The region called Barranca del Cobre is located
in the middle of the Sierra Madre in northern Mexico.
The Barranca del Cobre is known as Copper Canyon. This canyon or
gorge ("barranca") is part of a region covering
65,000 km2 (25,096 mi2). This region also contains the canyons of
Point of view(m/ft)
Elevation of the river (m/ft)
Urique and Batopilas
Guachochi and Batopilas
Ocampo and Uruachi
Maguarichi and Uruachi
Bocoyna, Urique and Guachochi
In 1861, Albert K.Owen imagined this unbelievable railroad track
to link the southwestern part of the USA to the sea of Cortès.
The goal was to reduce the cost of sea transport by reaching the
Pacific by land. From 1875 to 1879, he proposed different projects
to the Mexican government. He obtained the concession to build a
railroad from Piedras Negras to Topolobampo, with an extension to
Mazatlán, Presidio Alamos and Ojinaga. This is a 920 km (672
mi) railroad from Ojinaga to the Texas border. The rail line of
“Kansas City Mexico Oriental Railroad Co.” was finished
in 1914. The construction on the Mexican side started in 1902 but
the Revolution delayed the work close to Chihuahua.
According to the legend, Pancho
Villa, first an outlaw, then a revolutionary and now a national
hero, would have worked to build this railroad. In 1918, Ojinaga
was finally linked to Chihuahua (at km 268). In 1930, it was possible
to go to Creel.
In the course of time, world famous engineers and solid backers
looked into the question of buiying a railroad and realized that
the task would be difficult. The history of this railroad can be
read like a chronicle of bankruptcy, like a novel whose personages
are utopian dreamers, desperate private investors and break-neck
engineers or mechanics. Everyone agreed that the Occidental Sierra
Madre couldn’t be defeated; because of the average altitude,
in this area being 2,300 m (7,546 ft) and a labyrinth of gorges
reaching a depth of 1,700 m (7,557 ft) made the task impossible.
It would take substancial funds and logistical effort to complete.
In 1940, Mexico became the owner. It got all the rights of the lines
operated on its territory by foreign companies; thirteen years later,
after testing the existing superstructures, the Mexican engineers
announced that they were ready to relaunch the company. It was in
1953; the "big challenge" started. No attempt was made,
before, to build the section of railroad that crosses the West Sierra
Madre on 110km (160 miles) from Creel to San Pedro in Sinaloa State.
The “difficult “task needed 8 years to be completed.
It required 37 bridges, 86 tunnels and countless ramps hooked to
the walls of the canyons. The new line reached Los
Mochis located 25 km (16 mi) from the small harbor of Topolobampo
by the Pacific. From Chihuahua
to Los Mochis,
there are 653 km (406 mi) and 920 km (672 mi) to Ojinaga.
On November 23rd, 1962, the line was inaugurated by President Alfonso
López Mateos. The construction of the railroad lasted 90
years. It cost one billion of US dollars. The Mexican “ Express
Orient" crosses 87 tunnels and 39 bridges (respectively 86
and 37 in 1961) and climbs to 2461 m (8074 ft) in a few hours.
Today, the Chihuahua-al-Pacifico,
whose name was chosen in 1961, remains the most surprising railroad
in the world. It is a legend.
On June 11th, 1987, Chihuahua-al-Pacifico
became part of the national train system. In December 1997, it was
privatized. It was back on operation in February 1998.
to get there ?
Los Mochis airport
is located 15 min from downtown between the Pacific and the city.
The flight from Mexico City lasts
2 hours. The city has 250,000 inhabitants. It is very hot in summer.
If you fly from Mexico
City, you can take a low cost company (not every day) or Aeromexico
on the morning. Then, you can ride a bus to El
Fuerte (2hour trip and $70). The company Azules has a sale office
in El Fuerte,
opposite the Guerrero Hotel. There are buses every hour from 6 AM
to 8:15 PM.
In El Fuerte, take the local bus opposite the hotel at 7:30 AM (1st
class) and 8:30 AM (second class) to the train station ($10). When
riding the train, if you leave from El
Fuerte, you won’t have to get up so early compare to Los
The sceneries and climates of the Sierra can be very different depending
on where you are : the plateau is located from 1,900 m to 2,300
m (6,234 to 7,546 ft) of altitude and the gorges ("barrancas")
are a lot lower. Some of these gorges are ones of the highest in
the North-American continent. The deepest one, the Barranca
del Cobre (Copper Canyon), can reach a difference of altitude
of 1,800 m (5,906 ft). The region is very green. It really contrasts
with the deserts of Chihuahua,
only a few hours away from Creel. There is water everywhere. There
are many waterfalls. The most impressive, Basaseachi Waterfall is
246 m (807 ft) high. This natural park covers a 65,000 km2 (25,096
mi2) surface. It is 30 million year old and is one of the biggest
canyon and gorge ensembles in the world.
