Planning An Affordable Copper Canyon Tour Itinerary

If you’re looking for an affordable Copper Canyon itinerary, read on.

The Copper Canyon trip had been on my ‘bucket list’ for years but, to be honest, fear of straying into Narco territory put me off. Then, one fortuitous day, I bumped into a girl from the Netherlands. She was tiny (smaller then my 5ft self), blonde (so, much more noticeable) and she’d just had the time of her life travelling solo through one of the world’s most superlative canyons. It was decided. I was definitely going.

After a lot of internet research, I found that it wasn’t so easy to find an affordable Copper Canyon tour – the average price came in around $1,000. For a four night stay in a country that is otherwise perfectly affordable, that seemed too much. As an experienced solo traveller, and having met another woman who’d taken the trip, it wasn’t much of a leap to make the decision to go it alone.

Apart from the Copper Canyon rocketing into the top 5 best things I’ve ever done (and there’s a lot of competition), my Copper Canyon itinerary saved me about $700 – the whole thing cost me between $300 and $350 including my first class train ticket, a stay in a hotel on the edge of the canyon, food, drink, tours and a few souvenirs.

I’ve previously written about how to plan your own Copper Canyon tour in this article, which covers everything from

  • travelling on the Copper Canyon train (which of the two trains to take, route details),
  • best time to visit Copper Canyon,
  • which direction of travel and,
  • you know, those kind of questions you don’t really want to ask out loud like: are the toilets useable and clean.

In this article I’ll cover the more inspiring side: where to see, where to stay and what to do while while you’re visiting the Copper Canyon in Mexico.

It’s absolutely possible to visit this staggering part of Mexico without a tour and on a budget. Between this article and the related one on trip-planning (link above), I’ll show you how.

An Affordable Copper Canyon Itinerary

Copper Canyon - Raramuri Souvenirs

Where is Copper Canyon?

Before I move on to the specifics, I’ll give you some basic information on Copper Canyon. For starters, what is it and where exactly is it.

It’s not one canyon, but a series of six massive canyons.  It is located in the Sierra Madre Mountains in the north-central Mexican state of Chihuahua.  The walls of the canyon are a copper green colour, hence the name. 

Choosing a starting point – Copper Canyon Itinerary

There are two options on how to get to Copper Canyon.  To travel to Copper Canyon from outside the region, the best places to arrive are either Los Mochis or Chihuahua.  I’ve already covered in my article on how to plan your own Copper Canyon tour the practicalities of choosing a direction of travel. I chose to travel the route end to end from Chihuahua to Los Mochis.

I was in Puerto Escondido before my trip, having travelled from the east coat of Mexico (Cancun) on part of a much longer trip that ultimately took me coast to coast on to the Baja Peninsula. As Chihuahua is well connected, I took a short, cheap flight from Puerto Escondido directly to Chihuahua. I found the flight (as I do most of my flights) using Skyscanner.

A word of warning on taxi prices – one complaint I have the whole world over is the dishonesty of taxi drivers when it comes to tourists. If you travel often enough, you become familiar with the: pause (consider how wealthy they think you are), give you another look up and down, pause (decide how gullible you look), pause (calculate how much they think they can get away with).

This practice is prevalent in the Copper Canyon region and although I took only 2 taxis, both were vastly inflated compared to the rates I’d been paying elsewhere in Mexico – what should have been a $20 peso ride cost me $80 pesos in one case and in the other case, after agreeing an inflated price of $40 pesos, the driver demanded $50 pesos on arrival, claiming I’d misunderstood his Spanish. The only thing I misunderstood was his integrity.


Chihuahua - Copper Canyon Itinerary

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Chihuahua – mainly because the city is located in one of the cartel states and a touch of fear was at the front of my mind as I boarded my flight. But, on landing, that fear was pushed way back as I looked over the landscape that was so different from anything I’d seen before in Mexico. The mountains, the moodiness of the dusk falling, even the air felt different. Chihuahua promised the start of an adventure and I was ready…

What to see and do in Chihuahua

I had 2 nights in Chihuahua but as I landed early evening and departed for the Copper Canyon train early on day 3, I only had one full day to explore. However, I was happy enough with that. Here’s what I saw.

Plaza Mayor and Angel de la Libertad

Plaza Mayor - Things to See in Chihuahua

This was the first sight I stumbled across and standing, facing the column, with its mountainous backdrop and expansive square, I was taken by the harsh reality of the lack of tourism in Chihuahua. Had this square existed in Venice, Paris or Rome, you wouldn’t be able to move for selfie-stick wielding foreigners. As it was, I had this square entirely to myself. Wonderful and wonderfully sad in the same snapshot. All I can say is that Chihuahua is worth of tourists – even if you don’t make it to the Copper Canyon, give this wonderful city a visit.

