Over four times larger than the Grand Canyon, Copper Canyon Mexico in a must-see attraction for tourists and residents in the area alike. It’s immense size, and geological features are a marvel to behold, and the ability to take a train ride through its vast expanse is all the more enticing. The tricky part is planning your trip to make the most of your visit.
Ask anyone who’s been to Copper Canyon, called Barranca del Cobre locally, and they’ll tell you that there are numerous tips they wished they had known beforehand. From booking your tickets to safety and top-rated spots, here’s everything you need to know before you go.
Selecting A Tour
One of the first questions most individuals ask is whether they need to book a tour to see the canyon. The local governing body does not require you to take a guided tour of the canyon to see it. You can plan out your trip and head there with a group or on your own. There are, however, pros and cons to both choices.
Choosing to utilize a tour guide can ensure your safety during the trip. You’ll hear a lot of talk about cartel violence online, but the area in and around the canyon is as safe as can be in that regard. The real dangers are animals like snakes, mountain lions, and black bears. However, they aren’t any more dangerous in Copper Canyon than at the Grand Canyon.
A guided tour also helps you locate some of the most scenic locations without the use of a map. For many, their tour guide is a way to ensure they don’t lose themselves in unfamiliar terrain. If you don’t feel comfortable planning the trip yourself or haven’t done so in the past, then a tour might make the most sense.
On the downside, tours aren’t cheap. Depending on which parts of the canyon you want to see, an itinerary could cost around $1,000. You will also be traveling in a group of primarily Spanish-speaking individuals, which might mean that the tour guide will speak Spanish as well. Bilingual and English tours do exist, though.
If you’re good with a map and compass, then you can easily plan the trip yourself. Knowing a few phrases in Spanish goes a long way, too. Regardless of which option you choose, there are plenty of ways to help you
make the most of your trip.
When and Where to Go
Before discussing the best route to take through the canyon, it helps to know which time of year to go. Spring and Fall are highly recommended. Not only will you avoid the extreme temperatures of winter and summer, but you’ll also get to the see the most during your train ride.
Traveling in winter means a shorter amount of daylight. That will cause you to miss out on some of the most beautiful sights. If you want
the full experience, late summer is the top-rated time to go.
When selecting a travel route, start in Chihuahua and end in Los Mochis. Why? The most dramatic scenery lies to the south of the canyon, which allows your experience to unfold into the best sights that Copper Canyon has to offer. Ending in Los Mochis also allows you to take a ferry over to Baja California Sur, which is considered a safer area than Sinaloa.
All About the Train
This is the single largest aspect of your trip to Copper Canyon, so take extra time considering your options for the train. First, consider the type of ticket you want to get. The first aspect is already taken care of for you since the train only offers one-way tickets.
You can choose to purchase another ticket back to Chihuahua to catch a flight back to Houston or Dallas. Alternatively, you could fly from Los Mochis to Mexico City and back to the United States. The return trip is up to you, but here’s what you should know about your train ticket.
First, skip the Primera Express ticket. Copper Canyon has one first-class (the Primera) and one second-class (Economica) train. Both feature reclining seats, air conditioning, and all of the necessary accommodations. The real reason to pick the second-class train is that it makes three additional stops at La Junta, Loreto, and Sufragio.
A first-class ticket comes with access to a dining cart, but you can bring your own food to skip the outrageous prices. Also, it’s worth noting that the first-class experience is more akin to luxuries of the 1970’s as opposed to modern day. For almost double the cost, it isn’t worth it.
Pricing and Times
You don’t have to ride the train the entire way to Los Mochis. Hopping off at any of the other towns can help you cut costs on your travels, but why miss out on the beauty of Copper Canyon?
Fares are listed in Mexican Pesos, but knowing the U.S. dollar equivalent is best when planning the trip. The full train ride from Chihuahua to Los Mochis is around $95 for second-class and $159 for first-class. This includes 16 and 13 stops respectively, taking a total of almost sixteen hours filled to the brim with sightseeing possibilities.
The trains depart at 6:00 a.m. on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from Chihuahua, alternating departure days with Los Mochis. Keep in mind that trains around the world can and do leave early, including the one at Copper Canyon Mexico. So, purchase your tickets in advance and arrive at least fifteen minutes before the departure time.
Most individuals do not take the entire train ride in one day, either. Consider how many days you have to travel and which stops along the way have sights you want to see, then book your tickets accordingly. Your ticket price will not change based on the number of stops you make, and there are no added fees.
Here are a few pieces of information to help you plan your train ride and trip:
- There’s plenty of space for luggage on the train but pack lightly when traveling in peak season.
- Wi-Fi on the train is sub-par at best. You’ll have better luck with your stops.
- Street food is a cheap ($2-3) and delicious option up and down the stops in the canyon.
- The food on the train is just like it is here in the U.S., overpriced and not that great.
- Most places run on cash as opposed to credit cards. Chihuahua and Los Mochis have ATMs.
- The train’s AC keeps it very cold, so pack a sweater.
- Expect pay around $40 a night for a room, $86 for a hotel.
A Note on Safety
There always seems to be news of terrible drug cartel violence in Mexico. While there’s a lot of truth to those stories, no one really mentions whether that violence influences tourism. So, should you be worried at any point in time?
Both Chihuahua and Los Mochis are known locations for cartel activity, but that doesn’t paint the whole picture. Chihuahua as a state is enormous, leading the whole way up to the U.S.-Mexico border. Violence in this area is seen more towards the border where drugs cross into the United States, not in the city your flight lands in.
It’s also one of the safer locations in the country. So, don’t be afraid while touching down in Chihuahua or boarding the train. Speaking of the train, your ride through the canyon and stops along the way are safe. The train features armed guards, and these areas are of no interest to the cartel.
Los Mochis is another story, however. The area of Sinaloa has a terrible history and makes the news quite often, but should you be scared? No, and there’s a simple reason for that: the cartel has zero interest in tourists.
The couple thousand pesos in your wallet is chump change compared to the money they usually handle, and your valuables aren’t valuable at all to them. Unless you’re wandering around shady alleys at night or taking part in illegal activity, then you have nothing to worry about while visiting the Copper Canyon.
If you are worried about your safety or don’t feel like Los Mochis is a place you want to visit, then make your final stop on the journey El Fuerte. It’s outside of Sinaloa and offers plenty of travel routes to help you get back home.
Planning the Ultimate Trip
With the information in this article, you can hammer out the fine points of your trip to Copper Canyon Mexico to make it the best it can be. Keep in mind that your travels can change drastically depending on which stops you choose to make and which parts of the canyon you choose to explore. For that reason, people return to this destination year after year to take in the beauty of the area.