In pine-covered foothills, the logging town of Madera with its refreshingly temperate climate couldn’t feel more different from the desert settlements of Nuevo Casas Grandes (M$278, 4½ hours, two buses daily at noon and 10pm) and Chihuahua (M$290, five hours, regular buses), and the absorbing nearby archaeological sites, many of which take the form of cliff dwellings, make it a fascinating diversion.
The most impressive cliff dwellings are at Cuarenta Casas where two dozen adobe apartments, probably dating from the 13th century, hug the west cliffside of the dramatic Arroyo Garabato canyon. Cuarenta Casas was an outlying settlement of Paquimé. A round-trip hike takes at least an hour from the small visitor center. The 11:30am bus (M$50, 45 minutes) from Madera’s bus station to El Largo goes by the Cuarenta Casas turnoff from where the visitor center is 1.5km. Returning, the bus stops there around 4pm. A great way of getting here, and to the area’s other cliff dwellings, is with a local guide. José Domínguez in Madera is experienced, speaks some English and charges M$500 per person for two or more.
In Madera, Hotel Parador de la Sierra near the bus station, is the best deal in town.