Outside magazine, January 1996
As you round the hairpin turns on the road that drops into Mexico's Copper Canyon, it occurs to you that a parachute might come in handy. It's more than a mile straight down from the pine-covered canyon rim to the tropical gardens of the Riverside Lodge.
Surrounded by cliffs, mesas, and cactus-studded hillsides, this whitewashed hacienda, centerpiece of the old silver-mining village of Batopilas, takes you back to colonial Mexico with its heavy wooden doors, Moorish arches, and numerous interior patios. In the 1880s, during the town's last silver strike, it was taken over and rebuilt by the Swiss family Biglar, which ran the general store. Five years ago, owner Skip McWilliams acquired the rambling villa from Biglar descendants and restored it with Victorian furnishings--red velvet couches in the salon, antique brass beds in the 14 guest rooms.
From the lodge, you can hike in every direction. A half-mile or so north across the Río Batopilas are the bougainvillea-covered ruins of Hacienda San Miguel, an abandoned mining headquarters. About 40 minutes farther upstream, you'll come to a small dam and the river's best swimming holes. Downstream, a four-mile trail from the lodge leads to the 350-year-old triple-domed mission church of Satevó. Ask at the lodge's front desk for local legend and guide Juan Cruz, who'll lead you on a more rugged trek to the working 300-year-old Camuchin Mine.
Late in the afternoon, sip a margarita under banana trees in the courtyard while Chef Felix prepares a four-course meal served in the open-air dining room. After dinner, the village sheriff's band often plays in the salon, or you can hang out on the town plaza, where miners still trade nuggets of silver for groceries and supplies.
The easiest way to get to Batopilas is to fly to the city of Chihuahua, where you can rent a car or arrange for the lodge's van to pick you up for the ten-hour drive into the canyon. The nightly rate of $125 per person includes all meals and guided hikes. For reservations, call 800-776-3942.