Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge


Last updated 6/21/2018 at 10:08am

There is a story within a story on the Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge which is located in the southern section of Anza-Borrego State Park. Aptly named “The Impossible Railroad” it is a twelve mile round trip from the trailhead via Monteray Canyon Road off S2 and I understand, it is classified as a “legal route.”

The hike to the trestles is a flat hike out through tunnels, over numerous smaller trestles and ending at the large trestle. There is zero elevation, which means a good pace can be set. Prepare yourself well for this hike with water, food, aid kit, etc as time gets away with all the photo opportunities and exploring that one can do throughout the hike. Many of the tunnels are quite long and dark so I highly recommend carrying some kind of lighting with you. Other than that there is no shade and this hike should not be attempted in high temperatures.

The history of the railroad brings to life not only the great western movies that have been set around railroads, but this one is actually hailed as the “impossible railroad” when it was completed and certainly a triumph for man over harsh nature. The line itself was completed in 1919 and it connected San Diego with Yuma. The main trestle was built in 1932 and is still standing to this day at 600 feet long and 200 feet high. It is the largest free standing wooden trestle in the world and remains to this day in relatively good shape.

Remains of the Dos Cabezas train station are still standing and a very cool old water tower is worth a picture. This was a watering stop for the steam engines and a place for miners and explorers to access the rail line that was eventually abandoned in 1958. From this spot you can take a 4WD route to cut the hike down and follow the railroad for a good distance in your vehicle and travel on foot along the railroad from there.

The history of this venture in such a remote area of California will grab the enthusiastic researcher to learn more of the highs and lows of this project that captures the imagination. After an earthquake in 1932, portions of the tunnel collapsed forcing renovation. Then in 1976 a powerful hurricane swept through the region also causing a ton of damage. Maybe on the horizon, there will be talks of the railroad opening up again so combined with an adventurous spirit of a few, it is an idea that should be pursued.

There is an alternative access point to the trestles via Jacumba Hot Springs that requires a check in cost of $5. Nevertheless it is a spectacular destination from either starting point. Throughout the Carrizo Gorge section there are several groves of native Californian Fan Palms. The Indians that used to live in this area used the Palm nuts as a food source and grinding morteros can be found near the groves.

As the weather warms up, we share the ground with many unseen visitors such as the sidewinder that is active year round as well as the wood rat and the ever foreboding giant desert hairy scorpion. The scorpion is one of nature’s oldest creatures remaining unchanged for 450 million years and gives quite a sting with its tail. It can exist without food for a year.

Understanding the rhythms of the desert and the subtleties of nature that are within the reach of urban living continues to evolve. The “impossible railroad” is certainly an iconic place to visit and the pioneers of the project were very much ahead of their time and inspired by a vision of positivity.


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