Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Get close but not too close to Carrizo Gorge trestle

One of the highest wooden trestles in North America

The trestle is perhaps the longest curved one, at 14 degrees of curvature.
The trestle is perhaps the longest curved one, at 14 degrees of curvature.

The trek to upper Goat Canyon is not a long hike but it is strenuous because of the rough terrain and boulder-hopping above Mortero Palms. The canyon’s name correctly implies that the nimbleness of a mountain goat is required for negotiating both a canyon and a trail named after this sure-footed animal. The “goat” in this case is the sure-footed desert bighorn sheep.

View from the trail. Access through Mortero Palms is the recommended hiking route to view the trestle.

The goal of this hike is the Goat Canyon Trestle, named for the steep canyon spanned in Carrizo Gorge by the San Diego & Arizona Railway, the precursor to the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway. The trestle is one of the world’s highest woodpile trestle bridges, built from 157,000 linear feet of lumber and is perhaps the longest curved one, at 14 degrees of curvature.

View from top of Mortero Canyon

According to SD&AE Railway records, “it was built of lumber instead of steel because variations in temperature of up to 75°F in a single day create problems of expansion and contraction that would result in metal fatigue had they used steel.” The trestle was completed in 1933 as part of a realignment of the original railroad route, completed in 1919, when Tunnel No. 15 collapsed due to earth slippage on March 27, 1932.

Stay on the north side of the canyon as you work your way up.

The Goat Canyon Trestle is 186 feet high and 597 feet long. Each section was built at the canyon bottom, then elevated by crane before being lowered into position. It is reported that some of the workers only stayed on the job three days before quitting because of the height and vertigo. The last train to cross Goat Trestle was in 1983. The trestle is accessible from Mortero Palms, Indian Hill, Carrizo Canyon, or a much more rugged and difficult route up Carrizo Gorge, although the tracks are legally off-limits to the public. There is no predicting whether the railroad route through Carrizo Gorge will be reopened or permanently closed due to the ongoing natural hazards and corporate uncertainties that have plagued the Impossible Railroad line since it opened almost a century ago. Regardless of these possibilities, it is illegal to hike or bike along the tracks or the right-of-way. Law-enforcement personnel will cite violators.

Access through Mortero Palms is the recommended hiking route to view the trestle. Mortero Palms is part of the Piedras Grandes Cultural Preserve. Over 100 palms are closely grouped and tucked in a canyon rimmed with brown and white granite. There is an intermittent small waterfall at the end of the grove. A few bedrock mortar holes are found within the grove, but the best ones, for which the canyon was named, are found about 300 feet down slope from the fronds. The water and palm grove were attractive not only to the Kumeyaay Indians who once inhabited this area but also to a local cattleman. Nearby you will find a cement trough inscribed “RD McCain Dec 1940.”

The route begins with the steep hike from the trailhead to Mortero Palms. Stay on the north side of the canyon as you work your way up to avoid some of the thick vegetation, and take care passing over dry waterfalls. Follow the canyon to the top, where there is a low ridge leading into a small flat valley (a good place for camping), just about a mile from the start of the hike. Take note of the excellent cactus specimens along the trail that include teddy-bear cholla and tall barrel cactus, plus the agave-covered hills. There are excellent desert views here before heading west and southwest over a small saddle into the Goat Canyon drainage that follows a use-trail. Hike to where there is an excellent overview of the trestle. Retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Distance from downtown San Diego: About 104 miles (Mortero Palms). Allow 2 hours. Exit I-8 at Ocotillo via exit 89 and turn north to Ocotillo Drive, 9.1 miles west on SR-2, just past the Border Patrol checkpoint and the Imperial/San Diego County line and turn south on Mortero Wash — 4-wheel drive required. Set odometer to zero. Pass the Dos Cabezas railroad siding at 3.9 miles and cross the railroad tracks. Pass Piedras Grandes turnoff at 4.9 miles. Route continues straight ahead. At 5.2 miles, the Dos Cabezas Road enters from the left just before a second railroad-track crossing. Continue south to the turnoff to Mortero Palms, turning west, and drive up the valley 0.5 mile to the end of the road and the palm grove.

Hiking Length: 5.5 miles round-trip. Allow 5 hours.

Difficulty: Strenuous with an elevation gain/loss of 1500 feet.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Jazz the Night Away, Reopening Celebration at the Aquarium

Events July 11-July 15, 2020
Next Article

The unsinkable Linda Broyles

“I mean, when they said I couldn’t go home, I could see Coronado!”
The trestle is perhaps the longest curved one, at 14 degrees of curvature.
The trestle is perhaps the longest curved one, at 14 degrees of curvature.

The trek to upper Goat Canyon is not a long hike but it is strenuous because of the rough terrain and boulder-hopping above Mortero Palms. The canyon’s name correctly implies that the nimbleness of a mountain goat is required for negotiating both a canyon and a trail named after this sure-footed animal. The “goat” in this case is the sure-footed desert bighorn sheep.