Affordable Copper canyon tour itinerary Libertad

Plaza de Armas and Chihuahua Cathedral

Chihuahua Cathedral

Chihuahua cathedral is definitely photogenic. But it’s location in Plaza de Armas is a sight in itself. Have a wander or grab a seat if you can find one spare and watch the world go by. Apart from the shoe-shine boys, which are ubiquitous in Latin America, it was here that I came to realise that cowboy hats and boots are not a stereotype or gimmick. They’re the real deal and never have I seen the Mexican people looking so damn fine and cool. Had it not been blisteringly hot, I’d have bought a pair of boots to take home.

Museo Casa de Villa

Things to see in Chihuahua - Chihuahua Museum

If you’re after a bit of history (I’m always after a bit of history), this small museum, located in the house of a former general of the revolution is a good way to spend an hour (and escape some heat).

You can find out more here.

Fuentes Danzarinas de Chihuahua

Dancing Fountains

I only found out what these fountains were after I passed by, which makes me sad because I discovered that they are ‘dancing fountains’ that put on a light and music show at night. Clearly, I saw them by day. Still, pretty enough.

Monument to the Mother Rarámuri

Things to see in Chihuahua - monument mother raramuri

I was delighted to stumble across this monument dedicated to the mother of the Rarámuri, the indigenous people that populate much of the Copper Canyon area, and who I’d read so much about.

The plaque under the monument says “The monument to the Rarámuri mother vindicates the value of indigenous peoples and awakens in all Chihuahuans the appreciation, respect and solidarity that we owe her.

You can read more about the monument here.

If you’re on a longer Mexico trip, you might be interested in my post about taking the Baja Ferry between Topolobampo (for Copper Canyon) and La Paz. (Baja California)

Where to eat in Chihuahua

I wandered around the back of the cathedral and ate at one of the myriad street food stalls. And it was here that I discovered the true definition of a burrito, a local favourite in Chihuahua. Pay close attention. It’s a very simple dish and there isn’t any rice, cheese or beans in sight.

Start with fried beef and onion in a (larger than usual) flour taco. Add fresh onion, tomato, coriander (cilantro) and chilli sauce. Roll. Eat. Simple. Delicious.

Copper Canyon Itinerary - tourist bar

Were it not for the fact that I had an early night ready for my train in the morning, my intrigue would have wandered me into this bar. Would I meet other tourists? And what was different about the ladies’ bar versus the bar-bar? Go have a drink for me and let me know.

Where to sleep in Chihuahua

Where to stay in Chihuahua
This was room at the Ibis hotel. Just kidding! This was one of the rooms in the Museo Casa de Villa.

I stayed in the Ibis Hotel, which was a short walk from the centre. The room was clean and, as you can expect from an international brand, identical inside to any other Ibis around the world. The major plus was the price at only USD$30 a night. The main downside was that I didn’t fancy the stroll on my own into the centre at night so I ate in one of the mall places nearby, which was predictably average.

Had I been on a bigger budget, I’d have stretched to the Quality Inn. Not because Quality Inn is the best brand in town but being situated right behind the cathedral, it wins hands down for location, location, location.

There’s one hostel in Chihuahua (Paqui Hostal), which has opened since I visited. Although I haven’t stayed there, it gets great reviews, though it looks to be 30-40 minute walk/10 minutes by taxi from the centre.

To read reviews and check up to date prices:

Ibis Chihuahua: TripAdvisor

Quality Inn: TripAdvisor

Paqui Hostel: TripAdvisorHostelworld

You can find a list of the 10 best hotels (including budget options) in Chihuahua here.

Chihuahua to Creel

The next day I was up nice (?!) and early (about 5 a.m.) in order to catch the train at 6 a.m. I’m not a morning person but sill, the sunrise made up for it.

The train from Chihuahua to Creel takes 5 hours and 20 minutes, getting you into Creel at 11:20 a.m – just in time for lunch. Still, I took snacks because…well, snacks. In the meantime, I filled up on coffee in the cafe car – coffee with this view? I wasn’t complaining.

The El Chepe Train dining car

The scenery for that first day of travel was mostly green and abundant compared to the arid canyon lands I’d expected, but it’s a great build up and another reason I was pleased I’d taken this direction of travel. Seeing this after travelling through the canyon would have been snoresville.

Copper Canyon Train Route - Creel

Slowly but surely, the landscape started to give way to scrub land just before we pulled into Creel.

Copper Canyon Train Route - Siding


Copper Canyon Train - Creel Stopover

What to see and do in Creel

I probably could have made more of my first afternoon in Creel but as it was, I strolled through the small, bright town, marvelling at the multi-coloured buildings (which turned out to be one of my favourite places in Mexico); I had lunch and then I spent the rest of my time frenetically trying to find a tour company who would accept just one person (not as easy as I’d have hope).

Eventually I spoke to a man hanging around my hotel who told me he knew someone who’d pick me up the next morning. I was a bit dubious and with only one full day to explore, the potential for missing out was high, but, good to his word, the tour company turned up as planned the next morning.

A word on tours

Copper Canyon Tours - Be Wary!

