Deep in the heart of the Jacumba Mountains overlooking Carrizo Gorge, you’ll find Goat Canyon Trestle. Getting to the world’s largest curved wooden trestle is an adventure from the old west. You’ll traverse dark tunnels in various stages of collapse, dodge rock slides, explore abandoned trains and endure the blazing desert sun. If this is for you, read on. Ok, it’s not that bad. In fact, it’s an easy, flat mtb cruise or a longish flat hike through some very cool (pun intended) desert terrain.
(Video credit and pics I’m in below: Ken Wells)
It’s slow going as there are several points where you have to lift your bike over one obstacle or another. You can’t speed through because you never know what’s around the next corner or if the bottom might drop out in front of you.
Be alert and cautious all the way out and back. Headlamps are a must for the tunnels, lots of obstacles in there. Workout-wise, it’s easy – safety-wise, it could be considered a bit sketchy.
As you bike along the railway, sometimes the path is quite narrow with a precipitous drop into the rocky canyon below. A moment of distraction could make for a very bad day. Wouldn’t suggest mountain biking for kids here, unless they are quite skilled and cautious riders.
Up close, the trestle seems a bit rickety, like a skinny, dilapidated Jenga set.
Background: The trestle was built in 1933, as part of the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway, aka “the impossible railroad” that ran through Baja California and Eastern San Diego County and ended in Imperial Valley. Over the years, collapsed tunnels and rock slides plagued the railroad, including the collapse of Tunnel 15, which led to the creation of the trestle. The trestle was constructed of wood (no nails used), rather than metal due to the area’s extreme temperature fluctuations, which can lead to “metal fatigue” / failure and it was designed with a 14 degree angle to offset Goat Canyon’s high winds. By 2008, rail traffic had ceased. As recently as last year, another tunnel, Number 6, near the trestle collapsed…(Yikes.)
Distance: Roundtrip 10 -14 miles, depending on where you start
Getting there: 8E from San Diego, take the Jacumba Exit
Parking: Park for free in the dirt lot right off the freeway at the Jacumba exit and follow the dirt portion of Carrizo Gorge Road 2 miles towards the DeAnza Spring Resort, the largest “clothing optional” resort in North America. Optionally, pay $5 to park at the resort. 1951 Carrizo Gorge Rd. There’s a Subway & gas station right off the freeway. You can also grab a bite & beer at the resort after your ride…
Note: This is the desert, plan accordingly – ample water, sunscreen, hat, etc…