Camelback Mountain is a stunner...
From its foothills to its peaks. On the ground or in the air. It's a site always imressing those who gaze upon it. Yet to hikers, this mountain is both beauty and beast.
Depending on fitness level, Camelback can be a brute of a hike.
While it may be considered an “urban hike”...
...in the heart of the city, wedged between fancy shmancy Old Town Scottsdale and the famous Biltmore Area...
...it’s still considered some of the most challenging hiking in Phoenix.
The trails are relatively short, but they’re steep... And they get those glutes and hammies firing almost instantly. But I wouldn’t let that stop you. Even if you’re a sedentary soul or the most casual sight see-er, I’d still drag that booty onto the mountain.
It’s worth it.
Hiking Camelback offers many rewards...
A 360 degree panorama at the summit.
And a sense of accomplishment... How can you beat that?
So, on that note... You have a few decisions to make before charging up the mountain (there are also some tricks of the trade that will make your hike much more pleasant).
I’d start by reading this page first, so you know which of the four trails will be a good fit for you. Then, I’d read my tips for hiking Camelback Mountain. After all, it's no skip in the park. It’s best to show up prepared.
Camelback Mountain is one of the most magnificent and prominent features of Scottsdale, Arizona. It's visible from almost anywhere in the valley.
Earning it's name due to it's unmistakable shape, it has very recognizable features including a head, two large humps and what we call "the saddle".
The summit is considered the highest point on the mountain, and peaks at 2,704 feet.
On the nose of the camel is another prominent feature. Notice the famous "Praying Monk" perched on the forehead of the camel?
There are a total of four hiking trails on Camelback Mountain.
I personally spend my time on the main two trails, Cholla and Echo Canyon, both of which lead to the summit. The other two are very short, do not reach the summit and therefore, are not worth it in my opinion. Go big or go home, right?
*Update, January 28, 2013: Echo Canyon Trail is temporarily closed. Info as to why, and when it will re-open can be found here.
There are major differences between the Cholla and Echo Canyon trails, with pros and cons to both. So how do you choose?
Echo Canyon is the most popular (and my personal favorite), but here is some information to help you decide which trail is right for you.
Cholla Trail starts at the tail of the camel. The trail winds its way up the first hump, down through the saddle, and finally up the second hump, peaking at the summit. It's a distance of approximately 1.5 miles one-way.
Echo Canyon trail starts from the opposite end, at the camel's nose. It leads up and around the head, over the neck and finishes with a steady climb to the summit. The distance is approximately 1.2 miles one-way.
While Echo Canyon trail is slightly shorter in distance, it is actually more difficult. I'll explain why in a minute.
Visually it is also much more beautiful than Cholla Trail. From start to finish, Echo Canyon is stunning. Cholla Trail is nice, but not as aesthetically rewarding in my opinion. It lacks the dramatic rock formations at the start, but does get more interesting the higher up you go.
Read on for more details on what you can expect from each trail.
So what makes Echo Canyon more difficult than Cholla Trail?
One word: Steepness.
See these stairs pictured on the left? Within 30 seconds of starting the trail, hikers are greeted by them. Echo Canyon is a bit unforgiving in that way.
There is no gradual start. It's an instantaneous, get your game face on cause I'm gonna make you feel the burn, kind of trail. And it stays that way all the way up the mountain, right to the summit.
The stairs aren't there for long, but hikers trade them for steps up large rocks and boulders the rest of the way.The experience is very similar to a stair-climber at the gym, but much prettier. It's a sweat-fest, but my friends and I - and many others - love it. Feel the burn, baby!
Besides the stairs, I usually hear people talk about the "pole" section. And I can understand why. When seeing it for the first time, it can seem a bit intimidating. The area is very steep, so a pole has been installed to aid hikers in their climb.
When you come upon it, fear not. It's much easier than it looks.
Below are more pictures of Echo Canyon Trail, so you can get a better idea of the terrain.
Hiking Cholla Trail offers a much different experience, physically and visually, than Echo Canyon. While it is the less difficult of the two, it is still considered challenging. But the views are not as impressive.
There are a few upsides to hiking Cholla Trail, however. It is much easier to find parking, and the trail starts at a much more moderate pace.
Hikers who are after convenience and a slightly easier trail usually choose Cholla.
Look for the Blue Dot
For the most part, the trail is pretty straightforward. However, there are parts to Cholla Trail that can get confusing. I learned this the hard way my very first hike up Camelback Mountain.
Once hikers pass the saddle and begin to ascend the final hump, the trail narrows and switches from dirt to granite, making it look like the path has disappeared. You'll find yourself staring at a short climb up a rock face, with drop-offs on either side.
It's not very clear where to head.
If you find yourself confused, Plan A would be to ask an experienced hiker to show you the way. Usually the mountain is busy enough that someone will be right behind you.
Or Plan B, you can look for the blue dots.
Blue dots are painted along the trail where the path gets confusing. If you see a blue dot, you know you're headed in the right direction.
If you see a small yellow sign like the one below, it means you're headed in the wrong direction.
Once you've reached this point, you'll be using a lot of the hands-and-feet action to scale some granite. But once you get through these narrow patches, you'll be so close to the summit, you'll be tasting victory and standing on top of Camelback Mountain.
shoes are always covered in Camelback dust. Just as I pull them out to
clean them off, my friends and I drag ourselves out for another hike.
We can't seem to stay away. And neither can the other locals.
Ready to hike Camelback Mountain? Check out my tips for hiking Camelback Mountain and how to manage the messy parking situation.