The train ride through the Copper Canyon in northwestern Mexico is arguably one of the most impressive and spectacular in the world and made the area famous because of its magnificent scenery which consists of 20 spectacular canyons spanning a larger area than the Grand Canyon in the USA. From Chihuahua, El Chepe, as the train is called, travels into the rugged highlands of the remote Sierra Tarahumara leading through the fascinating canyons of the Copper Canyon finally ending in Los Mochis on the Pacific Coast after 655 km, 87 tunnels and 37 bridges. The train also runs in the other direction. The highest point of the route is 2420 m. Along the way you can marvel at the starkly beautiful landscape with unforgettable views. The most impressive section is the between Creel and El Fuerte and it is advisable to make a few stops to really enjoy the landscape and to explore it extensively. Within one day, El Chepe passes through several forms of landscapes and vegetation: the cactus steppe around Chihuahua, a cool mountain region wooded with pine trees and finally the hot, subtropical Pacific coast.
The Spaniards discovered the Copper Canyon in the 17th century as a mining site for copper and silver. The idea for the railway through the copper canyon began in 1881, but the ambitious project was only completed in 1961 due to financial problems and the revolution. The most interesting stops on the route are described below.
The village of Creel is a very popular stop. It lies at an altitude of 2,350 meters and is reminiscent of an old western town with its cozy wooden houses and men wearing cowboy boots and hats. Creel is also an important center for the Tarahumara living in the Sierra. If you want, stop at the Casa de las Artesanías del Estado de Chihuahua y Museo to learn something about one of the oldest indigenous peoples of North America. There are handicrafts, pieces of their culture, literature and photos on display and a lot is explained about the history of the railway. From Creel you can take some nice daytrips, on foot, by mountain bike or on horseback. For example, a hike to San Ignacio, a small village with a mission church. On the way you can see the cave dwellings of the Tarahumara between the pines at the Cueva de Sebastian. Near to San Ignacio is the pretty lake Lago Areko. The hike takes about 6 hours or it can be visited by vehicle on a daytrip. About 25 m south of Creel are the hot springs Recohuata where you can swim and enjoy the natural environment. The area around Creel also has some beautiful waterfalls, including the two tallest in Mexico.
The next stop on the route is Divisadero. There is one of the most beautiful viewpoints and there is an absolutely impressive view of the canyon panorama of the Río Urique. The highlight here is an overnight stay at the Hotel Divisadero with a view of the canyon and a sunrise hike, where you can watch the Urique Canyon awaken. About 140 km south of Divisadero is the old silver mine village of Batopilas. The journey there is very varied and quite turbulent, but it’s worth it. On the way you will pass the fabulous viewpoint La Bufa and in the village there are some mines to be explored and nice trips to take, for example to the Catedral Perdida, a small church that was discovered in a remote, uninhabited canyon.
From Bahuichivo, you can continue on a narrow road to Cerocahui. In the small idyllic village wine is grown at an altitude of 1600 m and there is a pretty Jesuit mission church. There are isolated farms of the Tarahumara in the nearby nature reserve and from the Cerro de los Gallegos viewpoint you can enjoy an overwhelming view of the Urique Canyon. Here you can look down from an alpine climate zone 1870 meters into the subtropical village of Urique! A hike down to this village is very popular, the landscape is breathtaking and from there you can go on further trips into the canyons.