Ahiking friend invited me on a desert hike initially planned as her solo hike to Goat Canyon Tresle via Mortero Palms in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Due to the fact that we started late, we were forced to turn around a quarter after 3 pm, but it was quite an adventure.

HOW TO GET TO GOAT CANYON

Mortero Palms is just around 100 miles east of San Diego, California. Either you’re coming from LA, OC or even San Diego, you will most likely take I-8 east and get off at Exit 89, unless you’re coming from Palm Desert, Salton Sea area or Yuma. Either way, you will drive through a little town called Ocotillo once you get off at Exit 89. Please, note it isn’t Ocotillo Wells.

There are two different ways to get to the trailhead once you get off Imperial Highway, one being a bit of shortcut, which involves less driving on dirt road, and the other, more dirt road driving, but you get to go through the wind turbine field. Either way, 4WD with high clearance is highly recommended.

WHEN TO HIKE GOAT CANYON

Since it is a desert hike, it is highly recommended to do this as a day hike or even as an overnighter in between late October and early April, just like you would in Joshua Tree NP or Death Valley NP. Also, since there’s no water along the creek, which is dry as a bone, you will have to carry quite a bit of water yourself for camping.

ITEMS YOU MUST BRING

  • Plenty of water (3L or more)
  • Headlamp
  • GPS
  • Layers
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen

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OUR GOAT CANYON HIKE

The structure seen in the photo below is our ostensible turnaround point – Trestle in the canyon. And it was supposed to be a simple out and back hike. But, because we were coming from LA, we did quite a bit of driving even before reaching the trailhead, and it was the beginning of the series of minor mishaps.

Once we got there, we knew it was rather late (around noon) to reach the trestle and back in time. So, we decided to turn around at 3 pm no matter how far or little we go.

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Credit: Goat Canyon Trestle, Anza-Borrego from coachellavalley.com

Besides not much of daylight we had to work with, we were clueless about how much scrambling and boulder hopping were ahead of us. And also we can’t forget about the strong wind that made our ascend to the top of the hill even worse.

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Up close and maybe personal?

We drove first through the wind turbine field, which was quite interesting to see them so closely.

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Panorama view of the wind farm

The wind already blew quite strong at this point.

You can hear how windy it was. But then again, the wind turbines were working just fine because of that.

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Tarantula crossing the dirt trail

Shortly before reaching the trailhead, we ran into this fella. It was pretty cool to see a tarantula like that big.

I would not dare mess with this guy.

And the next is the track of the hike that we did. See the full interactive track on Gaia GPS.

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From the stretched loop on the right part of the entire track in red, the upper line is the track of us scrambling up the rocks to climb the hill, and the bottom line is the one that we should’ve stayed in to go up along the creek, which we thankfully did on our way down. If you’d like to see the track closely or to download the GPX file, please visit the published page of the hike on Gaia GPS
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As we were getting closer to the top, the wind farm was getting smaller and smaller.

The entire area resembled Joshua Tree NP quite a bit.

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And we were at the top.

From the top of the hill, the view toward northeast was quite spectacular in spite of the fact that the elevation gain was only just over 1,200 feet. However, it was not the end of the hike. In fact, we barely scratched the surface. We now hiked along the ridge to the area where in retrospect we would’ve reached if we came straight up the creek.

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We called it the field of land mine of cacti…

While traversing, we came across the cactus mine field. It was pretty to look at first, but it turned out to be more than just a walk in the park.

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Ouch! And one of the cacti blew up at my angle… These needles were menacing!

We kept moving further in and reached the area where Goat Canyon started. We ran into a couple who came back up the canyon after camping at the trestle for the night before. It was quite impressive to see them scrambling up and down the boulders with the heavy backpacks on.

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The sun was setting, and the clouds looked like animated cotton candy.

After saying good-bye, we marched on for a bit, but the sun was setting quite fast, and about 15 minutes after we entered the canyon, it was quite clear to us that we would not be able to make it back out in daylight. So, it was disappointing and regrettable, but we decided to turn around.

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As we descended, the sunset glow accompanied us for a while. Of course, it soon got dark as the days were short in winter, even here in California, and we finished our hike in the dark.

As we were coming down the creek, my friend said, it was like non-technical dry canyoneering. Although I’ve never done canyoneering in my life, the way, which we did so much of boulder hopping and balancing, let alone climbing and jumping off so many rocks, reminded me of Falling Rock Canyon when I did my solo ECBOS hike.

We got separated toward the end while trying to figure out a way to scramble down the a portion of the trail. Thankfully, we were reunited back at the trailhead, but it was a good lesson for me to learn that we must stay close.

Overall, it was hardly strenuous, but scrambling rocks made it mildly difficult and absolutely intense.

 

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