Ride the Copper Canyon: The Chepe Train Tour You Cannot Miss
When I started traveling around my country, Mexico, I realized I could not miss one of the most important tourist attractions nowadays: the Chepe train.
This is one of the most amazing trips I have ever made, and after traveling through several cool places, I can say that it is still one of my favorite trips. It’s just so different from the usual stuff.
This article is to guide you a little on how to travel on the Chepe. I will try to include as much information as possible to help you plan your next trip.
How to travel on the Chepe Train
The Chepe is Mexico’s only passenger train. Unlike the Jose Cuervo Express that takes you to Tequila Jalisco (which is a tourist train), the Chepe train serves as a means of transportation for people living in the region, making the Chihuahua-Los Mochis and Los Mochis-Chihuahua route every day.
However, there are a few things to consider so you can properly organize your trip.
The train has 2 classes: Economy and first class
In terms of comfort, they are almost the same with minor differences such as the first-class express has a restaurant car where you can order a la carte food (a bit expensive), and the economy cars only have a snack cart that sells soft drinks, beer, coffee, chips, etc.
Chepe’s Primera Express class departs daily in both directions. In contrast, the economy class only leaves Monday, Thursday, and Saturday from Chihuahua to Los Mochis and Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday from Los Mochis to Chihuahua.
This is important because if you want to always travel in economy class, you will have to organize the days when you get off.
Where and how to buy Chepe train tickets
To buy economy class tickets for the Chepe, you can do it once you board the train (cash only), or you can buy them up to 10 days in advance directly at the ticket office of the stations in Chihuahua or Los Mochis.
Keep in mind there are no ticket offices in between stops.
There are no reservations for economy class tickets, nor do you have an assigned seat number.
If you decide to buy tickets on the train when you arrive at the Chihuahua or Mochis station, you line up at the entrance, mention how many people you are, and you will be assigned a car and seats on the spot.
Once you start your trip, a person in charge will come to collect your ticket. If you purchased your economy class Chepe tickets in advance, show them, and you are ready to go.
Usually, there are always seats available on the train, and you will have no difficulty finding tickets, although, in high season, this may not be the case.
The economy-class Chepe cars work as a means of public transport, and if there is space, they will let you on; if not, you will have to look for other transportation options.
The ticket sales staff told me that sometimes, they don’t even stop at other stations to pick up people when the train is full.
Chepe Train: Primera Express Class
If you prefer not to struggle to find seats or availability, I recommend buying the Primera Express Class tickets (first class).
To get Primera Express tickets, you need to book them in advance.
They will not let you board the train if you don’t have a Primera Express reservation, they also don’t sell them inside the train, and you need to have your tickets printed.
As with the economy class tickets, there is no need to buy them so far in advance in the low season, but in the high season, it is advisable to book them at least three weeks before.
High season is during school vacations, holidays, long weekends, and especially during Easter week.
To purchase Primera Express Chepe tickets, you have two options, telephone or email.
Most people suggest that email is much faster as phones are seldom answered. In my experience, I spoke on the phone, they gave me the information, and then I made the reservation.
At the end of the day, you will have to email the necessary information to make the reservation.
The purchase process is as follows:
You email the passenger’s information, full name, and age. Type of service (Economy or First Express) and ticket routes, that is to say, starting and ending points.
You will receive an email with your reservation. Check this information in detail to make sure everything is in order.
The same email contains the information to make the payment no later than eight days.
You can pay by bank deposit or electronic transfer. When you’re done, you need to send the payment receipt.
Next, you will be sent the tickets. You must print and carry these with you at all times.
General tips on how to buy Chepe train tickets
You can buy tickets for a complete trip (departing from Chihuahua and arriving the same day in Los Mochis or vice versa), intermediate trips (departing from Creel and arriving in Bahuichivo), or even a round trip. It all depends on your budget and schedule.
Prices to travel on the Chepe train
The price shown is the price to travel from Chihuahua to the corresponding stop.
If you want to travel from Chihuahua to Creel, the price is 1,355 Pesos, but if you only want to travel from Creel to Divisadero, the price is 264 Pesos ($1,619 – $1,355 = $264).
Why do I mention this? Remember that if you want to get off the train, you must wait at least one day to take the next one.
And, in the case of economy class, you have to wait two days because the train does not run daily.
However, you can alternate tickets if you want to save money and don’t have enough time to wait two days and always travel in economy class.
That is, you can travel from Chihuahua to Creel in Economy Class, then from Creel to Divisadero by bus, then from Divisadero to Bahuichivo in Primera Express, etc.
IMPORTANT: To get the latest and updated rates please go here.
If you buy Primera Express tickets for the entire trip, you are entitled to get off three times, not counting the departure and arrival stations.
For example, if you depart from Chihuahua, your first stop could be Creel, your second stop Bahuichivo, your third stop El Fuerte and your final destination Los Mochis.
You don’t need to get off three times; you can get off once or not at all; it’s just an option you have.
Where does the El Chepe train go? (Stops)
It’s a town considered the gateway to the Sierra Tarahumara; when you enter this town, you will start to notice beautiful landscapes through the window.
The town has several tourist attractions, such as the Valley of the Mushrooms, Valley of the Frogs, Valley of the Monks, Lake Arareko, Rukiraso Waterfall, and the hot springs in Rekowata.
You have four options to get to these places: Tour by car, tour on horseback, bicycle, or ATV. If you choose a bike, please consider that you must be in good physical condition, as the route is not easy.
