The mythical Goat Canyon Trestle is a hidden gem in the Anza Borrego desert near the California-Mexico border. The Carrizo Gorge Track, at first called “the impossible railroad,” stretches from San Diego to Yuma, navigating the difficult terrain through a series of 17 tunnels. The Goat Canyon Trestle was built in 1932 to replace a tunnel damaged from an earthquake and still stands strong today at 600-ft long by 200-ft tall.
During the construction in scorching desert heat, railroad workers reported seeing “glowing orbs” of light. One conductor even derailed to avoid an oncoming train that never existed. As if working the railroad wasn’t hard enough, no one was safe from the “Abominable Sandman of the Borrego,” a terrifying man beast reported to have white fur and glowing red eyes. (Learn more about the railroad’s fascinating history from The Last Adventurer.)
I put off this hike for a long time due to warnings from Chris of The Last Adventurer, until he offered to take me himself! The adventure began at 7:30am Saturday morning. Josh of California Through My Lens and I met Chris at a park in Ocotillo, CA. I borrowed my dad’s truck for the off-road journey to the trailhead, which required 4-WD and high clearance. We only managed to get stuck once, using the jack and building a rock bridge underneath the front tire to set us free. (Sorry, Dad.)
The hike started with a steep climb, following a faint footpath and a trail of cairns. When we could climb no more, the trail dropped into Goat Canyon and vanished like a Borrego Sandman.
Once the trestle was in sight, we bouldered for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, we reached the tracks and took our lunch break in the shade of a tunnel.
WARNNG: The railway company claims to be reopening the tracks and threatens cite any trespassers. Explore at your own risk!
On the climb out of Goat Canyon, we counted down our sips until we ran out of water. Usually 3 liters is more than enough for a day hike, except in 90 degree heat! Some lessons we must learn the hard way… twice.
Lured by the thought of warm water awaiting us in the truck, we stumbled back to the trailhead around 5:30pm. Once we properly hydrated with cold Gatorade at the only gas station/market in town, the feeling of accomplishment finally set in. This was an epic adventure I shall not soon forget.
* Do not attempt this hike without acknowledgement of risks, proper navigation tools, sufficient water and outdoor experience. If you’re prepared to take on the challenge, go to The Last Adventurer for a detailed trail guide.