It is an acronym for the train and has come to be the common nickname for the Copper Canyon train. As it stretches its dual iron strings through the Sierra Madre it is considered to be in the top seven railways on the planet. Many who take into account the rich cultural pathway it traverses both ways daily, many consider it to be the best on the planet.
CHEPE is an engineering marvel. As it pushes past ridge after ridge over 400 miles it snakes through some 86 tunnels- some of them quite long. Two tunnels sweep around 180 degrees inside the earth and emerge at a different elevation.
Countless gorges and cuts are spanned by it’s 37 bridges- one of them over 600ft high above the Chinipas River below.
Not Just a Tourist Train
CHEPE is a distinguished part of Mexican culture. It is now the only passenger line in the whole country. This one took over 100 years to build and is really the only practical way to traverse the Sierras. Newer better roads are coming (they are laying asphalt and blasting rocks on the road to Batopilas and the road west of San Rafael as I write) but it will be some time before the Copper Canyon train is not essential.
So this is not just a tourist train like the one at the Grand Canyon. And this is not simply a tour when you visit Copper Canyon. The Copper Canyon train trip is an experience with fellow Mexican travelers.
Copper Canyon Train Details
Here are some of the basics on the train:
- There are no sleeping cars on the train. Guests stay in the small towns along the way
- The train goes both ways each day
- You can buy tickets from CHEPE at either end or just get them on the train
- Passengers can get off at a station and get back on at no penalty
- The train leaves Los Mochis and Chihuahua City each morning at 6a
- See our CHEPE info page for 1st and 2nd class details
- Second costs half of first and goes every other day- not at all Wednesday
Copper Canyon Train Tours
Most tours of Copper Canyon– ours included- get off the train at various stations and stay in local lodges. Authentic Copper Canyon train tours emphasize the quality authentic lodges and small towns. We have focused out itineraries to maximize your experience, give rest days and avoid very early mornings. Often our groups travel both ways through the canyons and avoid the parts of the train experience that are less interesting. This gives you a full trip on the train and also allows us to include Casas Grandes, Mata Ortiz, Baja, Cusarare, Batopilas, Temoris and other places often missed by the “canned” tours.
Which Direction is Best on the Copper Canyon Train?
I get asked this question all the time. And I get challenged by guests who read very opinionated reports- usually that it is best to start in Los Mochis.
First of all if I were to have a trip originate on the west end I would have the group embark at El Fuerte, not Los Mochis. El Fuerte has huge charm and the train leaves there about 8:30 a rather then the red eye time of 6 a.
I think the west entrance can be fine, but generally I think starting from the east and traveling both ways is the best and for these reasons:
- Airfares are cheaper in and out of El Paso and Chihuahua City
- No matter what they say the air service in Los Mochis is spotty and …shall we say, interesting.
- There is so much to see on the way in and out of El Paso and then we pick up the train at a reasonable hour at Creel usually
So that is my two cents. Actually one of my favorite ways to do the trip is to go in through El Paso and out through Baja. Our Copper Canyon and Baja trip is very popular and can include several days on a boat exploring the Sea of Cortez. Or just basking on a beach if that is your deal.