Trail Report: Goat Canyon Trestle

Cactus and goat Canyon trestle
Goat Canyon trestle panoramic picture
I will describe my trip to the Goat Canyon Trestle.  This is part of my trail report series.  I tried to provide enough information to help other adventurers.  First of all a little bit of background on this particular location.  Goat Canyon trestle was created in 1919 as part of the railroad going from El Centro to San Diego.  Goat Canyon is located within the Carrizo Gorge.  Goat Canyon happens to be the largest canyon.  There are several other smaller trestles along this railroad.  I first read about this on the Internet from someone who labeled it "the last adventure".  It sounded crazy.  It sounded very remote.  It sounded very fun.  I have had it in my mind for many years.  Finally on a trip to the Palm Springs area, I decided to make a visit and attempt to see the Goat Canyon Trestle.

There are 3 ways to visit this unique location:
1.  Hiking from Dos Cabezas over the desert mountains and wilderness directly to the trestle.
2.  Following the railroad tracks directly from the community of De Anza Springs Resort, which appeared to be about 6.5 miles one way
3.  Following the railroad track from Dos Cabezas, initially going north and then directly south to the trestle, approximately 5 miles one way.

After studying my options very closely I decided I would take the 3rd route.  This trailhead was closest to some other locations in the Anza Borrego Desert that I wanted to visit.  I had also read about some people riding bicycles along the route.  I decided to bring my bicycle and try that.  Railroad tracks are designed to not change elevation very much.  Hopefully that would translate into easy bike ride.  What might take me a few hours to hike 5 miles would take much less on a mountain bike.

I actually took pictures at sunrise in Mountain Palm Canyon which is about 30 to 60 minute drive from here.  Then I drove to Dos Cabezas.  This should only be attempted in a high clearance four-wheel drive vehicle.  There are some sections which are very rocky and difficult.  If you go this way, it is important not to cross the train tracks.  You can drive much farther on the east side of the train tracks.  You should go as far as you can on this road before parking your car in switching to a bicycle.  I cannot stress this enough.  Some of the worst part of the bike trail is in the beginning section.  Try to skip as much of this as you can by driving your car to the end of the road.
Dos Cabezas Water Tank and railroad track
A bicycle trail that is sometimes smooth, sometimes sandy and sometimes rocky runs beside the railroad tracks.  There are some sections where it's so bumpy that I got off my bike and walked it.  More of this is at the beginning of the trail.  The farther you go, typically the better the trail becomes.  Although it seems very level, you will work harder going to Goat Canyon trestle then you will on the return trip.  There is about a 300 foot vertical climb that is very gradual.  You will not notice it as much going to the trestle.  It will simply seem hard.  However on the return trip, I went so much faster and saved so much time.

The fun begins fairly quickly when you go through the 1st tunnel.  The first couple of tunnels are very beautiful, short, rocky and scenic.  I had to stop at the first and then the second to take pictures.  They're so lovely.  These are pictured here.  Some longer tunnels come later in the ride and are so dark that I did not take their photograph.  You can go through without a flashlight, I did, but they are very dark.  In the far distance he will be able to see the trestle.  The closer you get, it will go out of sight.  The last tunnel, right before the trestle, collapsed several years ago.  There is trail that goes around it.  I left my bike at the railroad tracks and walked around to the other side to visit the trestle.  This section of the trail was not conducive to mountain biking anyway.  I would've had to carry my bicycle over several obstacles.
Tunnel To goat Canyon trestle
The first scenic tunnel.  Short but sweet
Goat Canyon trestle railroad tunnel
On the south side of the first tunnel
 goat Canyon Trestle Railroad journey
This tunnel is about half way to the trestle.
This photograph is looking north away from the trestle
The trestle does not disappoint.  It is the largest wooden trestle in the world, 750 feet long, 200 feet high nestled in a beautiful but desolate canyon.  Cacti cover all the hills.  I got close to many of these as I tried to set up good photographs of this amazing structure.  While I was there, I did not see any one else.  It was extremely quiet and beautiful.  Please see my photographs to get a better idea of what I enjoyed.
Goat Canyon trestle and cactus
Goat Canyon trestle, a beautiful site
Goat Canyon trestle in the desert
Goat Canyon trestle as seen from the south
Railroad going over goat Canyon trestle
On top of goat Canyon trestle
The ride back was very fast.  I think it took only about 1/3 the time to return to my car.  That was nice because it was getting warmer.  Fast travel on mountain bike gives a nice windchill factor.  One note that I would advise, when writing over the trestles (small and large), my bicycle seemed to get pushed by the wind very easily.  There's nothing really dangerous about this but it does feel a little unnerving.

Just do it.
Goat Canyon trestle railroad journey
Typical cactus with a distant view of the railroad on the other
side of the canyon.  You are going there on the return trip.


  1. Awesome pics. Did you do this recently?

    1. I did this adventure in February 2016. Now (November) would be a great time to do this. I'd just want to avoid the summer months and summer heat.

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