From here, you can appreciate impressive views of the Copper Canyon.
Nowadays, they have included some additional attractions such as a cableway, zip lines, bike rides, ATVs, and wall climbing, among other things.
From the Bahuichivo stop, you can decide whether to go to Cerocahui or Urique; both towns are the heart of the Sierra Tarahumara.
Cerocahui is 20 minutes from the Bahuichivo stop, and here you can take a hike or horseback ride to the Cerocahui Waterfall, organize hikes to the surroundings, and even walk to Urique through the forest.
On the other hand, Urique is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Bahuichivo.
The drive is through the sierra, and the route is gorgeous, although it will make you nervous.
The main attractions of Urique are walking around and swimming in the river, especially in summer when temperatures reach 45 to 50 °C.
El Fuerte Sinaloa
This pueblo is a proud member of the Mexican Magical Towns, located on the banks of the river El Fuerte.
You can visit the museum, hear stories and tours about the legend of El Zorro and visit the surrounding area as the Cerro de la Mascara or indigenous villages to see the traditional “Deer Dance.”
This town also has boat or raft tours on the river, although if you don’t like the heat, I recommend not going in summer because temperatures are above 40 °C.
Mochis – Topolobampo
If you feel like going to the beach, you must go to Topolobampo, a port a few kilometers from Los Mochis.
This port has fascinating tours to visit a natural reserve, the Farallon, where you can see sea lions and other animals of the region.
If you just want to relax and take a break from the tour, go to El Maviri beach, eat some delicious seafood, or go swimming.
How many days to travel on the Chepe train?
The number of days required to travel on the Chepe train depends on many things, for example, if you only want to appreciate the landscapes of the train, the trip on the Chepe can be made in 2 days, leaving one day and returning the next.
However, it is worth getting off at some of the stops along the way to enjoy the whole experience, and this is when it gets complicated if you are putting it together on your own.
Below is a sample itinerary that I recommend for the Chepe route:
- Day 1 – Departure from Chihuahua and arrival at Creel
- Day 2 – Creel
- Day 3 – Barrancas (Divisadero stop or Posada Barrancas)
- Day 4 – Divisadero – Cerocahui (Bahuichivo stop)
- Day 5 – Cerocahui
- Day 6 -Cerocahui – El Fuerte
- Day 7 – El Fuerte – Los Mochis (Final Destination)
You can modify this itinerary to your liking, including stops like Cuauhtemoc or decreasing the number of days you spend in each place.
If you are short of time, I recommend getting off in Creel and Cerocahui.
However, I suggest you read the final part of the Additional Tips below, as you will find suggestions to put together the best possible itinerary for your trip.
Where to stay on the Chepe train route?
You can book all the hotels on the Chepe route in advance and on your own; this gives you more flexibility to choose the hotel that best suits your budget and tastes.
As general tips to get the most out of your trip, take into account the following:
- You can take a bus from Chihuahua to Creel. Although the views of the sierra are good, the best ones are passing Creel, and you will save some money
- Consider that even though you save money, the bus ride time is a little longer than the train, and the comfort is much less
- You have two bus options to get from Chihuahua to Creel: Rápidos Cuauhtemoc and Autotransportes Turísticos del Norte
- The latter have transfers from Chihuahua to all the Sierra Tarahumara. Check them out here
- You don’t need to stay in Divisadero. You can stay in Creel and take a bus to Divisadero and return the same day to Creel
- From Creel to Divisadero, there are 2 bus companies: Chihuahuenses and again, Turisticos del Noreste. The stations of both are located in downtown Creel a few steps from the train station
Most of the activities (zip lines and cableway) at Barrancas Park close at 3:30 P.M. if there are no delays, the train arrives around 1 P.M.
When you find your hotel, check-in, and leave your luggage, you will not have enough time to do the activities, so you will have to do them the following day.
This is one of the main reasons why I recommend taking the bus or an early tour from Creel, do the activities, and return the same day.
If you decide to stay in this area, I recommend walking through the canyon after the amusement park has closed and the people have left; you will have the site and the views practically to yourself.
If you only make the trip to see the views from the train, keep in mind that the best views of the Sierra Tarahumara by train are on the Bahuichivo-Temoris section, so my advice is to travel all the way to El Fuerte.
Honestly, what you will see on this stretch does not compare to anything you have seen previously on the trip.
Chepe Train: Final recommendations
If you travel during the rainy season (or right after it), August and September, the whole sierra will be green, and you will see the rivers full of water.
The train trip from El Fuerte to Los Mochis is NOT worth it.
There is no scenery and nothing to see, better take a bus from El Fuerte to Los Mochis or vice versa. It will cost 70 pesos and is faster.
The bus leaves from the Municipal Market on Benito Juarez Avenue, they don’t have a schedule, but buses leave every 30 minutes approximately.
In Topolobampo, there are only one or two hotels, so unless you want to do all the tourist attractions, which I recommend, it is not necessary to stay there.
You can go and return in one day from Los Mochis and even from El Fuerte.
In the town of Cerocahui, there are 2 hotels, El Misión Cerocahui and El Hotel Jade.
The first is a bit pricey, especially if you are traveling alone, and the second is more economical and has good service. I highly recommend it.
I hope all this information helps you to plan your next trip to Chepe.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, you can write them in the comments below, I will try to answer them as soon as possible, and it will also help other travelers to plan their trip.