"El Chepe" ... Che as Chihuahua and Pe as Pacifico...
the advice of many tourist guides, we started our trip from the
West. We flew from Mexico City to
and then took a bus to El
Fuerte, located 80 km (50 mi) further. We didn’t regret
this choice. Why ?
The most beautiful landscapes are between El
Fuerte (80 km or 50 miles from Los
Mochis) and Creel. If you leave early, you will enjoy the sceneries
and the wild nature, turn after turn. If you leave Chihuahua on
the morning, you will be there in the afternoon or evening; it will
depend on how late the train will be (it is very often late). In
summer, you often start the day with good weather and end it with
clouds and storms. If you are at the best places on the morning,
you will have more chances to get nice pictures.
The route Los Mochis-El
Fuerte is flat, without any interest. Try also to get a seat
on the right side of the train and try to stand by the doors with
an open window on the top. However, it might be crowded !
Choices of classes :
1st class : train with air conditioning, restaurant, bar, customized
service- daily train, departures at 6 AM.
Second class train: it leaves one hour after the first class train
but not every day since January 2009. (It should be daily again
sometime during this year). The fare is half price compared to first
class. It is also more typical (there are more locals).....There
is basic food on board. Your choice depends on your tastes and money.
Both trains are clean. The second class train is an old first class
train with an interesting atmosphere.
Daily in First class - 3 times a week in economy class
: Tuesdays/Fridays/Sundays - 6:00AM-09:35PM (second class).
Mochis:Mondays/Thursdays/Saturdays - 6:00AM-09:30PM (second class).
Information and reservations :
(614) 439 72 12 - 01 800 12 24 373,
email@example.com or www.chepe.com.mx
Departures from Los
Mochis at 6AM for first class and second class (same
schedules and same rates from Chihuahua or from Los Mochis)
First class fares : Los
Mochis-Creel (6AM-3:45PM) : $1251 - Los
– (6 AM-9:00 PM) : $2288.
Second class fares : Los
Mochis-Creel (6AM-3:45PM) : $788 : Los
- (6 AM-9:35 PM) : $1442.
Fares updated January 2014
In order to help with your photos, we present
the journey Los Mochis-Creel-Chihuahua by kilometers :
KM 920 : Departure of the train from Los
Mochis – You will notice, all along the railroad, the
different kilometers starting from KM 920 since the complete railroad
from Los Mochis
to Ojinaga is 920 km (572 mi) long. You will also notice the number
of the tunnel on the right at each entrance. The train will go from
altitude 20 m to 2,440 m (65 to 8,005 ft) in few hours.
KM 839 : Arriving in El
Fuerte – Departure from El
Fuerte after a 5 min stop. The train crosses palm groves, sugar
cane, orange and watermelon fields.
KM 779,5 : Crossing the longest bridge of the route
(498.5 m or 1,635 ft long) over El
Fuerte River. This bridge is called Aguacaliente (hot water).
KM 754,6 : Tunnel n° 86 – 2,000 m (6,562
ft). It is totally dark. This “hole” pierced in the
mountain is called "Tunnel of the thieves", probably because
of the disreputable personages who often took this road. It is the
last tunnel built.
KM 748 : Just out off Tunnel 83, you are fascinated by
an abyss. You are like hanging several hundred meters above Chinipas
River. Chinipas Bridge is the highest in the route. It is 102m (335
ft) high and 234m (768 ft) long.
KM 748-708 : The train climbs several hundred meters
on a precipitous route, along Septentrion Canyon. The tunnels N°
72 and 82 are 238m (781 ft) long; the tunnels 71 and 78 are 177m
(581 t) long; the tunnels 66 and 70 are 195m (640 ft) long.
KM 722 - Ornelas : there are many avocado, papaya
and mango cultures.
KM 719 : Banana Tree Waterfall; a banana tree grows
in the middle of the waterfall.
KM 717-709 : Here are several tunnels (64-65-53-63-52-51-50);
the longest is 349 m (1,145 t) long. At KM 710.8, there is Mina
Plata Bridge (106 m or 348 ft).
KM 707,8 : Here is Santa Barbara Bridge (218 m
or 715 ft) over Río Mina Plata, affluent of Río Septentrion.
