Figuring out which El Chepe train route is best for you can be confusing! At least, it was for me as I planned my solo trip through Copper Canyon. It can be even more difficult if English is not your first language or you have never visited northern Mexico.
But don’t worry! I got you. The main thing is ensuring your itinerary aligns with the train’s availability. Here’s everything you need to plan your El Chepe train route to enjoy the views of Copper Canyon in Mexico. These tips work for traveling solo, with family, or with friends.
Differences between El Chepe Express and El Chepe Regional
El Chepe Regional
El Chepe Regional is the original train used by tourists. It runs more regularly and to more stops than the El Chepe Express. The first route starts in Chihuahua and ends in Los Mochis on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The second route runs opposite from Los Mochis to Chihuahua on Thursdays and Sundays.
El Chepe Express
If you are a tourist looking to take this train in Mexico, you want to book the El Chepe Express. This El Chepe train route can go from Los Mochis to Creel or in the opposite direction (Creel to Los Mochis). It is the only scenic train in Mexico as of 2023.
The El Chepe Express was created in 2018 for tourists to get a quicker and more scenic view of Copper Canyon and the states of Chihuahua & Sinaloa. It also includes a more luxurious experience than the regional train. The stops along the way and the different classes are expanded upon below.
El Chepe Express train tickets and prices
To find the correct El Chepe train route, you need to book on their website; you can also find Copper Canyon tour packages to assist you with the train route. However, their website has the most up-to-date information if you are a solo traveler or don’t want to do the tours. Remember to double check that your tickets get sent to your email, which could take 12-24 hours after booking. If not, use their online chat service to resend them.
Note that the prices listed are for low season (temporada baja) and not high season (temporada alta). Though prices vary based on currency conversions, traveling during high season adds roughly $50 USD to a one-way ticket. With that said, here is what else you need to know about tickets.
El Chepe Express Tourist (Turista)
The price one-way for a tourist ticket for the entire route is $2,598 MXN, which is $143 USD. No meals, terrace view, or bar access is included with this ticket. You can access the Urike restaurant but meals are not included.. If you book a Copper Canyon tour, a tourist class ticket will likely be included as it is ideal for large groups.
El Chepe Express Business Class (Ejecutiva)
For those wanting the middleman between the three classes on the El Chepe train route, business class is for you. Riding the one-way route is $3,374 MXN, which is $186 USD. Compared to first-class tickets, explained below, you do not get access to the terrace nor a meal on the ride though you can buy a meal upon arrival. Business class riders also get access to the bar car with other snacks and beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
El Chepe Express First Class (Primera)
The first-class tickets one-way from are $4,820 MXN. This price is roughly $260 USD one-way. With your first-class ticket, you get access to the bar, terrace with open windows, and a dome dining car with panoramic windows where the Urike restaurant is located.
First class on the El Chepe train route is the most robust ticket. One meal is included in the first-class ticket. Alcoholic drinks are not included and you pay for those separately. The terrace is also only for first-class riders and has the best views.
How to take the El Chepe Express train
There are two ways you can take the El Chepe Express train route. One direction goes from Los Mochis to Creel and stops in El Fuerte, Bahuichivo, Divisadero, and Creel. The other direction starts in Creel, makes the same stops, and ends in Los Mochis—the decision about which El Chepe train route will depend on logistics, budget, and timing.
Creel to Los Mochis
For this El Chepe train route, you begin in Creel and end in Los Mochis. Therefore, it is best to fly into Chihuahua for this route and take a bus from Chihuahua to Creel. The bus station is Terminal de Autobuses en Chihuahua. The cost is $21 USD for a one-way ticket that takes roughly five hours.
Upon arriving in Creel, I took the train from Creel to Divisadero on a Tuesday morning. I stayed there for five days exploring Copper Canyon Adventure Park, hiking, relaxing, sleeping, writing, taking in the views, tasting wine, and reading. Then I took the rest of the El Chepe train route from Divisadero to Los Mochis the following Sunday. If you take this El Chepe train route and want to explore Copper Canyon, note that you will need to plan for hotels and activities for when you arrive in Divisadero until the train comes back.
