9 Tips For Hiking Camelback Mountain in Phoenix
Discover why the hike on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix is considered one of the best urban hikes in Arizona. A hard hike, but worth the effort for the panoramic views and to say you made it to the top.
It is a popular hike for locals and tourist in the Phoenix area, but can be dangerous when caution isn’t used. Below is a list of 9 Tips for Hiking Camelback Mountain in Phoenix and making your trek up enjoyable.
Table of Contents
Choose Which Trail Is Best To Hike
To get to the top of Camelback, you will need to pick which side to hike. On the north west side of the mountain will be the Echo Trail, while the eastern side has the Cholla Trail. Most people agree that the Cholla trail is considered to be the easier of the two trails.
The Echo section has restrooms at the beginning trailhead, a shorter hike at 1.2 miles, and is considered to be steeper. The opposite can be said for the Cholla trail. In fact, do not expect any restrooms on this trail. Instead, expect to hike 1.5 miles on a gradual steep incline with a rock scramble at the end.
- Park Website: City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation
- Park Phone #: 602-262-6011
- Camelback Mountain in Phoenix Trail Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
- Echo Trail Location: 4925 E. McDonald Dr.
- Cholla Trail Location: 6131 E. Cholla Ln. but you will want to park on 64th street.
Make Sure You Can Hike It
A problem with the hike on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix is that some people underestimate it. There is a reason it is rated as moderate to hard. Yes, the views are awesome and the location is perfect to see the whole valley, but getting to the top can be a challenge.
Know your limits and do not try to push past those limits. The hike involves a climb up a steep mountain where you will need to use your hands, feet, and butt in some cases. Imagine hiking 1.2 to 1.4 miles over 1,200 feet up a rocky mountain. Now that is a workout!
For those who do not think this is the best hike for you, then check out Papago Park, Phoenix, Arizona for other options. They have a great place to see the sunset at hole in the rock, next to the Phoenix Zoo.
The Cholla Trail is a little easier with a more gradual climb than the Echo Trail.
Know Where To Park
This is actually an important factor to think about. If you park in the wrong area you will either get towed or a ticket. Parking can be a problem during the busy times on the weekend and during the spring months when Phoenix has an increase in events. All parking is free, so it’s just finding a spot that you need to worry about.
The Echo Trail has a wonderful parking lot off of East McDonald Drive. Parking here is limited, so come early. If you see the parking lot filled, do not attempt to park in the surrounding neighborhoods. You will get towed!
Coming later in the day and think you won’t get parking, then grab a ride share and be dropped off instead. Try Uber or Lyft. Another important thing to note is the Rangers are strict with parking. Staying past sunset and plan to see a ticket.
For the Cholla trail, do not park on Cholla lane or get dropped off anywhere on this street. If you get caught, you will be ticketed. Instead, park on 64th street (Invergordon Road). This option also allows for you to not worry about being ticketed after sunset if you are taking a little linger.
Be careful and do not park or get dropped off on Cholla Lane. You or your driver can get ticketed.
Wear Correct Shoes
Oh boy, this one is something I tell everyone visiting Arizona. It can be amazing how many people try to hike with sandals on or tennis shoes with no grip. Every time my wife and I do this hike, we always see people slipping on the gravel due to poor shoe choice or in some cases some getting hurt by slipping on the rocks.
Honestly, shoe choice should be on the top of the list, along with water, for when it comes to being prepared for this hike. There will be a lot of scrambling up rocks, so having a good grip is necessary. Below are the hiking shoes we use personally when hiking in the Arizona desert and love them.
Prepare For Extreme Weather
For most of the year, Phoenix has very pleasant weather that makes it perfect for outdoor activities. When the summer months hit, the temperatures can increase dramatically. Camelback is located in the northeastern part of Phoenix, which is in a dry desert.
Staring around the end of May, when the temperatures start to rise you need to be extra cautious. There is little shade on the trail, expect for during the morning when some parts will see it. Anything over 80°F and you should plan to have extra water, extra time to hike, and proper cloths to keep you cooled off.
Look at the temperature and if it is over a 100°F, then it is best to not do the hike. The hot rocks mixed with a strenuous climb is a recipe for heatstroke. This is were it can get dangerous for people who do not take enough water or hike when it is too hot.
Another time to be careful is during the monsoon season, during the later summer months. We have haboos (dust storms) that can easily roll in on a short noticed. Along with this, we can have heavy rain, microburst with hail, and wind during a monsoon storm.
