Camelback Mountain was the only thing left to do on my Phoenix bucket list, so naturally this was the first thing we had planned to do. We arrived in Phoenix, called an Uber, checked into our hotel then headed directly for the mountain.
Camelback Mountain is located in Echo Canyon Recreation Area, about 20 minutes from Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. Its name is derived from its shape, which resembles the hump and head of a kneeling camel. A 360- view of the surrounding mountain landscape and bird’s-eye views of Phoenix and Scottsdale neighborhoods await anyone who takes the strenuous hike to the 2,680 foot summit. It is not recommended that people hike this mountain during the summer months, in the afternoon because of the extreme heat and minimal shade available on the trail. Since we visited in early May, we were lucky enough to have a light breeze and high 70 degree weather during our hike.
There are two different routes to the summit; Echo Canyon trail and Cholla trail. We decided to take Echo Canyon up, which is the harder, more popular trail. It ascends about 1,300 feet up the western side of the mountain in 1.23 miles. We quickly realized why this is such an extreme hike. The incline began immediately and only got worse as the hike went on. After the first 3/8 of a mile, we came to the insane incline with rails to help you climb. This is the steepest and most difficult part of the trail because the rock face is smooth and heavily angled. The second rail is less intense, but still got our legs burning. There are no rails past this point, but don’t think it’s any less exciting. The remaining .8 miles of the trail consists of large rocks, phenomenal views and a continued steep grade until you reach the summit. One of the most fun things about this hike was “creating your own path” up the rocks. My brother was the designated leader, since he sped up the rocks with what seemed to be minimal effort. He would lay out the path and then guide us from the top as he waited for us to catch up to him.
After about an hour, we finally saw a large group of people, and knew we had reached the summit. The hike was well worth the strain, as the views from the top were unbelievable. There is plenty of space at the top of the mountain to find your own area to relax, take some photos, and enjoy the views.
Since we had the luxury of not having a car, we decided to take the Cholla trail back down, so we could say we thru-hiked Camelback Mountain. Cholla trail is 1.42 miles and gains about the same elevation as Echo Canyon trail. We thought this would be a better idea coming down the mountain since it wouldn’t be as steep. This is the less popular of the two trails on Camelback, and small handful of people we saw confirmed that fact. Nevertheless, the eastside trail did not disappoint. Unlike the Echo Canyon trail, the Cholla trail lead us on the ridgeline of the mountain, so it was open and gave us a beautiful view of the city’s around us the entire way down.
The Camelback Mountain hike is truly incredible. The hike tests your strength and stamina, and rewards you with amazing views and accomplishment. It is a 'must-do' in the Scottsdale area.