There are several large companies online offering pre-bookable Copper Canyon tours, all priced in US Dollars. 3 Amigos is one of them. My advice, especially if you are a group of 2 or more, is to turn up and book in Creel. These dollar chasing companies still exist within Creel itself but you’ll get a much better price if you go to one of the smaller, peso accepting companies. Ultimately, they all seem to go to the same hotspots. I know this because all the vans were parked in the same spot.

What follows is what I saw on my tour.

Rocks…yep, you heard me: Rocks

Elephant Rock - Mexico
Oh, ok, fine. I guess it looks a bit like an elephant.

Just a few kilometres out of Creel, we stopped at a series of rocks where people (perhaps after smoking a bit of local herb) had decided have the rocks have sufficient tangible shapes (mushrooms, frogs etc) to make them a stopping point.

Creel souvenirs - Copper Canyon Tour

I was a touch underwhelmed by the rocks and it was the brightness of the Rarámuri souvenir dolls that were the highlight of this stop.

San Ignacio Mission

San Ignacio Mission - Creel

Close to the rocks is San Ignacio, an 18th century Jesuit mission.

Lake Arareko

Lake Arareko

I would have liked a dip in Lake Arareko but either there wasn’t time or it wasn’t allowed or both and so after a few snaps of the inviting water, bordered by pine forests, we were bundled back onto the bus for the next stop.

Cascada Cusarare

Cascadas Cusarare

There was a decent hike to the waterfalls, proving as a reminder of how many tacos and tequilas I’d consumed since I’d left the east coast of Mexico a couple of months ago. Oh, and the altitude. Still, my mind quickly forgot my puffing and panting as I was joined by two local 8 year olds. I asked their permission to take their photograph. Their favourite game was racing ahead, hiding in the rocks and jumping out to scare the holy crap out of me. Worked every Goddam time, much to their delight.

Cascadas Cusarare raramuri girls

They didn’t want anything – there was no begging for money. I was one of only two non-Mexicans on the hike and the only woman so I suppose they were just fascinated to meet another female from another place. So, we chatted about my country, about their country and then parted ways with a wave and smile.

Cave homeCave home - Copper Canyon Mexico

On the way back to Creel, we stopped at a local cave home. I always feel a bit intrusive in these situations: ‘here, come in and take a picture of my rustic home so that you can go back to your plush home and feel so much better about your life.’ I lingered at the door, took a quick snap (above), then waited outside, looking at the view while people traipsed through this man’s home.

Thoughts on Creel and my tour

The above tour could have been done in half a day had we left on time (instead of waiting for a large group on the tour to start and finish their breakfast and then do a week’s grocery shopping when we stopped to get water). In hindsight, I wish I’d had a few more days to explore in and around Creel. The town had a great vibe, there were lots of tour opportunities (though not so much for solo travellers) and I’d have taken a trip to Batopilas to explore the bottom of the Canyon. However, with an eye on my larger trip plans of crossing Mexico from coast to coast in a matter of months, I felt like I didn’t have time to linger.

Booking a tour in advance

If you would like to book a tour in advance, you can find a selection of itineraries and prices on Viator.

You can find a list of the top activities in Creel on TripAdvisor, which also includes links to bookable tours and reviews of those tours.

Where to eat in Creel

Where to eat in Creel

I had these divine tacos at Restaurant Lupita (on the main street). Eat there. You won’t regret it.

The rest of the time I ate the ‘free’ food (half-board was obligatory) at my hotel. It was terrible. Don’t eat there. You will regret it.

Where to stay in Creel

I stayed at Margaritas Plaza, which ticked all the necessary boxes – good, clean room for the price, well located and nice staff. I was a bit miffed at being forced to buy the half-board option, especially when the food was akin to gruel and some of the worst I’d tasted in Mexico. Still, I’d recommend this place if you’re on a budget. Do be aware that there is a secondary, cheaper place run by the same people, Casa Margarita. It’s a bit further out but also a good option. The hotels do try to sell you an upgrade from the cheaper to more expensive hotel. Stand firm if you don’t want it.

The Lodge At Creel (Best Western) is your best bet if you’re not on a budget. Very twee with an excellent location and all the amenities you’d expect from a big brand hotel.

There are no hostels in Creel.

To read reviews and check up to date prices:

Margarita’s Plaza Mexicana: TripAdvisor

Casa Margaritas: TripAdvisor

The Lodge at Creel: TripAdvisor

If none of these take your fancy, you can find a list of the 10 best hotels in Creel (including budget options) here.

A word on Batopilas: for time reason, I didn’t make it to Batopilas but I wish I had. There were plenty of excursions into Batopilas from Creel, which seemed the most obvious jumping off point for a stay at the bottom of the canyon. You have a choice of transport-only or a local tour for a night or two that includes your accommodation and meals. Obviously, the former will be cheaper but if you’re concerned about navigating this area alone (there is some marujana in-fighting that happens from time to time), a tour might have you less on edge. You can book a trip to Batopilas when you’re in Creel.

