Things to do in El Fuerte, Sinaloa

Chepe has recently launched a brand new train called Chepe Express! As a result, schedules for the old train, now called Chepe Regional, have changed. This page has been updated to reflect the recent changes.

INTRODUCTION

The picturesque town of El Fuerte, Sinaloa, is a wonderful place to start or end a train journey through Mexico’s Copper Canyon. Although it’s not the end of the Chepe railway line it has much more to offer its visitors than Los Mochis. Not to mention some of the best views along the Chepe route are between Bahuichivo and El Fuerte.

The name El Fuerte, meaning ‘the fort’, is derived from the presence of a fort on the top of a hill in the centre of town. It was built in 1610 to protect the town against attacks from nearby indigenous groups.

The town was primarily a trading post for the gold and silver being mined in the nearby Copper Canyon. It also served as a link to the northern regions of California, Arizona and Sonora, which at that time were all Spanish territory.

El Fuerte is known as the birthplace of the legendary Zorro. It is believed that he spent his childhood here before turning up in California fighting for the impoverished commoners.

Today the town maintains many of its colonial-era buildings and a replica of the fort. Its proximity to the coast means that you can find some great seafood restaurants here too, if that’s your thing.

At an altitude of only 100 m, El Fuerte has the climate of a tropical desert and is quite warm, if not hot throughout the year.

  • November-March: average daily highs are between 27 and 32°C (81 and 89°F), while average nightly lows are between 7 and 11°C (45 and 52°F). It has dropped as low as -5°C (23°F).
  • April-October: average daily highs are between 34 and 40°C (94 and 103°F), while average nightly lows are between 11 and 24°C (52 and 75°F). It has been as hot as 46°C (115°F) during the day. July to September constitute the rainy season but it rarely rains every day.

Any time of year is the best time to visit El Fuerte due to its lovely weather but if you don’t like the heat you may want to avoid visiting between June and August.

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Where is El Fuerte?

Copper Canyon route - El Fuerte, Sinaloa

El Fuerte is situated in the north-western state of Sinaloa, Mexico, about 85 km (53 mi) from the city of Los Mochis, and 115 km (71mi) from the seaport of Topolobampo.

It’s the second to last stop along the Chepe route if coming from Chihuahua or the second stop if starting in Los Mochis, although it is often used as a start or end point for most Chepe journeys.

The map shows the major transportation hubs (mentioned below), as well as the major sites mentioned in the section Things to do in El Fuerte.

How to get to El Fuerte, Sinaloa

There are one or two ways to access El Fuerte depending on the direction you’re coming from. If approaching from Los Mochis you can take the train or a bus. If coming from Chihuahua then the train is your only option.

Train

El Fuerte train station is located a couple of kilometres outside of the town, roughly a 15-minute drive (see map above). Most hotels offer a shuttle service for an additional charge, otherwise, taxis cost between $50 and $70 MXP per person (not per ride).

Both the Chepe Regional and Chepe Express service El Fuerte. Below are details for arriving or departing El Fuerte, but for more detailed information about the trains check out How to Visit Copper Canyon by Train.

Northbound (Los Mochis towards Creel/Chihuahua)

The Chepe Regional arrives from Los Mochis at 8:19 am on Tuesday, Fridays and Sundays. After a quick stop it continues on to Bahuichivo and eventually Chihuahua.

The Chepe Express arrives daily from Los Mochis at 5:45 pm. After a quick stop it continues on to Divisadero and then completes its journey in Creel.

Southbound (Chihuahua/Creel towards Los Mochis)

The Chepe Regional arrives from Bahuichivo at 7:19 pm on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. From El Fuerte it continues on to its final destination of Los Mochis.

The Chepe Express arrives daily from Divisadero at 12:55 pm. After a short stop it continues on to its final destination of Los Mochis.

Click here for more details about train schedules and the differences between the Chepe Regional and Chepe Express.

Bus

A bus is only an option between Los Mochis and El Fuerte. There are no bus routes between El Fuerte and Bahuichivo.

Two bus companies run routes between El Fuerte and Los Mochis: Azules del Noroeste (blue buses) and Autotransportes Norte de Sinaloa (ANS, green and white buses).

If you plan to continue immediately to Topolobampo or the airport by bus I’d recommend Azules as they’ll drop you off at the station in Los Mochis where you can connect to the appropriate bus without lugging your bags around town.

