The Copper Canyon, or Las Barrancas del Cobre is the biggest canyon of Mexico. You can cross it on board the train El Chepe. Many mexicans recommended us this experience and we couldn’t ignore the locals’ recommendations ! El Chepe is a unique train line, crossing around 650km in the middle of canyons through the state of Chihuahua and Sinaloa. On the program, amazing views during 9 hours (across canyons !) and 5 stops to explore the area. So hop on the Chepe express with us !
- What is the Copper Canyon and the Chepe train?
- What itinerary did we chose to visit the Copper Canyon and why?
- Information you need before to book the Chepe train
What is the Copper Canyon and the Chepe train?
The Chepe train is a train line from Chihuahua city to Los Mochis in Sinaloa, close to the Pacific coast. When writing this article, this is the only passenger train line of Mexico. However, a new train, called the Maya train is now in construction in the Yucatan and “should” start to operate by the end of 2023.
The Chepe train is crossing the biggest canyon of Mexico, the Copper Canyon or Las Barrancas del Cobre. It’s even four time bigger than the Grand Canyon in the United States. The Copper Canyon is actually a series of 6 canyons. The canyon is in a desertic area, so the landscape is completely different from the Sumediro Canyon.
It exists 2 trains, the Chepe regional, for the locals and the Chepe Express for touristic purposes. This second line has 5 stops: Los Mochis – El Fuerte – Bahuichivo – El Divisadero – Creel.
Your train ticket allows you to do up to 3 stops, giving you the opportunity to stay and explore the area before to take the next train to continue your trip. But be careful, in function of the season, the train will run only every 2 or 3 days.
What itinerary did we chose to visit the Copper Canyon and why?
El Fuerte, the beginning of our adventure
We started our train ride from El Fuerte, a Pueblo Mágico in the state of Sinaloa. We arrived one day before the train departure to discover this lovely town. We choose to start from El Fuerte as the part between Los Mochis and El Fuerte is not the most interesting (it’s not in the canyon yet). There are bus connections, as fast as the train for this section which allow a good money saving.
The town is pretty small so one day is enough to enjoy its main square, the Malecón (a promenade along the river) and the fort museum. The museum offers a great view on the town and the river, perfect for the sunset.
This is actually what we preferred, the view on the river is amazing. You have an incredible vegetation there.
By the way, we recommend to prepare you for the mosquitoes, absolutely everywhere in town by the end of the day ! Also, you will need to have some cash with you, most of the places doesn’t accept cards.
Where to eat
- Cocina económica Magda: good and cheap options for the breakfast.
- Restaurante el Supremo: one of the best options in the center.
Where to stay
- Hotel Rio Vista: definitely the hotel with the best view in town, directly on the river. You have an amazing sunset from the property, which is richly decorated. They also propose tours to discover the luxurious nature around.
Train journey from El Fuerte to Bahuichivo
The view on this section of the trip is amazing! Probably the one we preferred. Indeed, during the 4h30 of this section, the train enters into the canyon from the bottom and slightly elevates until to reach the top of it. We were amazed all along as the train passes over bridges offering high viewpoints, which were absolutely breathtaking.
A bit before Bahuichivo, the vegetation changes into a more pine forest style. This is due to the altitude elevation, changing the climate from a desertic to an alpine one. Indeed the top of the canyon culminates at 2500m !
Bahuichivo station, a natural place lost in the mountains
Bahuichivo is just a station, there’s nothing more there. You need to go to Cerocahui or Urique to find a place where to stay. We did a 3-nights stop in Cerocahui, the main town of the area close to Bahuichivo. The area is beautiful, with a landscape pretty rare in Mexico, pine forest and huge rock-cliffs.
During these 3 days we had to totally count on our hotel staff as everything is very far and there is no public transport around. We explored the surroundings made of many caves and waterfalls. Especially, we did the waterfall of Cerocahui and a very unique cave. Indeed, during an epidemic time, infected people found refuge to quarantine themselves there. Today you will see there 54 white crosses representing the people who died there. Some human bodies remainings are still present on site (bones, tooth,…) !
Hotel el Paraiso del Oso: beautiful hotel in the middle of the nature. Proposing various activities and tours.
Just be aware that you are out of walking range from anything there. So, you are dependent of the hotel, which has a cost.