Creel to Divisadero

El Chepe Train Route - Creel
The train arriving in Creel. Minutes before, there were people wandering all over the track.

The journey from Creel to Divisadero was my shortest on the Copper Canyon (El Chepe) train, departing at 11:20 a.m. and arriving at 13:04.  However, I was still excited about the journey because the train was edging into the canyon proper and I’d also booked myself a canyon view room in Divisadero.

Copper Canyon Train - Photography Opportunities
Trying and failing to get that famous shot of the train curving. Clearly, you have to be quite pushy.
View from the El Chepe Train.
I was finally starting to see some depth on the journey. And then we arrived in Divisadero…


View across Copper Canyon Mexico from hotel balcony
Talk about a room with a view – taken from my hotel balcony.

What to see and do in Divisadero

There are two main organised activities in Divisadero: Teleferico Barrancas (cable car) and a zip line over the canyon.

I didn’t do either. Why? With a canyon-view room (picture above), I didn’t much fancy spending my time at the canyon surrounded by tourists. Especially not the shrieking and selfie-taking kind (which is what cable cars and zip-lines usually attract). I wanted to sit and stare and awe, in silence (thank you very much) at the behemoth that is 4 times the size of the Grand Canyon and, tea in hand, sat on my balcony, that’s exactly what I did. I also managed to squeeze in a yoga session using an app on my phone – because, with those views, who wouldn’t want to tap into their inner spirituality.

Copper Canyon Hike - from hotel room
Photo taken on the walk into the canyon from the hotel.

I only spent one night in Divisadero but in the morning before I was due to depart, I took the hotel organised excursion, which guided a small group of hotel guests on a gentle walk into the canyon and to a look out. For me, the sitting and staring and the stroll were enough.

Where to eat in Divisadero

Gorditas - things to eat in Divisadero.
Try the gorditas at the station in Divisadero. Divine.

The only evening eating option within the vicinity of the hotel was the hotel itself and, while better than the hotel food in Creel, it still wasn’t much to rave about.

What to eat - Copper Canyon Itinerary
Dinner at the hotel. ‘Scuse the lack of focus – the hotel was having a ‘this never happens’ power outage which meant I spent every hour from sundown (including dinner) functioning by torchlight.

The daytime food options, on the other hand, were much more exciting –  with plenty of food stalls plying the train station crowd (located just across the road from the hotel), there were more goditas on offer than my stomach could stretch too (though I did try my level best). I particularly liked the gorditas at Antojitos Lucy. As for which gorditas? Try them all!

Where to stay in Divisadero

Hotel room Divisidero - Places to stay
Of course, the view was the highlight but the room was lovely too.

I stayed at Hotel Divisadero Barrancas, which was the highlight of my stay. At only US$70 a night, it was an excellent price for views that would cost more than twice that anywhere else.

In fact, the same views do cost more than twice that at nearby Posada Barrancas Mirador. I was tempted to book ‘the best’ hotel in Divisadero but, as nice as this alternative hotel looked, I couldn’t justify the extra spend…but if money is no object, give it a try and let me know what you think.

There are no hostels in Divisadero.

To read reviews and check up to date prices:

Hotel Divisadero Barrancas: Booking

Posada Barrancas Mirador: TripAdvisor

I’d give you more options but at Divisadero there aren’t any :/

What’s the food like on the train?

You might have figured out by now that food is a big part of my travels and, in that spirit, I tried the food on the El Chepe train. Before you yell at me, yes, I ordered a burger but judging by the look of the Mexican food, I wasn’t going to throw away twice the price of an average burger to have very sub-par tacos. The food was edible but I would certainly try to eat elsewhere/take food onboard with you. All that said, the food car was a pleasant (and much warmer place to sit), the staff were super friendly and the beer – well, no complaints there.

Divisadero to Los Mochis

Copper Canyon Train Route - Divisadero to Los Mochis
In the absence of a human or animal in the image, it’s hard to give context to the real depth and height.

After two days of staring at the canyon, I accepted it was time to move on. It wasn’t too difficult a decision given that the best of the Copper Canyon train journey lay ahead, where the train loops through the deepest parts of the canyon.

Divisadero to Los Mochis loop
This does a better job of showing the enormity of the canyon – see the small trail? That’s the train tracks.

My next stretch was my longest on the train, departing at 13:04 p.m. and arriving 20:22 p.m. so over 7 hours onboard (hence the burger eating above).

Divisadero to Los Mochis loop through Copper Canyon

When you’re onboard, the train does a loop through the canyon and stops for 15-20 minutes so you can take pictures and just soak up the views. It really does have to be seen first hand.

Canyon Views - lush greenery
The canyon is more than just rock. And the sun made an appearance too.
Copper Canyon river

Last stop – Los Mochis or El Fuerte? 

Sunset Los Mochis
The upside of taking the train all the way to Los Mochis is I ended up seeing the sun rise and the sun set on my trip.

