Free REI Membership ($30 Gift Card)!!!

Goat Canyon Trestle Featured
play video
Hiking San Diego

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike

  • 16.5 miles - Hard Effort
  • 6-8 Hours (Total)
  • 1,200 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 2,720 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

The Goat Canyon Trestle hike is iconic: a meandering trail along what is dubbed "the impossible railroad," through the spectacular Carrizo Canyon, and finally to the world's largest wooden trestle bridge, hidden miles away from civilization. Although not offering any big mountain climb, it is a strenuous hike through a harsh desert environment, with over 16 miles of distance to cover.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions to Goat Canyon Trestle
  • Where to Park for the Goat Canyon Trestle Hike
  • Navigating the Tunnels & Bridges
  • Insider Tips and Recommendations for the Hike

The hike described in this guide is on private property, which you may not be authorized to use. Please hike safely and obey all laws and guidelines set out by the property owners and law enforcement. If you are not allowed to be on this private property, the information presented here is for entertainment purposes only.

How to Get to the Goat Canyon Trestle

There are several routes to reach the Goat Canyon Trestle, all of which involve walking or biking, and all accessing private property at some point. This route to Goat Canyon Trestle starts in Jacumba Hot Springs, and is generally considered the most popular way to access the trestle, whether by hikers or by mountain bikes. You'll be parking just over 2 miles north of the Mexico-US border.

Use this trailhead address:
1800 Carrizo Gorge Rd, Jacumba Hot Springs, CA 91934

There are no bathrooms or water fills at the trailhead.

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 9
Once you exit I-8 and pass the gas station, the road to the trailhead is sand and is doable by 2wd and low-clearance vehicles.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 10
Look for the small parking area on the right, just before the "End County Maintained Road" sign.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 11
There are parking areas past the county road warning sign, but I've heard of people being ticketed here. The land past the sign is private property, part of the De Anza Springs Resort.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 12
You can also go straight and park in the "clothing-free" De Anza Springs Resort, which charges a small fee. Freedom isn't free.

There have been some reports of free parking spots being blocked off. I've also heard that folks are able to call De Anza Springs Resort and pre-pay for parking if you'd like to arrive early. It's probably smart to give them a call and do it that way.

Gear For the Hike

As you'd imagine, at 16 miles, this is a "hike hike", even if there's not a lot of elevation change. The conditions are harsh, and aside from the tunnels, there is no protection from the elements.

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.

Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2If you are out of cellphone range the Mini 2 will reliably allow you to hit SOS via satellite. You can see my review here.
Gear Hoka Speedgoat 5
HOKA Speedgoat 5These are a great balance of comfort and performance. The high stack height leaves my feet feeling great after a hike.

Check out the complete list here.

Goat Canyon Trestle Trail Map

Aside from a few stretches of trail, you'll be hiking along the railroad tracks for most of the way, so it's very straightforward. I've included lots of waypoints in the map and GPX file below so that you know what to expect. And remember that your GPS won't work in the tunnels.

Some of the tracks, bridges, and tunnels on the hike are over 100 years old. The area is prone to rockfalls and seismic activity. Extreme care needs to be taken when navigating this hike.

Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

Elevation Profile

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Elevation
Overall the hike heads downhill to Goat Canyon Trestle. The good news is that, aside from the detours, the path is graded for a train, which means no steep hills and an imperceptible maximum incline of under 2.2% the whole way. The sharp elevation peaks you see on this graph are incorrect - those are tunnels. The GPS can't get an elevation from inside the tunnel, so it plots the elevation from the earth's surface.

3D Map

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike 3d Map
After a wide-open start at Jacumba Hot Springs, you enter a Carrizo Canyon, and hike along the east side of it, generally around 500 feet above the canyon floor.

This Hike Is On Private Property

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Private Property 2
The sliver of private property up the middle of the map is where the hike is. The railroad is on private property, while all around it is a mix of BLM and State Park land.

Let me reiterate, this hike is on private property and there are numerous "no trespassing" signs, so you should only be on the land here if you have permission. Depending on what is happening at the time with the railroad (more below in the hike brief), there may be railroad personnel along the route. If you are caught and the owners decide to press charges, you could be ticketed, fined, etc. However, there are many times that hikers pass along the route without seeing any officials and without any problem.

Hiking there has always been illegal, but it’s always been overlooked.Reena Deutsch, a UC San Diego professor who gives talks on the history of the railway

There are several other routes to Goat Canyon Trestle, all of which have their challenges. If you want to try the hike with minimizing your time hiking on private property, the route to the trestle via Mortero Palms is your best bet. Most of the hike goes through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, with 0nly the last part of the route being on private property. Know that if you do choose that route, it's a very challenging desert overland hike with boulder scrambles and minimal navigation aids. You can read about that route in Afoot and Afield: San Diego County. I've done that route and didn't feel comfortable recommending it to most hikers.

As you hike, you'll notice lots of railroad gear and equipment. This is all private property. Taking it with you is considered theft.