The Copper and Urique Canyons, breathtaking landscapes
The main advantage of Cerocahui is being located in between the Urique and Copper Canyons which are absolutely mandatory places to visit and the main reason of this trip. The Copper Canyon, as explained above, is one of the widest and deepest canyon (more than 1km in some places !) in the world, so you can’t miss it !
To enjoy the most impressive viewpoints of the canyon, you need to enter in a National Park partly runned as an adventure park where you will find various activities such as the 3rd longest telepheric in the world. It links two parts of the canyon separated by 3km. We highly recommend it. From there you can wander and just enjoy the stunning landscapes. Close of it you have a marvelous mirador where 3 canyons join.
On the other side of Cerocahui, you will find Urique. This is a small town on the bottom of another canyon, the Urique Canyon. It is the deepest one of the six distinct canyons that make up the Copper Canyon. To enjoy a stunning view, you can go to the mirador del Gallego.
You have to pay a small fee for both canyons entrances, but it is totally worth it. This is from far our best souvenirs from this amazing trip.
Train journey from Bahuichivo to Creel
After 3 days in Cerocahui, we got back on board the Chepe train towards Creel, our final destination.
There is a stop before Creel, which is Divisadero, at 2h from Bahuichivo. This is the closest station to the adventure park of the Copper Canyon and therefore the most famous and touristic stop. It is also a good option where to stop. We had to make a choice due to the timing, but otherwise we would have made a second stop there. By the way, we read on some blogs that the train was taking a 20 minutes break at Divisadero and that you could get out to enjoy the view. Maybe not anymore but we were asked not to leave the train.
On board during this section, we were expecting to see more of the canyon but this was not the case. You don’t see much of it, and we mainly saw forests. It has been a small deception, this is why we think that the best part by train is between El Fuerte and Bahuichivo.
Stop in Creel, last stop of the trip
We ended our trip in Creel, last stop of the Chepe. Creel is a Pueblo Magico in the state of Chihuahua. The town is famous for having many caves, lakes, waterfalls nearby. We also saw many people (essentially women) wearing traditional clothes, still very present in the area.
After one day to visit the area we went to Chihuahua to pursue our adventure in Mexico.
Hotel Quinta Mision, very rich hotel providing great services, located in the city center.
Information you need before to book the Chepe train
Which class to choose ?
There are 3 different classes on board the train. Here is some information that you won’t find on the official El Chepe website.
We were on the tourist class, the cheapest option. On board, one thing disappointed us, the windows are dirty ! This is completely a shame knowing that the main reason of taking the train is the view ! However, once the trip starts, we quickly forget it and enjoy the ride and landscapes.
The first class seems to have clean and wider windows.
In the executive class, the most expensive one, you can open a bit the windows and can go outside at the tail of the train for a full panoramic experience.
Divisadero VS Bahuichivo
If you have to make a choice between these two stops, here are some information that could help you to take a decision.
Go to Divisadero if :
- You want to be the closest possible of the Copper Canyon during your stay
- You prefer to be more independent of tour operators and not planning to visit other places than the Copper Canyon
- If you like adventure parks and want to enjoy it as much time as possible
Go to Bahuichivo if :
- You prefer less touristy and peaceful places
- You want to see more of the surrounding nature (for instance : hike in the mountains, waterfalls).
- You don’t mind to be more dependent of you hotel or tours to join the canyons. It also means that you’ll have a limited amount of time on site (about 2 to 3 hours).
Few tips to have the best experience visiting the Copper Canyon
- Ideally we would recommend a minimum of 4 to 5 days to properly enjoy the Chepe train experience.
- We recommend to start in El Fuerte, which is worth the visit and then to do a stop in Bahuichivo or Divisadero to take the time to visit the Copper and Urique Canyons. Then, go to Creel to discover this Pueblo Mágico.
- For low budget, start in El Fuerte (there are bus connection since Los Mochis) and consider to finish in El Divisadero. You will be able to enjoy the most iconic views with the train while saving a good amount of money. From Divisadero you will find bus connections until Creel and then Chihuahua.
- If you have the budget, consider avoiding the tourist class, this is really scandalous not to have clean windows. Not to mention the slightly infantilising behaviour of staff towards customers here.
- Take a good amount of cash with you, there is no card options in many places.
That was our complete guide about the Copper Canyon and the Chepe train. Did you already know this train? Or do you consider to experience it? Let us know in comment. And as usual don’t forget to follow our adventures on Instagram !