Copper Canyon has always been a trip I wanted to do in Mexico.
I am fortunate to have traveled a lot in this wonderful country, but by far not seen all of the must-see sights, which some say include Oaxaca and Guanajuato, Puerto Escondido and San Cristobal.
But mountains and nature have a certain appeal to me, and I am very happy to have had the chance to finally take this trip on the Copper Canyon train and show my husband another Mexico, one a little off the beaten track.
Tips for a Copper Canyon trip
– Take insect repellent
– enough battery for cameras etc. for several days in case you stay in B & Bs that have no electricity
– Flashlight could come in handy too
Who Should Take the Copper Canyon Train?
Everyone who is interested in beautiful nature, breathtaking landscapes, hiking, climbing, running … and trains !!!
You could say, well, that it wasn’t overcrowded, but as a tourism professional I am sad that tourism has declined so much in this amazingly beautiful part of the country….
We never felt nervous or felt any danger at any point during the trip.
The route we took only briefly touched larger cities like Los Mochis and didn’t go through Chihuahua at all. Don’t be afraid of the red travel warning that comes up on TripAdvisor when looking up some of the places we’ve stayed. Any opinions I can give will be biased as I lived and love this country.
Please note the following (sorry if it repeats itself) – drug crime does not target tourists – think realistically – why should drug users be on the train?
There are also federal police on the train. If you’re not really stupid, stay away – most of the crime is in the border areas (and on both sides of the border !!), and Copper Canyon Mexico is still a couple of hours from the border .. .
By Copper Canyon Train: Our Itinerary
We left Puerto Vallarta (PVR) in early September to begin our small air, road, and train journey through the Copper Canyon.
The canyon, more precisely a system of 6 canyons, is located in the states of Sinaloa and Chihuahua in northern Mexico, also known as the Sierra Tarahumara. The indigenous tribe of the Tarahumara or Rarámuri, as they call themselves, are said to be „the running people”.
This could ring a bell for those of you who have heard or even read the book Born to Run – in fact Dominik had just started reading it, so the trip definitely had an additional interest for him – possibly even could go so far as to think about running the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon…. we will see. Anyway – let’s go to the airport.
Honest, Trying to get to Los Mochis from Puerto Vallarta is an ordeal. unless you’re flying through Mexico City for obviously more $$. We decided to bring “the little one”, Aereocalafia, to Mazatlán.
In the pictures you can see our start and view of Nuevo Vallarta and how the river water from the sediments, which is rich in sediments, draws a clear line to the blue sea water. At some point the rainy season will come to an end.
After a nice taco lunch, we took the bus to Los Mochis, about a 6-7 hour drive. When the train left Los Mochis at 6am, we decided to stay easy and comfortable low budget at Best Western, about 5 minutes from the bus station and 15 minutes from the train station.
It is It is recommended to be at the Copper Canyon train station at least 30 minutes in advanceWith a departure at 6 a.m., we woke up at 4.45 a.m. Thankfully, we had the strategic advantage of still being in the central PVR time with our minds and bodies. The mountain time at 4.45 a.m. was still hard, but not brutal …
But here is a bit more information on the Chepe den only real passenger train from Mexico (or so I was told). The train started operating in 1961 and building the tracks from sea level to heights of more than 2400m was a really great technical achievement. It runs more than 650 km from Los Mochis to Chihuahua and takes around 15 hours – calculate with the average speed!
The The most interesting part starts about 1 1/2 hours after passing El Fuerte, when the train goes into the mountains and passes about 86 tunnels and 37 bridges on the way to the highest point…. Some more information, although unfortunately only in Spanish, is here. Around the station of Temoris, which is already more than 1000 m high, it winds over 3 levels, which is very impressive. Also at a place called El Lazo (we passed it on the way down) the train completes the circle and crosses its own lanes 30m below.
Our trip ended for today in the Posada Barrancas, a small village with 500 inhabitants and probably 5 posadas … We stayed at the Hotel Mirador with a wonderful view over the canyon. We got there just in time to have a bite to eat and then set off with Gustavo, our guide for today.
