Provider: REI Adventures
Length: Nine days
Price: $1,999 ($1,699 for kids)
With its deep canyons, red and gold painted deserts, and fascinating Native American and Western culture, the American Southwest has long been a popular destination. However, few Americans realize that this landscape and a similar culture extends across the border and deep into Mexico, where it gets even more interesting. Even fewer people actually visit. If you go to the heart of Mexico's wild northwest, Copper Canyon, you'll discover a sprawling canyon system four times larger than the Grand Canyon, a Native Mexican culture still practicing ancient traditions which were long abandoned by Native Americans, and few trappings of mass tourism.
REI Adventures' new Copper Canyon trip, which was designed specifically with families in mind, showcases many of the region's highlights through a variety of activities. The journey begins with a train trip into the canyon on the famous Chihuahua al Pacifico line. "'El Chepe' is an awe-inspiring rail journey over bridges, through tunnels, and incredible canyon scenery," says Maureen Seeley of REI Adventures. "In less than 180 miles we gain nearly 8,000 feet while passing through coastal shrub, pine forest, and high desert."
Inside the canyon area—which is composed of not one but six separate gorges—you'll ride on horseback to a waterfall, hike along the rim of Urique Canyon (which is more than a mile deep), and go mountain biking through white rock pinnacles known as the Valley of the Monks. You'll also have the chance to interact with the native people. "The cultural experience is that of the indigenous Tarahumara tribe who still practice a traditional lifestyle, inhabiting natural shelters such as caves or cliff overhangs, as well as small cabins of wood or stone," says Seeley. "We take the opportunity to visit a local boarding school for a brief look into the lives of modern day Tarahumaran kids."
Departures include June 27, July 18, and August 1. The trip price is $1,999 ($1,699 for children ages eight to 17) for REI members; nonmembers pay $2,249. If you're not already a member it's worthwhile to get a lifetime membership as it only costs $20. Prices include accommodations, meals, activities, ground transportation, and guides. Airfare is extra. Late-June airfare from Los Angeles to Los Mochis, and Chihuahua, back to Los Angeles starts at $706, including taxes, through Orbitz.