The Copper Canyon region is 25,000 square miles across almost one-third of the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. The Chihuahua al Pacifico train route from Los Mochis passes through the farmland of Sinaloa and ascends into the Sierra Madres. The entire trip is 397 miles and can take as long as 20 hours. (It’s about three hours less on the first-class train.)
Many travelers rate this trip as one of the most spectacular train trips in the world. The region is a maze of over 200 gorges, which form six massive canyons (called barrancas in Spanish).
It’s quoted that the Copper Canyon is four times larger than the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is stark and beautiful, while the Copper Canyon is lush with vegetation.
The railroad crosses 36 bridges, the longest being the bridge over the Rio Fuerte, with a length of 1,837 feet, followed by the Chinipas Bridge at 1,000 feet.
It also traverses a total of 87 tunnels. One of the most incredible is at Temoris, a small settlement 3,365 feet above sea level. This engineering work of art is called La Pera because of its shape – somewhat like a bulbous pear. The track makes a 180-degree inclined turn within the bowels of the mountain. The curve and change of altitude are barely perceptible, and only when the passenger emerges does he realize he's just been completely turned around.
I recommend that you obtain a seat on the southern side of the train, which has the most continuous view of the rivers and canyons. If you're a camera buff, you'll probably end up standing a good portion of the trip on the platforms between cars.
Perched at the canyon’s edge, the Posada Mirador Hotel is unique in architecture and décor, and each of its 48 rooms and suites has a private terrace where you can enjoy a bird watcher’s paradise and one of the most gorgeous views of the canyon. The hotel reflects the Tarahumara Indian influence and culture of the state of Chihuahua.
First-class and second-class train service is available daily through the Copper Canyon. Each train leaves Chihuahua and Los Mochis at around 6-7 a.m., arriving at the end of each route between 8 and 11 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased through a travel agent or aboard the train. First-class service costs about double that of second-class; however, first-class arrival and departure times are more dependable.