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After a number of years of Closed: No Trespassing the Forest Service must have worked out some kind of deal. The signs are gone, and the trail is no longer obstructed. Oddly enough, though, the new Forest Service carbonite trailhead signage is over in the mouth of Marble Canyon, one drainage over from the Goat Springs wash drainage. The old trail began at the mouth of the Goat Springs Wash and worked its way up the left side of the canyon, climbing very steeply out of that cut with exceptional views of the waterfall gorge.
It appears that the Forest Service wants everyone to use the old horse trail path (shown on the MyTopo map as the trail) from the mouth of Marble Canyon. Bad choice. That would include taking off to the south and east up the paved roadway of a gated community, then when that pavement turns and angles back to the east, continue angling up and south around the ridge, where you would run into the "real" trail up by the mansion on the rock. Do not use that route. You would miss all the greatest drama of the hike; the views of the falls.
Instead, start your ascent about .5 miles further south. The dirt track just adjacent to and east of the bridge that crosses the aquaduct at the east end of Desert Foothills Park. That is the beginning of the real trail. From there you will climb steeply and steadily up and around into a side canyon cut, above the drainage on the left. Be cautious in the first half mile... the narrow path does have a potential slip and slide fall for someone not paying close attention to the trail. It is a well worn trail; do not be tempted to follow any of the numerous side paths directly up the steep sides.
After you climb on up to the ridge, moving past the mansion and above the falls, you will encounter Goat Springs. Either the spring right there at the head of the waterfall or the one back up the cut will usually always have some water.
The trail continues to climb steeply for most of the rest of the way up and on to The Mesa. There will be a couple of brief reprieves, but for most of the real trail section you will be moving at an average of around 800' per mile. Stay with the well worn path. There are a couple of less worn tracks leading off to the right (people drifting over to ledges for city views) but you will realize fast that you are off track if you wander far.
The trail terminates up on The Mesa at around 5900'. Once there you can enjoy the very nice loop hike around the cliff edges (Mesa Loop Trail) or explore the central ridges (Little Peak and Big Peak) or hike on up the ridge to Hershberger Peak.
You may also enjoy a nice off trail alternative descent down and around through RockaChucky Wash.
The Mesa provides the easiest, nicest and most readily available area for an overnight backpack from Alamogordo.
As you draw close to the cleft in The Mesa cliffs, you will have great views of Marble Canyon down below, and particularly the upper portions of the two upper ends of the south canyon cuts.
Note: your hiking mileage will depend on where you choose to park and being this hike...
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Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.