As well as the natural wonders, the other reason the Copper Canyon is famous is for the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacifico (CHEPE for short), better known in English as the Copper Canyon railway.
The Sierra Madre Occidental is the huge mountain range that runs down the western side of Mexico, dividing the central plain from the coast. With its jagged mountains and deep canyons, it’s pretty impassable, with only two routes making it all the way across. One is the highway from Durango to Mazatlan, and the other is the CHEPE.
Completed in 1961, it starts in Los Mochis, near the Pacific coast and heads inland to El Fuerte, from where it runs alongside a river into canyon country. It follows the river as the canyon walls grow higher and higher, winding its way steadily upwards until it hits the top of the canyon near to Posada Barrancas, eventually making its only stop on the canyon rim itself at Divisadero (where it kindly stops for fifteen minutes, allowing tourists to jump off, grab a taco, buy some artesanias, and then take in the view). From there, it then heads across the plain to Chihuahua, taking nearly fourteen hours to make the full journey.
It really is quite an impressive feat of engineering, especially the section as it heads up the canyon itself from El Fuerte to Posada Barrancas, clinging to the steep sides of the canyon, heading over numerous bridges and through 87 tunnels on its way.
The views throughout are awesome, and I spent most of the eight hours I was on the train leaning out of the window taking it all in. Even though I was looking forward to getting to the coast, by the time I arrived in El Fuerte, it was sad to leave the canyon behind after just five days. I really can’t recommend it highly enough, it really is the most spectacular place I’ve ever seen.