Camelback Mountain: Phoenix landmark and hiking haven
Camelback Mountain is an iconic landmark located right in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona. Its unique shape with two humps and a head looks distinctly like a resting camel, hence the name. Camelback Mountain is surrounded by million dollar homes, many providing million dollar views in all direction of the Valley of the Sun. In the 1960s, thanks in part to Senator Barry Goldwater, the upper part of Camelback Mountain was preserved and made into a park in which hikers now have access.
Today, there are more homes and resorts than ever that encroach on the base of Camelback, however two areas give hikers and climbers access to the trails that lead to the top of the mountain, which provide stunning 360 degree views of the Phoenix Metro area. The first, and more popular, is Echo Canyon. Just a few years ago this area was expanded and beautified, now accommodating 135 parking spots, along with bathrooms and improved signage.
Visiting and climbing to the top of Camelback Mountain is almost a rite of passage when living in the Phoenix area. The mountain is also one of the most popular tourist attractions for out-of-town visitors. This hike however is not a casual stroll, it’s steep and requires physical endurance to scramble and scale to the summit, including hand-over-hand climbing. That said, those just wanting to get a view of the city, or want to make their climb less strenuous, certainly can do so by hiking two lower trails that also offer some pretty delightful views. Those heading to the summit will see dozens of Hohokam caves and intermediate free-climbing boulders.
WHEN HIKING CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN, THERE ARE TWO TRAIL HEADS AVAILABLE
- The most popular of the two trail heads is Echo Canyon (map). This summit trail is 1.2 miles round trip, but is very steep in some areas and requires the assistance of handrails in some spots. You will find once you reach the summit, that the 360-degree views was worth the effort.
- Cholla Trail (map) is the other trail head and it is located on the eastern side of the mountain. This trail is about 1.5 miles long and is more steady. I personally prefer the Echo Canyon trail better, however the Cholla Trail is less crowded and provides a different experience for those who may tire of Echo Canyon. Parking is also not easy on this side as there is no dedicated lot, but rather you must park on the street some distance from the trail head.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN
- Highest peak in Phoenix with an elevation: 2,704 feet (aprox. 1300′ vertical slope gain in just 1.2 miles).
- Fastest Echo Canyon ascent time ever recorded was by a 19 year old male at 16:02.
- Fastest Echo Canyon ascent time ever recorded by a woman was by a 45 year old at 21:30.
- My fastest time was 23:06 minutes, when I was about 26. Average time is over an hour.
- 750,000 people attempt to climb Camelback each year.
TIPS WHEN VISITING CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN
- During peak seasons and times of the day, parking can be a challenge, so bring some patience. The busiest times are during the cooler months from November through April, between mid-morning and early afternoon and all day on the weekends. If you don’t wish to wait for a parking spot, here are some suggestions. Ride a bike to the trailhead. Motorcycle parking is also much easier. Or, take an Uber or if staying at a hotel, see if the transportation department can drop you off.
- Even in the cooler month, don’t forget to bring plenty of water. Turn back when you’ve consumed 1/2 of your water supply, especially in the warmer months. Bring a few snacks like frozen grapes, bananas and nutrition bars.
- You should plan 2-3 hours to park and hike to the summit and back.
- Wear sunscreen! Not a lot of shade.
Have you ever hiked Camelback? If so, share your experience or additional tips by leaving a comment below.