If you thought Wild West ranch towns were exclusive to the Western Mississippi area of the USA, you'd be sorely mistaken. Sierra Tarahumara, an extension of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range hides its very own cowboy town and like those of the U.S, little has changed here for hundreds of years. In summer, its streets are stereotypically dusty; horses stoop to drink from troughs within the central plaza and its denizens still lug their day's logging efforts back to the outlying farms. Winter transforms the rustic town-scape of Creel into a snowy Christmas card scene; pine trees glittering with the first coating of snow and larking children scrambling to and from school upon their sleds. Ramshackle adobes with their swinging gates and armies of chickens line the approach into town and for the first time on your visit to the state of Chihuahua, you are bombarded with scenes of authentic Mexico where time and tourism refuse to alter its simplistic character.
Located at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental range in Northern Mexico, the ranch town of Creel is regarded one of Chihuahua state's best kept secrets. Beset within a low canyon basin, the surrounding landscapes are harsh, mossy and dramatic. Great tableau canyons form a ring around the town, stretching across to Divisadero – regarded Chihuahua's premier spot for vistas across the Three Canyons area of Copper Canyon. Creel sits within the South West of Chihuahua state, some 170 km (108 miles) from Chihuahua city and 140 km (88 miles) from the border with Estado de Sinaloa. Once infamous for hauling gold through the state of Chihuahua, the old Chepe railroad now serves as a tourist route to Creel from El Fuerte, taking in the Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon) along the way.
Creel's low situation beneath the Sierra Madre Occidental causes a sharp contrast in seasonal changes – the summer being marvelously hot and tropical, while winter temperatures can often hit below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It is these contrasts that have endeared the former logging town to visitors from Europe and the United States. Among on-line forums, Creel has often been referred to as the “mini-Switzerland of Mexico” owing to its breathtaking winter wonderland of beauty. The enchantment of Creel's simple pace of life and surviving traditional industries influenced its inclusion onto the Pueblos Magicos program in 2007 – since which the town has enjoyed a booming economy driven by tourism.
Nestled snugly beneath the silhouette of emerald studded mountains, Creel continues to find use as a base location for mountain biking and hiking tours up into the Sierra Tarahumara. Small yet perfectly formed, the town's reservoir Lake Arareco is a popular jaunt for hikers and sports fishermen. Sweet mountain winds carry the aromatic scent of the pine trees down to the shores where Tarahumaran natives have built up their indigenous settlements within clay huts and caves. The people are welcoming and knowledgeable, keen to extend the hand of friendship and impart their centuries-old fishing skills to interested tourists.
Creel may not be teeming with Porfirian delights and a long colonial history, however its magic lies within the plethora of nearby natural attractions, to which the Tarahumara people are more than happy to guide you. Cascada Cusárare Waterfall just 30 minutes from the town presents a welcome change of scenery from the bustling artisan marketplaces and is a great embarkation point for the Recohuata Hot Springs near Tarahueca Canyon. Perhaps the ultimate enchantment of Creel is the escapism it offers. Within a region where tourism brings with it the necessity for modernization, the town that time forgot is truly a magical place.
Attractions & Things To Do in Creel
Lake Arakeco – surrounded by the indigenous settlements of the Tarahumara people, Lake Araceco is a premier starting point for fishing and hiking tours in the heart of the Sierra Tarahumara mountains. The former cave dwellings on the south shore feature exquisite examples of ancient Tarahumaran art and are some of the most impeccably preserved in Chihuahua. Tours are available between 9 am – 3 pm daily.