Los Mochis to Creel
I recommend flying into Mexico City rather than Chihuahua for this route. It is a small town in Sinaloa, so you can’t miss the train stop. Flying into La Paz and taking a ferry to Topolobampo to get to Los Mochis is also an option.
The Los Mochis to Creel is the more common route and my initial plan. However, due to booking this trip a month before, which I do not recommend, it was too expensive to fly into Mexico City. If you want to visit Copper Canyon, you could still get off at Divisadero. The most significant difference between this El Chepe train route and Creel to Los Mochis is that you ride the longer part of the train, first going from Los Mochis to Divisadero.
How to plan for additional stops on the El Chepe Express
Planning is necessary if you want to visit the towns on the Los Mochis to Creel or Creel to Los Mochis routes. When I tried to book a stop in Bahuichivo or El Fuerte, I was waiting for a train to be available. I would have needed to rent a car, book a tour before going, or take a bus to get to Los Mochis. For this reason, I stayed only in Divisadero, and hotel hopped for a more relaxing and less on-the-go trip to every town.
Most popular stops on the El Chepe Express
Each stop on the El Chepe train route offers something for train travelers. In Bahuichivo you can learn about the vineyards and wine tasting at Hotel Misión. Creel is known for their artisan museum of the Tarahumara people, Lake Arareco, and Mennonite pizza.
El Fuerte is where most people end their trip if they are coming from Creel or Divisadero. And of course in Divisadero you visit the Copper Canyon Adventure Park. There you can fly along the longest zip line in Mexico, hike, and ride the cable car.
Booking a Copper Canyon tour
You can also book a tour throughout Mexico, including an El Chepe Express trip. While on my journey, there were multiple tour groups, including one from Gate 1 Travel. They have a 10-day Copper Canyon: Mexico & Tucson trip – just double check the train ride is on the El Chepe Express instead of the Regional to get the scenic experience.
Is the El Chepe Express in Mexico safe?
On the El Chepe Express, I enjoyed myself solo! As a woman traveling solo, I had no issues and even sat next to a friendly family who shared their snacks and talked to me quite a bit on the Divisadero to Los Mochis part of my trip. As a Black traveler, I didn’t feel any sort of racism or discrimination at all, either. And I also didn’t feel out of place or in danger. On the contrary, everyone was super friendly, and I even made conversation with the staff in the bar car.
On being a Black solo female traveler on the El Chepe Express
As I was preparing for this solo train trip, I knew I would probably be the only solo traveler and Black girl. I traveled solo to Mexico multiple times, from Tulum and Valladolid to Mexico City. I’ve gotten stares and questions in those touristy spots.
Therefore I figured in a more remote part of Mexico, the stares and questions were to be expected. Most people who visit are older white couples, families, tour groups, and other Mexicans traveling through Chihuahua. However, it’s all in good faith and out of genuine curiosity. As a Black solo female train traveler, riding the train was exciting.
This is not a solo trip for a first-time solo traveler. I suggest this for more experienced and adventurous solo travelers. Logistically, it was complicated if you wanted to both take the train and stay in Copper Canyon. But if you’re going to solely take the El Chepe Express and save the adventure park for another trip with friends, that would make the most sense.
Would I retake the El Chepe Express?
Absolutely! If I got a group of friends who wanted to take the El Chepe train route from Creel to Los Mochis, maybe make a few stops, and explore Copper Canyon, I’d do it again. Due to the romantic views, it would make for a memorable family or friend trip, or even one to do with a significant other. So if you are a traveler who likes adventure, downtime, beautiful views, and a scenic train ride, I recommend this trip!
Want to take the train to Copper Canyon? Check out this post for itinerary and planning tips!