Walking the Tracks

Goat Canyon Walk Or Tracks
The majority of the hike has a walkway next to the railroad tracks.

The good news is that you don't have to walk down the middle of the railroad tracks for 16 miles, which would probably drive most people insane. The tracks have a smooth walkway alongside where you can walk as normal. Some sections are smaller and rockier, but in general, it's always there.

As of the time that this guide was published, no trains running along this route. If you find that changes, please let me know. Theoretically there could be the odd maintenance train out there, but I believe the last one was in 2012.

Crossing Bridges

There are several bridges of varying lengths before you get to Goat Canyon Trestle. Because of the extreme conditions on this hike, the bridges are susceptible to decay from dry rot and other natural forces. Don't assume that stepping down will be safe. Always think wisely about where you are stepping and don't shift your weight onto a step until you know that it's safe.

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 57
There can be railroad ties (the wood in between the tracks) missing or badly decayed over bridges.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 59
Some bridges have metal grates on the side catwalk, which can also be bent or have holes in them.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 60
Wooden catwalks on the side seemed to be the worse of all the options, with dry rot, holes, and broken sections.
Strong Sections Of Bridge At Goat Canyon Trestle
I've found that the strongest sections are the wood running parallel (ladder track) and the ties right over the sides, which have wood underneath (called a stringer).

If you are going to sit on the bridge or crawl around it, I've read reports of wood ticks (also known as dog ticks), so heads up. I've never had a tick on my leg from walking over the bridges.

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 4
Here's what a typical tunnel looks like from the inside.

There are several tunnels along the hike that you'll have to pass through, ranging from 100 feet to 0.5 miles long. While at first, the tunnels may seem unnerving, after one or two, it's fine. Some tunnels are blocked off, in which case I'll show you the detour in the directions below.

Again, no trains are running, so you don't have to worry about getting stuck in a tunnel with one. And because I know people will ask, there are no bats or animals that I've ever seen in these tunnels. They cool, dark, and a nice respite on a hot day.

Goat Canyon In Tunnel
All the tunnels have the same walkway alongside the tracks.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 6
Some areas have minor rockfalls that you can just walk around.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 2
Most tunnels are short enough to be illuminated by daylight, but having a headlamp will help in the longer ones.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 5
You'll notice that every tunnel has a "walk-around" that workers used to transit a tunnel area before it was bored. Some of these side trails are very well-worn and defined (such as the ones around closed tunnels), and some probably haven't been walked on in 100 years. In the following guide I'll point out when to take them and when to not.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 70
The tunnels are all numbered by the railroad, and you can find the number spray-painted on the entrances. In this guide I'll always refer to a tunnel by its official railroad number, not by the sequential order that they come in (which could change based on the shortcuts you take).

Goat Canyon Trestle on a Mountain Bike

You can do the route described in this guide to Goat Canyon Trestle on a mountain bike without having to carry the bike up over any scrambles or steep sections. That said, there are some extremely narrow sections and stretches that have cacti alongside, with little margin for error. Mainly this is on the detour around Tunnel 8. My advice is to just get off and walk through any really narrow sections and the bridges.

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 67
Here's a section of trail that's probably 8 inches across, with a 150 foot drop down to the right. Do what is comfortable for you based on your experience level, but don't dive-bomb this route on your first try. Some mistakes could lead to a certain bad time.

Hike History

Cariizo Valley Image 2
When you hike this route today, it looks pretty much the same as how it does in this photo from 1923, four years after the railroad opened. Photo Middlebrook Photographs of San Diego & Arizona Railway Locomotives

There's a lot of history on the Goat Canyon Trestle hike. Let me point out the salient points for this adventure.

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 13
There's a small access trail to the tracks directly across from the parking area. Head to the tracks and make the right.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 14
Follow the trail alongside of the tracks for an easier hike.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 15
Avoid any side trails. If you parked at the resort, you'll join the tracks from one of these side trails.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 16
Cross your first baby-bridge. This is the first of many to come.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 17
The cross is to commemorate the location that U.S. Border Patrol Agent Eric N. Cabral died while on duty on July 26, 2007. Eric was an agent from the Boulevard Border Patrol Station who was working in the heat of the day looking for illegal entrants. He succumbed to heat exposure at that spot. The number “143” was his “Star Number” or radio call sign, as most everyone who uses two-way radios has. That number has been retired and is not issued to new agents at that station. Agents, along with members of Agent Cabral’s family, visit the site every year on, or near that date in July and then return to the Boulevard Station for a remembrance barbeque. The site is upkept by the station’s agents.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 18
Okay, now a bigger bridge or two to warm up on as you make your way to Goat Canyon Trestle.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 19
If you look along the sides you'll see the property fence that separates this sliver of private property from the BLM and parkland surrounding it.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 20
You'll see the double-decker grafitti-covered cars at Dubber Spur ahead. The hike continues straight down the tracks, but go ahead and check out the cars before you continue.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 21
The cars are a more popular attraction than the trestle, since they're less than a mile from the parking area.