If you check out my previous post about planning your trip to the Copper Canyon, you’ll see that El Fuerte rather than Los Mochis might be the better ‘end’ point for you. Most tourists disembarked here, giving them a much nicer end time of 18:23 p.m. I also understand that El Fuerte is a much prettier town. However, as I was planning to take the ferry from Los Mochis over to La Paz on the Baja Peninsula, to continue my coast to coast trip, Los Mochis made more sense to me.

Los Mochis

Los Mochis Plaza

What to see and do in Los Mochis

Main reason I found myself in Los Mochis was to catch the ferry to La Paz and I gather there is not much else to do there. I had a short stroll, checked out a local church, ate some food and readied myself for my next adventure on the Baja Peninsula.

Los Mochis Church

If you do end up in Los Mochis, I wouldn’t build more than a night into your Copper Canyon itinerary. However, if you do linger, here’s a list of the top 10 ‘attractions’ according to Trip Advisor.

Where to eat in Los Mochis

Where to Eat - Los Mochis

Just around the corner from Hotel Fenix, I found a chicken place where I had incredibly good chicken (firey hot, at my request) with incredibly warm staff. If the place had a name, I don’t remember it but I do recall it was one of the few places I didn’t get stared at just for being a non-local, which was nice.

I also ate at Hotel Fenix on the night of my ferry to La Paz. Although it looks a bit like something the dog might bring back up, it was actually one of the better hotel meals I had on my trip through the Copper Canyon. It was also proof that looks aren’t everything.

Where to stay in Los Mochis

Where to stay in Los Mochis - Hotel Fenix
What can I say? It was a budget hotel room.

I stayed at Hotel Fenix. It was a budget hotel (around $30) that was clean enough and did for the night. It was well located, had a 7 Eleven across the street, restaurants around the corner as well a a restaurant within the hotel and, importantly, I felt safe there. The staff seemed a bit exasperated and unfriendly but, hey, I didn’t check in with the aim of making pen-pals.

There are a few big chains in the city as well, notably Best Western and Ibis, which I’m sure will be an upgrade if you want one.

To read reviews and check up to date prices:

Hotel Fenix: TripAdvisor

Best Western Plus: TripAdvisor 

Ibis Los Mochis: TripAdvisor

There are no hostels in Los Mochis but there are a few budget accommodation options listed on HotelWorld.

Copper Canyon Safety

I had zero trouble on my tour to the Copper Canyon and, apart from freaking myself out when I was in Los Mochis (a fear that existed only in my head, not in reality) I didn’t have any safety concerns during my tour through the Copper Canyon.

You can read more about safety in the Copper Canyon and Mexico in my related posts:

Copper Canyon Travel Guide: Planning Your Trip

Is Mexico Safe? The Answer from Someone Who’s Been

My other Mexico Blog Posts

20 Fun Things To Do In Tijuana Mexico

11 Best Things To Do in La Paz Mexico

Your Ultimate Baja California Road Trip Itinerary

Swimming with Sea Lions in Mexico – Isla Espiritu Santo Tour

Guide to Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico

How To Go Wine Tasting in Ensenada

Taking the Baja Ferry from Topolobampo to La Paz in Mexico

Visiting Tijuana from San Diego – The Ultimate Guide

The Copper Canyon Travel Guide: Planning Your Trip

Best Things to Do in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Is Mexico Safe? From Someone Who’s Been

How to Drink Tequila Like a Mexican

Quick and Easy Guacamole Recipe: From Mexico

Blog posts and packing lists for planning your trip

The Only Packing List You’ll Ever Need (with printable checklist)

15 Long Haul Flight Essentials: What to Take Onboard

Travel Insurance: Don’t Get Screwed by the Small Print

101 Tips for Cheap Flights

Have you visited the Copper Canyon in Mexico? Have you devised your own affordable Copper Canyon Itinerary or have you used this one? Let me know about your own Copper Canyon travel experiences, together with any tips in the comments below.

Like this Copper Canyon itinerary? Share it on Pinterest….

48 thoughts on “Planning An Affordable Copper Canyon Tour Itinerary”

  1. Hi Jo: My husband and I are planning a Copper Canyon rail trip in February 2020 and we’re doing it on our own so your guidance has been absolutely invaluable. We’re staying 2 nights in Divisadero (because of train schedule) and look forward to seeing both sunrise and sunset! We’re starting in Chihuahua (work related) and ending in El Fuerte where we plan to check out what remains of the ancient forests, the Bosque Secreto. It is said to be a great place for birdwatching, especially along the El Fuerte river that winds through the Bosque. Thank you so much for posting all this great information.

  2. A very thorough and easily followed information. I was wondering if you could advise my friends & me. We are four middle age woman in good health. We want to do day hiking and/or fully supported multi day hike. None of us want to back pack.

    We are also independent world travelers. As you, we prefer not to pay a lot. However, we don’t want to hike without guide because of the cartels and heard it is easy to get lost on the trails.

    I have sent inquiries to the following outfitters/tour comanies: Copper Canyoun Adventures, Mexican Horse, Journey Mexico, Copper Canyon trails, Amigos3.

