Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge Hike | Hiking Trails in San Diego

The Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge hike is a fucking beast, and I’m SO happy we tackled it!  From what I understand, there are 2 different ways you can get to the trestle; one is by starting at Carizzo Gorge Road, and the other starts at Mortero Palms.  We started at Mortero Palms.  I’d love to hike both ways someday.  The Carizzo Gorge entrance goes along the railroad tracks and had abandoned train cars along the tracks.  From Mortero Palms, the route is a 5.8 miles loop trail.  It took us 8 hours roundtrip, with about an hour or more rest time at the site.

Firstly, it is important to know that most of the hike, if not all, is in full sun.  At a few spots, you are able to sit under large rocks and enjoy a quick cool down.  However, this doesn’t happen very often so definitely utilize shade when you find it. The trail is marked by a few faint arrows drawn on rocks and boulders.  Extremely helpful, but you really can’t rely on them. Having a GPS device on hand is really important on this hike.  It’s very easy to get turned around and lost in the desert and this hike is no exception.

Right when you’re able to see the trestle in the distance, you’ll come to a small cliffside.  The cliff has a single rope to help scale your way down.  Keep in mind you’ll be doing this on the way up too! After that, it’s a short hike to the trestle. We got to the site, went over the bridge, explored the tunnels on either side, and enjoyed some tunnel shade and cool air.  During the entire hike, we only ran into people at the bridge.  One group had taken the trail along the tracks and two mountain bikers who had been camping along the tracks for a few days.

Unfortunately, we enjoyed our stay a little too long at the trestle site, and by the time we began our hike home, it was relatively late.  The unfortunate part is that the last hour of our hike was in pure darkness.  Pitch black, the only light coming from our headlamps.  The four of us were climbing down a cliffside of huge boulders, navigating our way down by stepping out every few feet to make sure it was safe and we weren’t going to tumble down the cliffside. It was an adventure, to say the least, and SO much fun.

I can’t recommend this hike enough.  I felt so accomplished after this hike.  The beer afterward at The Lazy Lizard was honestly the best beer of my life.  You have to stop at this dive bar you won’t want to miss it.  Pick up a t-shirt while you’re at it, and enjoy every drop of that beer.  In conclusion, if you are going to do the trestle hike, don’t forget comfortable shoes, headlamps, GPS, a ton of water, and snacks.  Above all, have fun, and be safe!

A little history on the trestle bridge, The Goat Canyon Trestle is a wooden trestle in Southern California. It was built in 1933 as part of the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway after a tunnel collapsed in Carrizo Gorge. The bridge was once coined the ‘impossible railroad’ because of its location, running through Baja California and eastern San Diego before ending in Imperial Valley. The trestle was made of wood, rather than metal due to temperature fluctuations in the Carrizo Gorge.  By 2008, rail traffic stopped using the trestle because it was deemed unstable.

For more information on the hike, and the different trailheads, follow the links below. Good luck and be safe!

Modern Hiker

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