200 meters (656 ft) further, you arrive to the village of Temoris
at the altitude of 1,026m (3,366 ft). This is a mission founded
by the Jesuits in 1677, called Sainte Marie-Madeleine of Temoris.
The name "Temoris" comes from Indians who lived in this
area. This is the place where the line was inaugurated by President
Mateos in 1962.
The part of the route from KM 748, when arriving to Temoris, is
really spectacular because of the many bridges and tunnels. The
gorge is 1,600 m (5,250 ft) deep with the Septentrion River flowing
KM 707,6 - 704,7 : The ride up after Temoris is
very impressive because the railroad follows a two zigzag 180°
turn in the mountain in two minutes... It is unbelievable !
KM 704,7 : The "Perla" is the name of
a technical exploit : it is a 1,000m (3,281 ft) long tunnel. The
scenery which is on your right when entering the horseshoe shaped
tunnel is on your left when leaving it. Two minutes later, you can
see three sections of zigzagging rail at the same time.
KM 704 : There are Temoris Waterfalls; there is
a commemorative sign telling that the construction teams of Chihuahua
and Sinaloa met there in 1961.
KM 703,2 to KM 692,6 : there are many bridges and tunnels
not longer than 336m (1,102 ft).
KM 668,7 : Bahuichivo Station. Here lies the entrance of
the Tarahumara zone and, above all, the point of departure to go
to Cerocahui (18km or 11 mi). It is believed that here the Italian
Jesuit Juan Maria Salvatierra rang the bell of the church for the
first time in 1681, to tell Huehueteotl, "the former Tarahumara
God” that he had a Christian rival. In fact, the 40,000 Rarámuri
("the ones who run fast" in their language) integrated
the Christ in their religion but they turned their back on civilization.
Until now, they have been living in small groups, in caves, under
cliffs. They grow peaches and apples in this valley.
From Cerocahui, you can go on a dirt winding road to the gorgeous
Urique Canyon. You will notice, for sure, the muddy waters of Urique
River. The most beautiful view is from the top of Gallego Hill ("Cerro
del Gallego"). There, the canyon reaches the record depth of
1,880 m (6,168 ft). It is fantastic again !
Bring good shoes because of the condition of the trail and also
for your protection from animals including snakes. There are many
species of birds living there.
It is not possible to go on this trail during the rainy season.
The abandoned silver mine shows the past. There was an intense
activity in an inhospitable land where black bears, mountain lions,
rattle snakes, wolves, ocelots and other rare species still survive.
KM 662,5 : Cuiteco is a small village only inhabited
by Indians until the arrival of a mission lead by the Jesuit Salvatierra
in 1684. The orchards on your right are growing a kind of wild apples
which are the sweetest in the state.
KM 656,8 to KM 649 : there are many small tunnels.
KM 639,1 : The Bridge "Laja" is 212m
(696 ft) long. You can take a nice photo on the right after the
KM 638,5 : The Tunnel n° 17, called "La
Laja", is 461m (1512 ft) long.
KM 636,1 : In the village of San Rafael, you will
experience a change of the train crew along with refilling of water
From KM 635 to KM 533, you ride
across a 100 km (62 mi) long forest. The train goes along the "roof"
of the Sierra Madre at an altitude of 2,200 – 2,400 m (7,218-7,874
ft) to San Juanito.
During this journey, you will see the following points :
KM 626 : Posada Barrancas Station is where some
tourists leave the train to stay at Mirador Hotel, dug in the rock.
live in the area.
KM 621,6 : Divisadero is a nice point of view of
the canyons. There is a 20 min stop for you to discover what you
already saw on post cards: Indian women selling craft and hot dishes
and one of the most spectacular points of view on the gorges. The
hotel Posada Barrancas, a few steps from the station, is built on
the cliff and faces a gaping abyss flown over by vulture. A few
steps from the station, there is a point of view of Urique Canyon,
with Urique River flowing 1,200m (3,937 ft) down. The view is fantastic.
You can rent horses at the hotel.
You can hire local guides to ride horses on nice trails and do longer
expeditions by mules in the gorges. You can go all the way to Urique
If you have enough money, you can have a 15 minute helicopter ride
Since we found the 20 minute stop too short, we
decided to go back by bus and walk the 1 km (0.6 mi) edge from the
hotel. This is where Barranca Urique, Barranca del Cobre, Batopilas,
Oteros, Sinforosa and Tararécua meet. Urique Canyon is 600km
(373 mi) long and 250km (155 mi) wide. It is four time wider than
the Grand Canyon of Colorado in the U.S.A. There is also a genuine
KM 602,3 : Pitorreal
KM 585 : "El Lazo"or “The Loop”
is a loop inside the mountain. It doubles back so tightly in its
ascent that the train actually crosses under itself.When exiting
the tunnel, you can see the entrance of the tunnel above your head
–it is truly an engineering wonder!