Unfortunately, both the cable car and zip lines were already closed for that day, so we only took a few (admittedly) poser pictures on the balancing rock and hiked around the edge. Back on time im Mirador for an hour, hummingbird watching and an early dinner.
Wake up in a nice climate for a change! That was something that Dominik definitely preferred to the humidity and heat of PV – I admit it, a nice one for me too.
To test our skills, our guide first took us to Creel’s backyard, a rock on the outskirts of town, with set routes. I was pretty nervous, I was about to climb and would most likely fall … completely out of climbing, the last time I was in a harness (without ziplines) it was 12 years ago, before my little badminton accident. Having said that…. No better reason to go than with Dominik…. In the end, this could be a hobby we’d both pursue.
After brushing up on the knots and the technique a bit … there I was … high and high. Not bad, I would say on this rock. And for Dominik it was certainly a pretty easy walk in the park.
When Arturo, our guide, was sure that it was not the first time at the rock, he took us to the valley of the monks. An amazing place near Creel inhabited by Tarahumara Indians. These live fairly expansively as they are runners and hikers and children can easily walk 45 minutes to school. A great incentive for the families to send them to school is the fact that they can get free food there. The Tarahumara actually have no village, they live everywhere and only gather in the community center for social purposes.
The valley is apparently the result of hundreds of thousands of years of corrosion. These stones were harder than the material between them, so they kept up while the rest was slowly but surely washed away. And yes, it’s called monks, although those needles and towers might provoke your imagination.
There The routes were secured on the upper ropeArturo went up from behind, put the rope in and we climbed. The first was a challenge for me but the best experience was I didn’t fall a single time, I did a lot better than I thought and was just hpy that my ankle didn’t hurt at all.
Second, easy to the top third, then Dominik fought pretty hard to make it. Congratulations baby, it was a very difficult question … on our scale at the top, most likely a 6+. Well, I’ve tried, done better than expected, but just not good enough to make it to the top. But… .veeeeeery hpy and I’m looking forward to Ticino, the Dolomites and the rest of the Alps at home.
As soon as fingers and arms were numb, Arturo took us to the Sierra Lodge, not far from Creel, where we were to spend the night. The lodge is literally walking distance to the Casare waterfalls. The landlord, the Mexican ranchero himself, showed us the room – very comfortable, very comfortable, no electricity. Kerosene lamps in the bathroom and in the bedroom … better not turn them off!
Since we’ve been on the train for so long in the last few days, We decided to take a little walk to a cave nearbyI think I am most impressed with the conditions these Indians live in. The harvest was poor or even non-existent. They don’t have a lot of cattle, no beans, no corn. still hpy in her life.
A delicious dinner was served by two Tarahumara women who worked in the lodge – we were the ONLY guests…. and went to bed early the next day when we wanted to examine the waterfalls before we had to go to the train …
Before breakfast, it’s definitely worth a hike to the falls!
The last stop of the Copper Canyon was El Fuerte, which we reached after a few hours train ride back from Creel.
It is believed to be the city of Zorro and I like the thought that we actually slept in his villa, the Hotel Posada de Hidalgo. It is a block from the main square and is right next to the old fortress „el fuerte” in Spanish, which actually means the strong.
The hotel actually consists of a few formerly separate residences with many small terraces and a beautiful roof terrace. The restaurant and pool also have a beautiful view of the sunset and the city.
For an even better view we visited the fortress, it has a small museum about the development of the city and some old tools and weons.
Day 5 & 6
The journey is coming to an end …
We took the bus back to Los Mochis, which takes a couple of hours, and from there a plane to Guadalajara, Jalico State, Tequila State. We had the great pleasure of opening the newly built as test guests Westin Guadalajara, right across from the World Trade Center. Really heavenly beds, and even more so after long hours on buses, trains and planes.
On our last day of the trip we enjoyed a city tour on the famous red turibus, with a long stop in Tlaquepaque for shopping before having dinner at an Argentinian restaurant and boarding the night bus back to PV.