Pretty wicked to see, but not when you are trying to climb up rocks. If you are around when it rains, take a look by the Praying Monk area on the north west side of the mountain. You will see small waterfalls coming off of the mountain.
During monsoon season, there are chances of heavy rains along with haboos rolling in. If you see a haboo (dust storm) coming in, stop your hike and head back down to safety.
Extra Water Is Important
It is recommended to take at least 1 liter of water when hiking Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. Smart choice is to take more than that. The desert is dry and can be easy for you to get dehydrated from not drinking enough. Take a backpack with you to carry the water so your hands are free to help you climb.
It can be amazing how many people try this hike and only carry a small water bottle thinking that will be enough. Every year, during the hot months, there are stories of experienced hikers who die from either dehydration or heat stroke. Do not be one of these people.Take extra water!
Take A Pair Of Gloves
Yeah, not too many people do this one, but they should. The Echo trail has a big section with railings to help you climb up the rock face. These rails can get very hot when the weather starts to heat up. Also it is a great idea to have gloves to help when you have to pull yourself up on some of the rocks.
Just imagine trying to climb up using the rails on the Echo Trail when it is hot out. Those rails will get hot very fast and so will the rocks. For your safety, try to hike in early morning and take a pair of gloves to protect your hands.
Stay On The Trail
Living close to Camelback, gives me and my wife the view of rescue helicopters throughout the year. The two main factors associated with people getting hurt or killed is the extreme heat and going off trail. Stay on the marked trail. It can be easy to slip off a boulder and fall.
There have been deaths when people stray from the trails. On the Echo trail, about 230 feet up you will come to a sign showing warning info. You can read about Clint McHale who was a avid hiker, but sadly slipped and died from falling when he went off trail.
It can happen to the most experienced. Camelback is popular not only for hikers, but climbers as well. Even my wife got stuck on Camelback once when her hair was caught in her repelling gear. Let’s just say it was a very slow night for the news channel and due to it we have an awesome VHS tape with a segment on her being rescued. So, stay on the trail and watch your footing, you do not want to end your vacation early.
The beginning of each trail has great signage to help you stay on the correct trail. Once you get towards the top, make sure to pay attention to the markings. If it looks to be the wrong way, turn around and go back. Do not risk taking the wrong path.
Avoid The Crowds
Large crowds can take the enjoyment out of hiking this trail. It can also prevent you from finding parking for both trails.
The best time of year to hike Camelback Mountain in Phoenix is during the fall and spring months. During this time, the Phoenix temperatures are wonderful with highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s. The weather is perfect with few storms present.
To avoid the large crowds, it is best to go first thing in the morning. The parking lot opens at sunrise. Try to get here around then or no later than 9 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends. Standing for a parking space or waiting for one is prohibited and they will enforce it at the Echo parking lot.
Planning on coming during February to March time, then you will see increased crowds. Our city has the Phoenix Open, Barrett Jackson Auto Auction, Spring Training, and more. So the hotels along with the trails will be filled up more than usual. I have seen the Echo lot filled up by 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday during this time, so plan accordingly.
Use The Restroom Beforehand
For most, it will take 2 to 3 hours to hike up Camelback and back down. The only restroom they have is located at the beginning of the Echo trailhead. Make use of these facilities before taking off, because there will not be any other opportunities on the hike.
The Cholla trailhead is very simple and dose not have any restroom facilities present. Since the area is full of private houses, it can be challenging to find a place to go beforehand. If you are driving over and need a bathroom, then stop at the Circle K on the corner of 44th Street and East Camelback Road. Another option is if you are coming from Scottsdale, then stop at the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall on East Camelback Road and North Scottsdale Road.
A Few Extra Tips
- During the month of December, if you hike up, you will see a Christmas Tree that you can get a picture with that is brought up each year by volunteers.
- Want to see some of the wildlife that lives on the mountain, then go early on the Cholla Trail. Since this trail is less crowded you will have a better chance to see some animals.
- Look out for the Harris Antelope Squirrel, Road Runners, Quails, and in very few cases, Rattlesnakes.
- Camelback Mountain in Phoenix became a City Park in 1968, which has stopped anymore houses being built farther up the mountain.
- The “Praying Monk” section is located at the eyebrow of the camel.
- There were actual Camels in the Arizona desert that were brought over in 1856 to help with surveying teams, freight haulers, and more. They were ideal since they could adapt to the little vegetation present and they could pull more weight, over a longer distance than other animals. This is not why Camelback was named as it was. The mountain was named Camelback due to the two humps present and resembling a Camel.
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