    You mentioned that you can find tour companies in Creel. Do those do the hiking trips/treking trips? Or they more driving trips?

    Also, Is the train the only way to get between towns or are there also buses? Do you know how to search buses on the website?

    Also, Do you know where a person can get a sim card to have data in Mexico? How many places have wifi in the Canyon?

    • Hi Terri, I didn’t look for hiking guides but I’m sure you’ll be able to find them. SIM cards are also very easy to get hold of in Mexico. I recal having some spotty signals but overall could connect. And there are buses too! Have an amazing trip.

  3. Jo, thanks for all the way amusement and thoroughly enjoyable writing style. Frankly, not my name, others who assume the title of travel guru don’t fit into your shadow.

  4. Thanks for the great information.
    It seems some folks are recommending the direction of travel should be from Los Mochis to Chihuahua. Any thoughts?
    I wasn’t going to pre-book our train tickets but sounds like you would recommend that. I’m just not sure how to do that from Canada?

    • Hi Jacquie, I’ve mentioned in the post the pros and cons of each route. I started in Chihuahua because it fit with my overall plan but if Los Mochis works best for you, I think that will be a great trip also. I gave the email address for booking here:

      Have a great trip 🙂

  5. My husband and I are planning a trip in the next 2 weeks (end of Oct2019) You have a very informative blog and will probably do as you say, go it alone. I have a question is it possible to drive through the canyon or part of it. We live in Puerto Vallarta and have a 4wheel drive Jeep

    • Hi Jane, the canyon is huge so there will definitely be parts where you can drive through. The major highlights like in Divisidero, I didn’t see any cars, so there are also parts you can’t and I suspect these will be the most beautiful bits. If it was drivable end to end without highway, I suspect the train wouldn’t be so busy, so that’s my best guess at an answer. Does that help? Have an amazing trip.

  6. Thank you for sharing your adventure. I am looking to do this trip next year 2020.

    I will use the tips you so kindly shared in your blog.

    Thanks again


  7. Hello IndianaJo, I planning our annual family summer trip and this year we planing 4 nites El Chepe train ride and then ferry to La Paz and stay 2 nites. If you could give any tips on ferry ride or places to stay in la Paz would greatly appreciate it.


    • Hi Delia, I’ve written all my tips for the ferry ride on the site and I’ve got a guide, including accommodation in La Paz. I’d also definitely recommend getting out to Isla Espiritu Santo, also on the site. Have a wonderful trip 🙂

  8. Hi Jo,

    Update to El Chepe as of January 11, 2019. There is a new train ‘Express’ and the original fancy train is now the regional but has reservation only tourist section or hop on second class. The new train is round trip only from Los Mochis to Creel. You can only take the regional from Chihuahua. Neither train runs on Wednesdays. There are two classes on the new Express train. You must reserve for either class on the express and must buy tickets in advance in Los Mochis or Chihuahua or by email. A private tour guide based in Guanajuato cancelled the January tour so we are scrambling to do on own at last minute. We will purchase train tickets when we arrive in Chihuahua on Monday. Most likely we will take a bus to Creel to start the trip. Your site gave us a good foundation to build our own trip on short notice. Thanks you!

    • Hi Deborah, thanks for the details, I’ll update the post! I’m sorry your tour guide cancelled – that sucks. But I’m glad you’ve been able to scramble together a back-up plan!

  9. Hi Jo,

    Thank you for this very nice and clear article about travelling the Copper Cañon.
    I won return flight tickets from Amsterdam to Mexico City, so for me it’s a good idea to finally do the Copper Cañon train ride. You article is very helpfull!

    You visited the Cañon in june/july right? I’m doubting in which period I should visit (there are some periods in the year I can’t skip work, but june would be good). What do you think about travelling the Cañon that month, would you recommend another period?

    Thanks for the good article! Very helpful!

  10. Really liked reading all about the Copper Canyon as we shall be going later this year and have found everything you have written really useful. Thank you so much. We intend to stay at the snotty hotel overlooking the canyon, and as you mentioned the screamy tourists on the zip line and in the cable car and enjoying sitting on the balcony absorbing the view and the silence, I shall do the same. Done zip lining in Vegas so don’t really need to do it here. You’re right and have saved us however many dollars. Thanks.
    Your blog is lovely. My daughter is also doing Mexico blogging; I love the way she writes and also how you write. Keep it up. ?

    • Hi Rhea, thanks for your lovely words. I’m always happy to help someone save money on their travels. Feel free to drop a link to your daughters blog about Mexico. I’d love to give it a read.

  11. Hi, I like your article, I want to take my Mom, from Chihuahua to Los Mochis, so if I want to stop in Creel I only buy a train ticket to Creel, and after a few nights there, then I buy another ticket to Los Mochis, or is it all on the same ticket?

    • Hi Hector, I’d recommend booking the ticket all the way through with stops in between. This is easy to do and means you don’t risk turning up and finding there are no tickets the day you want to travel. Have a great trip.