These are unique double-decker "gallery" cars where the middle section of the interior is open. They are still used by METRA, a small commuter service from Chicago, and the only passenger trains run by Warren Buffet's BSNF railroad. Eleven of these cars were sold to the railroad here in 2007 to run the Tren Turístico Tijuana Tecate on the Mexican side of the line. A commuter train between Tecate and Tijuana was also floated but never implemented.

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 22
You can poke around the cars if you'd like, but be careful. There's lots of broken glass, holes in the floor, etc.
Goat Canyon Trestle Detour Turnoff
Continue hiking and after about 1.25 miles, look for this trail to the right. This is the detour that we'll take around Tunnel #5.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 23
You can also walk a minute or two up to Tunnel #5, which is blocked off. Some people climb up to the left and over the tunnel, but I find the detour from the last photo preferable.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 25
The detour climbs up the hill and is a nice break from walking along the rails.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 26
When you get to the intersection, hike to the left.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 27
There's usually a piece of wreckage or a pile of rocks to mark this intersection.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 28
Lots of art all over.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 29
When you come back around toward the tracks, look for a turn down to the right and toward the track, as marked here by the piece of metal.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 30
Once you make that turn you'll see the tracks stretch down below, hike down and rejoin them.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 31
You'll also notice this mini-trestle in the distance.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 32
Go ahead and cross over the trestle.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 33
And then another bridge.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 34
The hike gets exciting as you enter the Carrizo Gorge proper. Look ahead for the tunnels that you'll be going through later.

Carrizo is a reed used for weaving mats, baskets, and arrows, found at bottom of the canyon. It's also seen spelled as "carisso."

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 35
Okay, here's your first tunnel, #6.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 36
The first tunnel isn't that long and is a good way to get used to the experience. The tunnels were built high so that the smoke from the original steam trains would blow out quickly and not envelope the train.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 37
After you pop out of that tunnel, you get some incredible views down the canyon.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 38
Just before 4 miles in, you'll see more passenger cars ahead.

These passenger cars are from Montreal's commuter service, STCUM (Société de transport de la Communauté Urbaine de Montréal).

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 39
Like the last set of rail cars, these are also covered in graffiti and artwork.

These cars have been burned recently, but will probably be covered again in graffiti shortly.

Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 40
Soon you'll see tunnel 8 in the distance.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 41
As you approach Tunnel 8, look back to see the abandoned Tunnel 7, which collapsed.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 42
Tunnel 8 is closed, so we're going to take the well-worn detour to the left.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 43
As you hike up, look back and down into the canyon to spot two boxcars. I believe these were from a derailment in 1953 where two boxcars full of Coors beer went over the side of the canyon. Allegedly hikers in the 1980s found some cans of the 1953 beer and said it tasted like fermented wine and dirt.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 68
In front of you on this section is Mount Tule, located in the nearby Carrizo Gorge Wilderness BLM land. The Carrizo Gorge Wilderness is home to three herds of endangered Peninsular Desert Bighorn Sheep.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 44
And directly down the gorge, way in the distance, you can see the distinct Whale Peak at 5348 feet.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 45
This detour has some cacti, be careful not to brush them.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 46
Soon you'll see the tracks again in front of you as the mile-long detour comes to an end.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 47
When you rejoin the tracks, look back to see the open end of Tunnel 8. Don't make the mistake of entering the tunnel when you hike back.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 48
From here until the Goat Canyon Trestle, you'll have a handful of tunnels to hike through, including Tunnels 9&10, seen here, in quick succession.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 49
From here on out you'll tackle Tunnels 11-13.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 50
Look for this cool little shelter just past Tunnel 11.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 52
This is Tunnel 14, the longest one, at almost 0.5 miles long.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 53
When you finally finish the long Tunnel 14, you'll see the old tunnel that was abandoned to build the Goat Canyon Trestle ahead of you.
Seven Siters Trestles
If you look to the far left as you exit the tunnel, you can also see the "Seven Sisters" trestles in the distance. These are past Goat Canyon Trestle and not on this hike.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 54
Take the tracks around the abandoned tunnel.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 55
And hike through the short Tunnel 15.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 56
And when you're out, you'll see Goat Canyon Trestle directly in front of you. It's not so impressive from this angle, so go ahead and cross over the bridge. Also, notice the tank car on the hill above the bridge in the left of this picture. That's filled with water and is there in case of a fire.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 61
As you cross, look back to your left to see the abandoned tunnel.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 58
Take your time and enjoy the views from the bridge.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 64
When you get to the other side, there's a cool mural on the side of a ballast car.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 65
Just past the ballast car is an area in a gully where you can see people have overnighted before. It has flat areas for tents and a fire pit with a bench.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 62
You can also go to the catwalk underneath the tracks.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 63
I've never walked across the catwalk under the bridge, and I'm not sure how safe it is. But you can take a look.
Goat Canyon Trestle Hike Directions 66
If you contnue along the other side you'll reach a nice viewpoint where you can grab a photo of the entire bridge span. Otherwise, that's it! Just hike back the way you came from here.

Need More Info?

  • Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.
  • When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.