Buses leave El Fuerte for Los Mochis from the market on Benito Juárez (see map above) every 20 minutes between 5 am and 7 pm. The cost is $60-$80 MXP per person depending on the company and the ride is 1.5-2 hours.

Buses leave Los Mochis for El Fuerte from either the Azules del Noroeste station or the Autotransportes Norte de Sinaloa (ANS) station.

Azules buses leave at least once per hour between 5 am and 8:15 pm, take about 2 hours and cost $80 MXP.

ANS buses run regularly throughout the day, take about 1.5 hours and cost $60 MXP.

Things to do in El Fuerte, Sinaloa

El Fuerte has a laid-back, small-town vibe. This combined with its beautiful colonial-era architecture make it the perfect place to go for a stroll, have an ice cream and simply enjoy the weather and your surroundings. It’s a wonderful way to either start or end a journey through the Copper Canyon.

Below are a few sights to see or activities to do while visiting this picturesque town.

  • Plaza de Armas and downtown

    El Fuerte maintains many colonial-era buildings to admire and a beautiful Plaza de Armas to sit and people watch. Wandering around the downtown by day or night is a lovely way to pass the time.

  • Municipal Palace

    It’s worth a visit to the Palacio Municipal to admire the wonderful murals depicting the history of the town. Entrance is always free.

  • El Fuerte Museum

    Situated at the top of a hill where the old fort once sat, this museum is built to look just like the old fort. Inside you’ll find artifacts and information about indigenous groups that once inhabited the area (mostly in Spanish). Most displays are old and falling apart but there are a few rooms filled with interesting black and white photos dating back to the 1890s. It’s also possible to walk up to the roof and get a good view of the town and the Fuerte River.

    Entrance: $20 MXP

  • The Legend of Zorro

    The Hotel Posada del Hidalgo, once a hacienda, is said to be the birthplace and childhood home of Don Diego de la Vega, also known as Zorro. Each night around 8:30 the hotel puts on a short show about Zorro. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel you’re welcome to join as long as you’re consuming something from the restaurant or bar. The hotel is beautiful and well worth a visit regardless. There is also a statue of Zorro in their courtyard and the legend is displayed on the wall.

    Note that the show only takes place if there are 30+ people. Times may vary as the show starts only after guests arriving from El Chepe check-in.

  • River Tour and Petroglyphs

    More than 200 petroglyphs (stone carvings) have been found on the Hill of the Mask, or Cerro de la Masacara, not too far from town. Little information is known about their meaning but guided tours are available and are often combined with river tours and birdwatching. Tours can be booked through most hotels and last 1.5-2 hours.

    Cost: $300 MXP per person

Hotels in El Fuerte, Sinaloa

El Fuerte is a small town so most of the hotels are in great locations, within walking distance of the Plaza de Armas. If you’re arriving from or heading to Los Mochis by bus you’ll be dropped off right in the centre of town and can likely walk to your hotel.

However, if you’re arriving or departing via El Chepe you’ll require a ride from the station into town or vice versa. Most hotels offer a shuttle service to or from the station but at an additional cost. You can arrange the service once you’ve booked your hotel.

Taxis between the train station and town centre charge per person, not distance, and should cost $50-70 MXP each. There are always a few waiting at the station when the train arrives in the evening.

Below are a few hotel recommendations to suit different budgets:

Low Budget

Posada Don Jose

The few rooms they have are very basic and a little tight but the owners are very friendly and you’d be hard-pressed to find a cheaper rate in town. It’s an excellent choice if you’re travelling alone or staying for just one night.

Click here to check prices and availability

Mid Budget

Hotel El Fuerte

This excitingly decorated, hacienda-style hotel has a lot of rooms and a great location. The owners are very friendly and make an excellent breakfast for under $150 MXP.

Click here to check prices and availability

High Budget

Hotel Posada del Hidalgo

Aside from being a beautiful hotel, it is also the supposed birthplace of Zorro. There’s a lovely open-air bar and restaurant on site, a courtyard, pool and spa.

Click here to check prices and availability

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Additional Information for El Fuerte, Sinaloa

Below are some general tips from personal experience. If you have travelled in Mexico or Copper Canyon and have any other tips please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page!

  • Travelling to or from Los Mochis?

    The train ride between Los Mochis and El Fuerte costs either $348 MXP (Económica) or $602 MXP (Primera Express) and the views are rather dull. If you’re heading towards Los Mochis you won’t even see anything, as the sun will have already set.

    Taking the bus is a cheaper option with a lot more flexibility. It will cost between $60 and $80 MXP and you can choose to depart at almost any time of the day in either direction.