  12. Hi Jo – thanks for the intel!

    Did you have to buy separate tickets for each leg of your train journey? Or were you able to just buy one from Chihuahua-Los Mochis and treat it as a hop-on-hop-off at your own pace?


    • Hi Erin, if you tell the ticket company your itinerary, they will issue you with the right tickets to allow stops along the way. However, this isn’t the same as a hop on hop off. You are restricted to the days that you tell them you want to board and disembark. I would recommend this over buying them on the day just so you can be sure you get a seat. It is a bit frustrating having to preplan your itinerary but I’d still recommend doing it.

  13. Hi Jo,

    Thank you for sharing your experience and insights, it has been very helpful in planning our trip. We are planning a short visit around Thanksgiving, a full ride one way and definitely staying at the Mirador.

    Here is the itinerary:

    Nov 22 – Fly EWR-LMM, it’s expensive that time, we arrive Los Mochis 7:49 pm, stay overnight
    Nov 23 – Board the train at 6 am at Los Mochis, train currently runs daily
    Nov 23 – Disembark at Divisadero and stay at either of the hotels, hoping for Mirador @ $200…but the view!
    Nov 24 – Explore Copper Canyon, walk, eat out, sit on the balcony, basically chill
    Nov 25 – Do some more of above and take the train to Chihuahua, stay overnight
    Nov 26 – Fly CUU-EWR

    I would love to know your thoughts about the itinerary, specifically regarding:

    1. Which direction should we start considering DST will be in effect? It’s a short trip so considering early sunsets should I just change my dates to another month next year :(?

    2. Is the second night in Divisadero overkill? Should we do consider El Fuerte, Batopilas, Urique or some other place? I must do more reading to get the canyon bottom destinations worked out but if you think there are better stop overs please suggest…

    3. Chihuahua sounds lovely and I’d like some more time there. Should I ditch Night 2 at Divisadero and stay here? But then I’m going for the Copper Canyon….

    Trying to collect as much advice as possible before booking, will be happy for any tips you can provide. Appreciate your time and effort in putting together such a helpful guide.

    Regards, Sav

    • Hi Sav, I’m so excited for you – Copper Canyon is fantastic. To answer your questions:
      1. The most beautiful views are closer to Los Mochis than Chihuahua so I think you have the right direction of travel for the time of year. I think there are up-and-down sides to each month and I wouldn’t get too caught up in that unless your booking over a period that is so peak that it becomes unaffordable.
      2. I personally wouldn’t stay a second night in Divididero. Beyond the canyon there is nothing else to do. At least in Creel you can walk around the town and enjoy the restaurants at night. For that reason, I’d recommend a second night in Creel. I didn’t make it down into the canyon and I would do some research into distances and timing because your itinerary is relatively tight and I wonder if you will realistically have the time. Instead, exploring the canyon from Divididero and Creel might be your better options.
      3. Chihuahua is lovely but if you have limited days, I would spend them in the Copper Canyon because that is more spectacular than the cities.
      I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions. Have an amazing trip.

  14. Thanks for a really informative post! We are starting from Los Mochis and ending in Chihuahua, and we will definitely use the information you provided!

    Based on what you learned, if we wanted to stop before Divisadero (Posada and/or Bahuichivo) would our best bet to find a hiking guide be simply to show up in the center of town?

    • Hi Ken, I’m glad you found my post useful. Based on my visit to the region, tour guides do seem to be very local i.e., they don’t promote their services in the next town or, many of them, online. For that reason, I’d recommend finding your guide when you arrive but doing it as a priority to make sure you have a good range of options. I hope you have an amazing trip.

  15. So happy I came across your post Indiana Jo.

    I’m doing almost exactly the same independent trip 2 weeks from now – the only difference being an extra night in Creel.

    I was looking for more info because I was shocked by the prices of the tour operators that I found online. About $300 fixed rate for 1-4 people and they only take private groups (ie. I can’t join other people in a group). I, like you, am travelling solo so there’s no way I’m going to pay Swiss-equivalent prices.

    Creel – I don’t sense you were wowed by your tour. Did you end up with Copper canyon Tours?
    In hindsight would you have done anything differently in Creel?
    I’m thinking a day tour in the vicinity and the 2nd day a tour to the highest waterfall in Mexico (2 hrs away but there’s a nice hike – I like hiking).
    Your news about local agencies in town is reassuring though and I’ll look around my first afternoon when I get off that train.

    Divisadero – I’m still undecided about the hotel. Hotel Divisadero Barrancas right now listed at $100 US on booking .com which I’m finding high. Maybe I should just pay it…. I WAS planning to do the ziplining (longest zipline in the world and video looks incredible. If I’m there I HAVE to do it).

    Good to know Chihuahua and Los Mochis are ok places, like you have a full day in Chihuahua and half a day in Los Mochis before I fly out to Guadalajara.