KM 583 : Los Ojitos (the highest point on the railroad)
is at 2,461 m (8,074 ft) ! It is gorgeous when the sky is clear
KM 564,1 : CREEL has 6,000 inhabitants. It is located
356.5 km (222 mi) by train from Los Mochis and 296.6 km (184 mi)
At the beginning of the twentieth century :
The small forest center of Creel, located at 2,330 m (7,644 ft)
of altitude, was created in 1907 on the slopes of the Sierra, on
both sides of the railroad. It looked like a village of pioneers.
For some time, it was the end of the line. The wood coming from
all over the region was expedited from here to Chihuahua.
At the beginning of the wood exploitation, you could see a lumberjack
camp and stacks and stacks of brut pine lumbers waiting to be loaded.
It was a real sight during the train stop. "Creel" was
named after the son of the American Consul in Chihuahua
in late nineteenth century. This man supervised the construction
of the line between Chihuahua
and the Sierra Madre. The village was named in 1907.
has been converted in little Eldorado of Wild West for twenty years.
The tourists come for two reasons: meeting with the Tarahumara
communities and hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and even camping.
You can rent jeeps, ATV, minibus and horses. It is not only the
entrance to Copper Canyon but also one of the best places concerning
the tourist structure (hotels, restaurants, departures of tours...etc).
Creel is a recommended stop. It is better to arrive there on Saturday
in order to attend the Tarahumara
religious ceremonies on Sundays.
Allow 3 or 4 full days to visit the region of Creel :
Go to Basaseachi via a dirt road. (135km or 84
miles further, towards North-West). There is one of the most important
waterfalls in Mexico (246 m high). Batopilas, a mine village, is
140 km (87 mi) south-east and Guachochi (south-east too), an important
Allow from 2 to 3 days round trip for these two villages. In Napuchi,
at km164, turn right onto the dirt road to Batopilas or stay on
the left and the tarmac to Guachochi. There is a gas station at
If you turn right, you will go through splendid sceneries going
from 2,300 m (7,546 ft) of altitude to 500m (1,640 ft), between
pine forest hanging from the walls of ravines, breathtaking canyon
and arid areas. On the way down, stop at the "Mirador de la
Bufa", at 1,300 m (4,265 ft) of altitude,(at KM27) to look
at Batopilas River. Before arriving at the village, you will see
cultures of palm trees, lemons, oranges, banana, mango and avocados.
You will go from a humid and cool climate to a tropical one. Batopilas
was founded in 1709 after the discovering of silver mines. It is
at 501m (1,644 ft) of altitude and has 1,500 inhabitants. Most of
the houses date from the mining time. The bougainvilleas and palm
trees add charm to this village. It is a 5 or 6 hour detour (tarmac
+ a 65km (40 mi) dirt road). You can take a local bus (5h/6h trip)
or an ATV with a tour (a little bit shorter).
Another day, you can go to Guachochi via the road to admire different
points of view including "Mirador de Sinforosa"
(just after Guachochi via a trail), the Tonachi Waterfalls and the
Jesuit Mission built in the eighteenth century. In this region,
you can also visit the Agua Caliente Hot Springs and the crystal
clear waters of "Pozas de la Esmeralda". It is
difficult to visit the area without a local guide.
On the way back, via the trail leading to Norogachi, you can visit
the church of Norogachi (1690). It is more interesting during Holy
There are very attractive natural marvels close to Creel accessible
even by bike.
Arakero Tourist Complex : entrance fees : $15 a day :
In this valley of Arareko, there is a set of rock formations called
"Los Hongos" (mushrooms), "Las Ranas" (frogs),
"La Montura" (saddle) and "Las Chichis" (breasts).
They were shaped by erosion. On our way to these rocks, we stopped
at the Misión jesuita del Ignacio, little plain church where
celebrations are held, including the Easter festivities.
live in the region, some of them in caves that you can visit. You
can also buy craft on the premises......Try to help them !
7 km (4 mi) west from Arareko, there is a mysterious valley known
under the name of Bisabirachi or the valley of the Monks. There
is a set of 40 to 50 m (130 to 160 ft) high rock columns. You can
ride a horse or a bike to visit this valley.
