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Get Your Hike on at Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona

A top 10 TripAdvisor tourist hot-spot – for good reason!

Camelback Mountain, regular ranked a top US hiking destination, reigns over the Paradise Valley, a gentle monarch blessing her subjects with breathtaking views. But only if they’re brave enough to climb to the top. It’s a double black diamond rated trail, which means hikers should anticipate intense elevation changes over extremely uneven footing. As well, there is a lot of climbing required, some of it alongside sheer drop-offs.

sweeping views from the summitWith all the challenges of Camelback, it’s a popular hiking destination for locals and tourists alike. Located in the Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon Recreation Area between Phoenix, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, it’s perfectly positioned to give hikers a 360 view of the entire area. Camelback became a Phoenix city park in 1968 and hiking it is one of the top 10 things to do in Phoenix according to TripAdvisor. 

I'm ready for this!The mountain’s name comes from the unique silhouette it casts on the valley’s skyline. Contrasting rates of erosion have created even more dramatic camel-like slopes. In 1968, the Preservation of Camelback Mountain Foundation, led by Barry Goldwater, began putting guidelines in place to restrict development near the mountain. Much of the mountain was already surrounded by residential homes though, which limited the number of large animals inhabiting the mountain. Smaller animals, such as rabbits, lizards, antelope squirrels, a variety of birds, and of course snakes (including venomous rattlesnakes), are seen regularly.

My Camelback Mountain climbing story

oh boy, what am I in for??I’ve been to Phoenix numerous times and have wanted to climb it since my first visit more than 10 years ago. Until recently, it was a bucket-list item that kept getting pushed down in favor of other activities, like hot air ballooning. But an extended business trip and a morning with nothing to do suddenly appeared – and I jumped at the chance.

The best time (in my opinion) to hike Camelback is at sunrise, which for me, meant arriving at the mountain by 5 am. The limited parking that is available is strictly enforced and if the spots are full, idling (or circling nearby streets) is strictly enforced by a cruiser that seems to sit there 24/7.

I hiked the Cholla Trail but you might choose to hike Echo Canyon Trail, which has a parking lot, restrooms at the trailhead and is a less steep climb. Both trails are challenging but the climb on Cholla is very steep and there is a lot of loose gravel, which made the terrain even trickier.

  • after the first mile ...Cholla Trail – Challenging hike with expansive views of Scottsdale and Phoenix. The first mile or so is trail hiking but once you reach the saddle, the hike is more intense and turns into a scramble for the final stretch. There is more wildlife on Cholla and I was very watchful – pretty sure I heard at least one snake.
  • Echo Canyon Trail – Begins steep for the first 3/8 mile and the first set of railroad ties is the steepest and most difficult. The next stretch is less intense with low-grade elevations but the trail is composed of large rocks and becomes steeper toward the summit.

Regardless of which trail you choose, bring your phone (for safety) and for pictures. There are an astounding number of spots to snap pictures.

Don’t become a hiking statistic

caution and commitmentMore than 200 hikers are rescued annually from trails in Phoenix and many of those rescues could be prevented with better planning. Follow these tips to help you stay safe:


  1. Watch the weather – Early mornings are cool and evenings can provide shade – but heat can be overwhelming during the day (especially in the summer). It might be a dry heat, but it’s also a killer heat when you’re hiking.
  2. Outfit yourself – Wear proper hiking shorts and shoes, use sunscreen and bring lots of water.
  3. amazing gifts along the way!Team up – Hiking with a friend or group is safest but if you must hike alone, carry a phone and ensure someone knows when you started the trail and when you plan to be finished.
  4. Check yourself – If you have a pre-existing medical condition, rethink your decision to hike this mountain. There are helicopter pads up there for emergencies but they shouldn’t be used for accidents that don’t need to happen.
  5. Stay on the trails – Stay on course to preserve the wildlife and your safety. If you fall off the beaten path, your chances of being rescued are seriously diminished.
  6. Pack out what you packed in – Don’t be a jerk and litter.

Have you ever hiked Camelback Mountain? Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook – and let’s continue the conversation!

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