Among outdoor aficionados in Southern California, the Goat Canyon Trestle is considered one of the best hikes in the region. The hike is difficult, remote, and the midpoint of the “trail” is an iconic railroad bridge that is the largest freestanding wooden trestle in North America and the world.
The Route from Mortero Palms Trailhead to the Goat Canyon Trestle: As I said yesterday, there is no “trail” that leaves the Mortero Palms Trailhead and takes you directly to the trestle. The best description (other than one’s found online) that I’ve ever read is in Jerry Schad’s Afoot and Afield, which as I’ve said before, is the bible of San Diego County Hiking. This is the route that I followed; and the route that I’m going to describe here in the next several paragraphs and pictures. As there is no “set” route, keep in mind that my directions here should be not taken as the gospel truth and that if you go, you should take a GPS and or map and compass in order not to get lost. Finally, in case you want more information (which is good); check out these trip reports here, here, here and here. I always say that more information is better, especially for a hike like this where there is no trail. And with that in mind, here we go!
The prime example is the olive grove that sits directly off the Smugglers Road trail about .1 miles away from Smugglers Cove. Olive Trees, while beautiful, are by no means native to the island; and were planted over a hundred years ago in order to harvest the fruit for commercial purposes. Today, the groves of trees are still standing outside Smugglers Cove in their orderly, neat rows, waiting for a non-existent harvest. While I’m not usually one to celebrate invasive species in National Parks, in this case I’ll make an exception. There’s something about these old trees waiting on the shore of a now-empty island that stimulates one’s imagination while hiking. On a hot, summer day it’s easy to imagine that you have left California, and are hiking one of the Mediterranean islands near Spain; or are in an empty part of the Iberian Peninsula. However, if the scenery doesn’t remind you of Europe, there’s plenty of other ideas that could sprout in your imagination as you pass through the grove. And, even if you don’t imagine anything as the wind whispers to you as it passes through the branches of the grove, the grove is a great spot to sit on either your decent or ascent from Smugglers Cove, as it provides some much needed shade on the hike from Scorpion Ranch to Smugglers Cove.
Southern California has a lot of places to hike. From the desert; to the beach; to the mountains; to the high country chaparral; to the seasonal rivers and waterfalls and beyond, there are a lot of places to hike. You don’t need to take my word for it – there’s a plethora of books and blogs out there about hiking, backpacking, and all of the areas that are available to explore. And there should be – there’s so much variety out there, it’s good to get advice not just from one source, but a number of sources. I always tell my friends, and you, my readers not just to take my word for things; but to do your own research and to always do your own exploration, because in my experience, when people do those things, they always make the adventure their own.