Arakero Lake, 7 km (4 mi) from Creel on the road to Cusáraré,
is another place to go. You can rent kayaks or pedalos. On your
way to Recowata Hot Springs, you will have a nice view of the Canyon
The Hot Springs have a temperature of 37°C
(98.6°F) but you have to deserve them: you reach them via a
600 m (1,969 ft) change in altitude trail.
So, you need good shoes and a good physical condition !
There are many tours organized from the hotels of Creel and the
mini travel agency located on the main plaza (choice of minibus,
ATV, bikes and horses).
Another natural attraction is Cusáraré waterfall (30m
or 98ft high) surrounded by pine and oak forests. You reach it via
a15minute hike. All along the trail, you will find Tarahumara craft
booths. You also can go down to the waterfalls to take a bath...
Going down is pleasant but remember that you have to hike up back
(allow 15 extra minutes). The village itself is worth the detour.
The Misión jesuita was built in the middle of the eighteenth
century on behalf of "Los Santos Cinco Señores de Cusáraré".
The church is now dedicated to the "Virgen de Guadalupe".
It is decorated with Indian paintings. Many celebrations are held
there, in particular in December.
You can go, 20 km (12 mi) south from Cusáraré, to
Tejabán via an uneven road where you have an impressive view
of the Copper Canyon. From there, you can ride a truck or a car
to go on the edge of Río Urique. We didn’t have time
to do it.
Downtown Creel, admire the House of Craft which is also a museum
displaying Rarámuri art.
You will discover the history of the village as well as the history
of the construction of the railroad. There is also a black and white
photo exhibition by Gérard Tournebize with texts by Antonin
Artaud (1896-1948) –It is open Mon-Sat 9 AM- 6 PM, Sunday
9 AM-3 PM; entrance fees : $10.
In 1936, French writer Antonin Arthaud came to Mexico to meet the
was fascinated by this meeting. He was initiated to the ritual of
peyotl by the sorcerer. He also lived in this region with Tarahumara
There is lodging in Basaseachi, Creel, Arareko, Cusáraré,
El Tejaban, Batopilas, Divisadero, Cerocahui and Guachochi. Get
information in Creel.
part of the journey by train :
KM 561,8 : Tunnel n° 4 (1,261m or 4,137 ft
long). It is the second longest tunnel on the route.
KM 533 : San Juanito has an altitude of 2,439m
(8,002 ft). It was established when the train arrived in 1906. It
is the coldest place in Mexico (-20°C or -4°F).
KM 477 : San Pedro Bridge (36.6m or 120 ft)
KM 455,1 : López Mateos Station –
place of maintenance of the rails (the train trip lasts 3 hours
between Cuauhtémoc and Chihuahua).
KM 450-422 : The large apple cultures are protected
with nets in spring and summer.
KM 400,5 : Cuauhtémoc is named after the
last Aztec emperor – It is the place of a big production of
apples. It is inhabited by the Mennonites who settle there for business
– There are 90,000 inhabitants and the altitude is 2,100 m
KM 400 : Place of the Mennonites : 1,373 families
emigrated from Canada in 1921-1922. They brought with them their
pets, building materials and farm machinery. They first built many
wells and then windmills. They are famous cheese producers and they
exploit the many apple orchards of the region (this is the economic
pillar of the region). The villages that you see from a distance
are the "camps" where they live. There are about 120 camps
with their own school and teacher.
It is possible to visit the Mennonite communities. They kind of
speak Spanish and a basic German. They are about 15,000 in the State.
KM 382 : The Bustillos Lake on the left is a natural
KM 359,7 : "Viaduco Aldana"Bridge is
100m (328 ft) long.
KM 349,2 : San Andres was founded by the Franciscan
missionaries in 1696. It was named after their Superior San Andres
de Osagiqui. Pancho Villa got married in this church.
KM 319 : After crossing the main road, the train
enters the village General Trías, founded by the Franciscan
missionaries in 1668. It was then called "Santa Isabel de Tarahumaras".
The village was renamed in 1932 to honor General Angel Trías.
This General was the initiator of the expulsion of the French from
Mexico City in 1862-1863.
KM 303,3 : Palomas
KM 267,5 : Chihuahua
is the capital of the biggest state in Mexico. It has an altitude
of 1,420m (4,659 ft) – This is a small modern station without
any interest –There is a hotel and a youth hostel opposite
the station (convenient if you arrive late or leave early).
See the chapter about
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