View from the trail. Access through Mortero Palms is the recommended hiking route to view the trestle.

The goal of this hike is the Goat Canyon Trestle, named for the steep canyon spanned in Carrizo Gorge by the San Diego & Arizona Railway, the precursor to the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway. The trestle is one of the world’s highest woodpile trestle bridges, built from 157,000 linear feet of lumber and is perhaps the longest curved one, at 14 degrees of curvature.

View from top of Mortero Canyon

According to SD&AE Railway records, “it was built of lumber instead of steel because variations in temperature of up to 75°F in a single day create problems of expansion and contraction that would result in metal fatigue had they used steel.” The trestle was completed in 1933 as part of a realignment of the original railroad route, completed in 1919, when Tunnel No. 15 collapsed due to earth slippage on March 27, 1932.

Stay on the north side of the canyon as you work your way up.

The Goat Canyon Trestle is 186 feet high and 597 feet long. Each section was built at the canyon bottom, then elevated by crane before being lowered into position. It is reported that some of the workers only stayed on the job three days before quitting because of the height and vertigo. The last train to cross Goat Trestle was in 1983. The trestle is accessible from Mortero Palms, Indian Hill, Carrizo Canyon, or a much more rugged and difficult route up Carrizo Gorge, although the tracks are legally off-limits to the public. There is no predicting whether the railroad route through Carrizo Gorge will be reopened or permanently closed due to the ongoing natural hazards and corporate uncertainties that have plagued the Impossible Railroad line since it opened almost a century ago. Regardless of these possibilities, it is illegal to hike or bike along the tracks or the right-of-way. Law-enforcement personnel will cite violators.

Access through Mortero Palms is the recommended hiking route to view the trestle. Mortero Palms is part of the Piedras Grandes Cultural Preserve. Over 100 palms are closely grouped and tucked in a canyon rimmed with brown and white granite. There is an intermittent small waterfall at the end of the grove. A few bedrock mortar holes are found within the grove, but the best ones, for which the canyon was named, are found about 300 feet down slope from the fronds. The water and palm grove were attractive not only to the Kumeyaay Indians who once inhabited this area but also to a local cattleman. Nearby you will find a cement trough inscribed “RD McCain Dec 1940.”

The route begins with the steep hike from the trailhead to Mortero Palms. Stay on the north side of the canyon as you work your way up to avoid some of the thick vegetation, and take care passing over dry waterfalls. Follow the canyon to the top, where there is a low ridge leading into a small flat valley (a good place for camping), just about a mile from the start of the hike. Take note of the excellent cactus specimens along the trail that include teddy-bear cholla and tall barrel cactus, plus the agave-covered hills. There are excellent desert views here before heading west and southwest over a small saddle into the Goat Canyon drainage that follows a use-trail. Hike to where there is an excellent overview of the trestle. Retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Distance from downtown San Diego: About 104 miles (Mortero Palms). Allow 2 hours. Exit I-8 at Ocotillo via exit 89 and turn north to Ocotillo Drive, 9.1 miles west on SR-2, just past the Border Patrol checkpoint and the Imperial/San Diego County line and turn south on Mortero Wash — 4-wheel drive required. Set odometer to zero. Pass the Dos Cabezas railroad siding at 3.9 miles and cross the railroad tracks. Pass Piedras Grandes turnoff at 4.9 miles. Route continues straight ahead. At 5.2 miles, the Dos Cabezas Road enters from the left just before a second railroad-track crossing. Continue south to the turnoff to Mortero Palms, turning west, and drive up the valley 0.5 mile to the end of the road and the palm grove.

Hiking Length: 5.5 miles round-trip. Allow 5 hours.

Difficulty: Strenuous with an elevation gain/loss of 1500 feet.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

“I Come From the Andromeda Galaxy”

Alfred Howard, James Brady, Me, Myself and Eye, Orchid Mantis, Puttin’ on the Fritz
Next Article

Vista City Attorney and James Buss donate to Trump campaign

Chula Vista's Jill Galvez barred from voting on fire trucks
Comments
2

Thank you for the well-written article, engaging photos, and enjoyable read.

July 19, 2017

I'm skeptical abut the story of why the trestle was built of wood instead of steel. It was an unplanned change, caused by a landslide and blockage of a tunnel. Every day the line was blocked, the railroad took in no revenue. So, speed in getting a replacement in place was of essence. To wait while steel was fabricated to order and brought from afar would have taken many months. Wood was readily available and could be cut to need, and was cheaper, too.

After the 1983 closure, the line was reopened during the early years of this century by an operation called Carrizo Gorge Railway for limited use. Union Pacific provided a test train through the gorge in 2004. So, it has been used sporadically over the years.

July 21, 2017

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close