos to Santiago de los Caballeros and then on to
Badiraguato, where we hit pavement, and we were in Culiacan a few hours
You had remarked that you had heard there was a large canyon to
cross. There is a dirt road marked on the INEGA map, that leaves the
pavement before (east of) Guadalupe y Calvos and goes to the south of the
route we took and it does appear to cross a large canyon, dropping about
2500 meters of elevation in about 14 miles. Eventually this road leads to
other roads that, at least on the map goes to Culiacan. We did not do this
You have been helpful and patient with my other travel requests, and I hope this information helps your understanding of this region. Bill Fitzgerald