The Carrizo Gorge wilderness area contains some of the most striking desert views you’ll see anywhere. Located in the extreme southeast of San Diego county, it borders on Anza-Borrego state park.

One of the best ways to view this area is by riding along side (and occasionally on top of) an old railway line. The railway line has a long and storied history. It was a nightmare to construct, and various owners have had an impossible time making any money on it ever since.

Anyone thinking about doing this ride should be aware that its legality is at best questionable. There have been groups of riders given trespassing citations. Others have been told by railway employees to go ahead and enjoy the ride. At present, the trains are not running as there is too much work that needs to be done on the tracks to make it safe.

The ride is also the site of the famous “penalty for failure” incident:

It’s hard not to think of that video when you ride Carrizo Gorge, but you don’t actually have to ride the section of trail where the crash took place unless you want to.

Besides the stunning desert scenery, Carrizo Gorge is famous for its wooden trestle bridges, and you don’t go far before having to ride across them. Here’s my riding buddy crossing one of the first ones:

jacek 1

The other distinguishing feature of this ride is the number of tunnels you ride through. Some of them are long enough that you have to take lights on the ride. It’s pitch black in the middle of some of them. Here’s one of the first and shorter ones:

tunnel 1

Along the way you see a number of abandoned railway cars:

abandoned cars

The route continues, and gets progressively more dramatic as you go on:

carrizo 1

That’s a tunnel entrance you can see way in the distance:






Finally you come to the most famous trestle, the largest wooden trestle in the world:

goat trestle

We decided to turn back at this point. On the way back, a few of my riding buddies decided to ride the famous Miles Todd crash trail (see video above). It’s basically a bypass to one of the longer tunnels. I decided not to ride it as I don’t like trails with lots of exposure, and it’s hard to get that crash video out of your head!


All in all, Carrizo Gorge is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime type of ride. That said, I won’t be riding it often since I’m not keen on possibly getting a ticket from the railroad or, worse, getting my bike seized.

If you feel like relaxing after the ride, you can always visit the nudist colony one the way out!

nudist colony