    One last thing: Is it worth the train ride from Chihuahua to Creel? The bus 1/3 the cost and I hear the views not really worth it. I know the highlight is Creel – Los Michos.

    Anyway, appreciate any thoughts on my ramblings.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Hey bbqboy – that’s a nice trip you have coming up! And, yep, those private tour prices (and need to have 12 other friends) suck. Let me work through your questions…

      Creel: an extra night – yes! I wish I’d had more time there. And you’re right, I wasn’t thrilled with my tour. And from memory it was with the tour bus shown in my post. I’m also slightly gutted there is a tall waterfall and I missed it (although this has happened to me more than once! Cuba comes to mind). Apart from staying an extra day, I don’t see how I could have done much more different because I didn’t have a lot of solo tours to choose from when I was there. You will hopefully have more luck and with an extra day to play with, might have more options.

      Divisadero: that was a real highlight for me so I’d struggle to talk you out of it. If you’re ziplining, that might make up for not staying on the Canyon. However, if you do want to book, I have a £15 off code for – it’s a referral code, so I get £15 too if you book, but I’m sure you don’t care about that 🙂

      Chihuahua to Creel – I wouldn’t have taken the bus for several reasons – i) I wanted to take the train end to end; ii) I would ALWAYS take a train over a bus journey if I could; iii) although the landscape isn’t the highlight of the trip, it gives a beautiful contrast (reds and browns and then greens) as you get deeper into the canyon. However, if you were to ask me whether I’d recommend a night on the canyon versus this first part of the train, I’d say splurge on the night on the canyon.

      Hope that helps. Have an amazing trip!!!

      • Thank you Jo for the quick reply, appreciate it.

        Yes, the falls we are talking about is Basaseachic Falls , the highest falls in Mexico. I’ll see if I can get a tour for that.

        And maybe I will splurge for that hotel…you reminded me that I have my own discount (whenever I remember I use my own code for the discount 🙂 ).

        Thank you for all the advice! I’ll make sure to come back here and include my impressions when I’ve done the trip.


      • Sorry Jo, another question.

        I also booked Hotel Fenix in Los Mochis, best value deal (and since I booked Hotel Divisadero Barrancas i’ll scrimp in other places).

        Wondering: is the hotel far from train station. The train from Divisadero gets in late so just wondering what you did? Taxi I assume.


  16. Hello,

    I was really excited planning this trip through the Copper Canyon at the very end of May, then read several pages that suggest May/June is “dry, arid, dusty, and less inspiring” and to avoid this time of year. Am I really much better off saving this for another trip? I don’t know when I would make it back but I would definitely love to see the canyon when it is more green and alive. Is a trip end of May kind of a waste?

    • Hi Chase, call me bad at planning but I didn’t give a second’s thought to the month I visited the Copper Canyon. I was in Mexico, it was the next place on my list and I went…arriving on 10 July as it turns out, so just on the tail end of June and it was absolutely fine. IMO, a canyon should be dry, dusty and arid and as long as you’re prepared for hot weather, I’d personally go. I’ve been in Arizona in August, Rome over Easter Sunday, Spain in January and the Caribbean over hurricane season. Sometimes life puts us in destinations at the least optimal times and I’ve had some great adventures because of it. (And accommodation/restaurants/transport are easier to manage off-season). Ultimately, I believe it’s all down to attitude. And maybe with lowered expectations, a trip in May/June will be all the more surprising and pleasing that you imagine. Have a look back over my photos – these were from the beginning of July. You can find more here: Hope that helps?

  17. Now I want to go Copper Canyon. I checked your recent posts because I came across your great guide to backpacking in Hawaii, you’re making me want to go everywhere. Great write up!

    • Ha ha – it’s a dangerous (i.e. expensive) addiction, wanderlust 🙂 Pop via the Copper Canyon on your way back from the Grand Canyon!

  18. I’ve wanted to visit Copper Canyon ever since I read about it on here like, two years ago before I went to Mexico and Central America. This will be super helpful when I do eventually go!

  19. Good Article.

    I also did the journey and have a few suggestions.

    Don’t skip the zip-line or at least the Cable Car, the absolute best canyon views in Divisadero are at the other side of those (They both lead to the same spire like mountain in the middle of the canyon).

    In order to save more money, without missing out on any of the real experience, I would recommend:
    Take the bus from Chihuahua to Creel, and the train forward from there.
    Take a day trip to Divisadero and back by bus from Creel, to avoid an expensive hotel stay in Divisadero while still getting more time in Divisadero than the train allows.
    Get off the train in El Fuerte and bus from there to Los Mochis. El Fuerte is worth a day exploring too.

    Also when on the train, despite all signs saying not to (nobody cares about this rule), claim a spot in between the cars where there are open windows and hang onto it.

    • Thanks for the extra tips, Chris. My biggest regret is skipping El Fuerte. Good enough reason for a return visit maybe 🙂 I’d still highly recommend an overnight in Divisidero – expensive maybe but to see the sunrise and sunset over the canyon is out of this world.


Leave a Comment