without a doubt one of the best hikes in all of Borrego State
Park. The trailhead is about a two hour drive from San Diego to
the southeastern part of the park, taking I-8 to Ocotillo, then
backtracking 9mi's along S-2 to Mortero Wash. The hike offers
several challenges and points of interest along the way.
/ Points of Interest:
Palm Canyon Ascent
Palms Trailhead: 2000ft
Vertical Rise: 1200ft
Descent to Trestle: 800ft (very steep in spots)
time: 3hrs out and 3hrs back plus 2hrs exploration
time - 8hrs total
the trickiest part of
One of the
most critical parts of this hike is getting started up the correct
canyon. There is a choice of two main washes each of which split
into multiple possible routes. The correct wash is North-West with
an immediate turn to the West. It is tempting to take the
South-West wash, which will also get you there but adds about 0.75 miles
to the trek.
Canyon climbs steadily upward to a dense palm grove at the 0.75 mile
mark. This is a good place to take a break, eat some trail mix,
and do some local exploration. It is possible to exit the palm
grove to the right or left. To the right is a water chute that can
run strong in the spring months. It is climbable and the most
direct route up. Exiting the palm grove to the left takes you
through some class 3 rock scrambling - nothing too technical, but a
challenge for first time hikers. Contour to the right once you are
above the palm grove to rejoin Mortero Canyon upward.
is fairly well traveled so keep an eye out for the most warn
footpath. Unfortunately, there are several paths visible along the
way. Most will get you there, but some will get you lost.
Mortero Canyon flattens out at the 1 mile mark for about 0.25 miles,
then proceeds steeply upward for another quarter mile. You will
reach the crest between Mortero Canyon and Goat Canyon at exactly 1.5
miles - the halfway point.
the trickiest part of the hike is route finding along the relatively
flat section between Mortero Canyon and Goat Canyon. Mortero
Canyon peters out at the 1.5 mile mark and becomes a rolling
desert meadow lined with Choilla, Barrel cactus, Agave, some Ocotillo,
and my personal favorite... Cat Claw. There are several possible
routes to Goat Canyon, but the best one tends to the right and bypasses
the beginning of Goat Canyon. Again, the best advice is to find
the most well worn trail and stick to it. It is also advisable to
have a good 7.5min quad topo map and compass in case the "well worn
trial" leads in the wrong direction. If you do everything
right, you will begin descending into Goat Canyon at the 2.25mi mark,
some 0.75mi's after reaching the crest from Mortero Canyon.
descent into Goat Canyon is significantly steeper than the ascent up
Mortero Canyon. But keep the faith, every obstacle you encounter
has a workaround. You will meet several un-jumpable drop-offs of
15ft height or less. Most can be circumnavigated on the right and
left. The total distance in Goat Canyon is a short but
"thrilling" 0.5mi scramble. Your reward comes with the
first sighting of the Goat Canyon trestle - a 200ft high, 750ft long,
curved train trestle built just after the turn of the last
century. This first glimpse occurs at a particularly steep and
tall drop-off, some 300yds from the trestle. On first inspection,
it appears you can't get there from here. However, you can make it
by climbing to the left, then dropping into the scree-choked canyon
below. But be careful as the footing is treacherous. This
last 300yds will take between 20 and 40min's depending on how adept you
are at balancing on loose rock.
the Trestle Area:
a number of things to do and see once you have reached the
trestle. Look to the left and you will see the reason for the
trestle's existence. The original tunnel crossing Goat Canyon
caved in during an earth quake, necessitating the construction of a
shorter tunnel and a much larger trestle. If you go through the
tunnel to the left of the trestle you can enter the other end of the
old, caved-in tunnel.
observe the tank car and tank perched on the hill above it. These
were part of the fire fighting equipment defending the trestle against
hot ash emanating from steam locomotives... pretty cool. Other things
to look for are two derailed boxcars about 2mi's to the right down the
track, a working RR switch you can operate (near the trestle), dates on
the steel tracks, a catwalk inside the trestle, and a 0.5mi long tunnel
to the left.
recommend this hike to any and all hearty hikers. You will not be disappointed,
trust me on this one...