  • Travel Insurance

    Not all travel insurance policies provide coverage for travel in the Copper Canyon. Make sure you purchase the right policy for your trip. Click here to learn more about travel insurance specifically for the Copper Canyon.

  • The Best Views

    The stretch of railway from Bahuichivo to Témoris (the stop before El Fuerte) and a little beyond provides the most stunning views along the entire train ride. Make sure you’re not napping for this section and get your camera ready for great photo opportunities only accessible aboard El Chepe.

  • Money

    There are a couple of banks and ATMs in El Fuerte if you need to withdraw cash. However, the ATMs dispense primarily in 500-peso denominations and more often than not retailers don’t have change for these large bills. Hold on to as many small bills (20s, 50s, 100s, 200s) as you can, ideally getting change before you start your Chepe journey.

    Don’t accept change in the form of ripped or torn bills as the next retailer won’t accept them from you. If you do find one in your wallet you can exchange it at a bank.

  • Cellular Service

    El Fuerte has decent cell service but if you’re heading through the Copper Canyon towards Chihuahua the same can’t be said for the other stops. Many hotels offer free wifi but if you’d like to have cell phone service I’d recommend picking up a telcel SIM card when you first arrive in Mexico. Your phone will need to be unlocked in order to use it but the SIM includes plenty of data and unlimited calls to Canada, the US and Mexico and should only cost $200-250 MXP.

Itineraries for El Fuerte, Sinaloa

Many travellers choose to start or end their Chepe journey in El Fuerte, as the stretch from here to Los Mochis is expensive, long and the views are nothing compared to the rest of the ride. Staying one night will give you enough time to see downtown El Fuerte but two nights will allow you the time to get a more in-depth look at the town while relaxing before or after your Chepe journey.

Below are a few itineraries for travellers wishing to stay 1 night or 2 nights. The itineraries assume the traveller is travelling by bus between Los Mochis and El Fuerte and by train between Chihuahua and El Fuerte.

Arriving in El Fuerte from Chihuahua via El Chepe

El Fuerte Mexico - arriving by train

Staying 1 Night

Day 1: Arrive in El Fuerte ~ 7:20 pm

  • Taxi or shuttle to hotel
  • See the Zorro performance at Posada del Hidalgo
  • Dinner in town
  • Evening stroll through the Plaza de Armas

Day 2: Depart El Fuerte early afternoon

  • Breakfast
  • Visit El Fuerte Museum
  • Take a walk through the Municipal Palace
  • Lunch in town
  • Check-out at hotel
  • Catch a bus to Los Mochis

Staying 2 Nights

Day 1: Arrive in El Fuerte ~ 7:20 pm

  • Taxi or shuttle to hotel
  • See the Zorro performance at Posada del Hidalgo
  • Dinner in town
  • Evening stroll through the Plaza de Armas

Day 2: Full day in El Fuerte

  • Breakfast in town
  • Head out on a River Tour
  • Enjoy a relaxing evening in town or at your hotel

Day 3: Depart El Fuerte early afternoon

  • Breakfast
  • Visit El Fuerte Museum
  • Take a walk through the Municipal Palace
  • Lunch in town
  • Check-out at hotel
  • Catch a bus to Los Mochis

Arriving in El Fuerte from Los Mochis via bus

El Fuerte Mexico - arriving by bus

Staying 1 Night

Day 1: Arrive in El Fuerte early afternoon

  • Check-in at hotel
  • Lunch in town
  • Visit El Fuerte Museum
  • Take a walk through the Municipal Palace
  • See the Zorro performance at Posada del Hidalgo
  • Dinner and evening in town

Day 2: Depart El Fuerte ~ 8:20 am

  • Early breakfast
  • Check-out of hotel
  • Hire a shuttle or taxi to train station (~15 min drive)

Staying 2 Nights

Day 1: Arrive in El Fuerte early afternoon

  • Check-in at hotel
  • Lunch in town
  • Visit El Fuerte Museum
  • Take a walk through the Municipal Palace
  • See the Zorro performance at Posada del Hidalgo
  • Dinner and evening in town

Day 2: Full day in El Fuerte

  • Breakfast in town
  • Head out on a River Tour
  • Enjoy a relaxing evening in town or at your hotel

Day 3: Depart El Fuerte ~ 8:20 am

  • Early breakfast
  • Check-out of hotel
  • Hire a shuttle or taxi to train station (~15 min drive)
2018-05-29T07:52:03+00:00

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