Hiking Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain Hiking Trails

Camelback Mountain is among the most recognizable natural landmarks in the Phoenix and Scottsdale area. The mountain, which is actually two different rock formations that formed separately hundreds of millions of years apart from each other, gets its name from its unique, humpbacked shape. Camelback Mountain sits literally in the middle of Phoenix’s urban landscape between Phoenix and Scottsdale. Located inside Loop 101 just north of Interstate 10, Camelback Mountain is convenient to hotels and resorts.

Camelback Mountain is one of the two most popular hiking places in the Valley of the Sun. It is conveniently located in the heart of the city on the borders of Phoenix, Paradise Valley, and Scottsdale. Those that reach the 2,704-foot summit are rewarded with great panoramic views across the Phoenix Valley.

hiking on Camelback Mountain.
Hiking on Camelback Mountain by Take A Hike Arizona is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are two hiking trails. Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail. Both are strenuous and difficult with areas requiring some boulder scrambling. Echo Canyon is steeper and the Cholla Trailhead is slightly longer.

Caution. Hikers should not attempt climbs to the summit unless they are experienced and in good health. Every year there are many rescues of those not in shape or that venture from the designated trails. There are shorter, easy sections, so inexperienced hikers can limit hikes to the early segments. The summer heat can be dangerous and hikes should only be attempted very early or late in the evening. Plenty of water and good hiking shoes or boots are required.

Urban Hiking with a View

With its convenient location in the heart of the city, Camelback Mountain is a popular urban hiking destination for visitors, providing several unique hiking trails that offer rewarding views of the city from many vantage points. Altogether, over 300,000 hikers from around the world hike Camelback Mountain each year to savor the serene tranquility of viewing the cityscape from the mountain’s perch at 2,700 feet.

Above all, soak up the majestic beauty. The stately Saguaro cacti, gorgeous wildflowers, sunrises, and sunsets. And respect the environment so all can enjoy the great Arizona outdoors.

Camelback Mountain trail map
trail map of Camelback Mountain

Overview of the hike and trail difficulty

Camelback Mountain is one of Arizona’s most iconic hikes, offering stunning views of the Phoenix metropolitan area. It is a popular destination for hikers, tourists, and locals alike, and can get quite crowded, especially during peak seasons. The mountain is named after its resemblance to a camel’s hump.

The hike is rated as difficult and is not recommended for beginners or those who are not physically fit. The trail is steep and rocky, with sections that require scrambling and climbing. Hikers should be prepared for a challenging ascent and descent and should wear appropriate footwear and clothing. It is also recommended to bring plenty of water and snacks, as the hike can take several hours to complete.

There are two main trails to hike Camelback Mountain: Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail. Echo Canyon Trail is the more popular of the two, with stunning views of the city and challenging sections that require scrambling up rocks. Cholla Trail is slightly less crowded, but still offers great views of the valley and is a slightly easier hike than Echo Canyon Trail.

If you are planning to hike on Camelback Mountain’s four different hiking trails, here is what you need to know:

Echo Canyon – Summit Trail

The Summit Trail, also known as Echo Canyon, offers hikers a more strenuous hiking experience that is rewarded with spectacular views. This 1.2-mile trail ascends 1,264 feet from its starting point, taking you to the summit of Camelback Mountain at an elevation of 2,704 feet above sea level. As you work your way up the mountain, you will enjoy spectacular views of sandstone rock formations and Phoenix’s cityscape stretching for miles into the horizon. To access this trail, enter Echo Canyon Parkway just east of Tatum Boulevard near McDonald Drive. Due to the popularity of this trail, it may be difficult to find a parking spot during the peak hours surrounding sunrise and sunset.

Camelback Mountain from Echo Canyon Trailhead
Climbing Camelback Mountain from Echo Canyon Trailhead by Al_HikesAZ is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
  • Trail Length: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,264 feet
  • Summit: 2,704 feet
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Open: Sunrise to sunset

Echo Canyon Trail Route

The Echo Canyon Trail is by far the most popular route up Camelback Mountain. This 1.23-mile trail is known for its challenging terrain and steep inclines, but the reward at the top is worth it. You’ll be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding desert landscape, and the city of Phoenix in the distance.

The trail begins with a series of switchbacks that lead you up the mountain. As you ascend, the terrain becomes rockier and more challenging. You’ll encounter sections of steep inclines, uneven steps, and some narrow passages that require a bit of scrambling.

Echo Canyon Trail
Echo Canyon Trail by Take A Hike Arizona is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

One of the most famous features of the Echo Canyon Trail is the “camel’s head” rock formation that you’ll encounter near the summit. This is a great spot to take a break, snap some photos, and take in the stunning views.

It’s important to note that the Echo Canyon Trail is a difficult hike, and not recommended for beginners or those with physical limitations. Proper footwear and plenty of water are essential, as the trail is steep and can be slippery in some sections.

Cholla Trail

Cholla Trail is the most strenuous hike on Camelback Mountain. This 1.5-mile trail takes you on a ruggedly steep incline up the south side of Cholla Lane. With its steep incline coupled with rocky outcroppings and sharp drop-offs on both sides of the trail, this trail is recommended for experienced hikers only. The trail features an elevation change of 1,200 feet and also takes you to the peak of the mountain.

Cholla Trail, Camelback Mountain
Cholla Trail, Camelback Mountain by andysternberg is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
  • Trail Length: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Open:
    Oct. 1 to April 30 th: 7:30 a.m-5: 30pm
    May 1 to Sept 30 th: 5:30 am- 7:30 pm

Cholla Trail route and what to expect

The Cholla Trail, also known as the Echo Canyon Trailhead, is one of the two popular hiking trails that lead to the summit of Camelback Mountain. The trail is approximately 1.5 miles long and has an elevation gain of about 1,200 feet.

The Cholla Trail is considered to be the less crowded of the two trails, making it a great option for those who want a more peaceful hiking experience. However, this trail is also known for being more difficult than the Echo Canyon Trail, with steeper inclines and more rugged terrain.

Hikers can expect to encounter rocky terrain, narrow paths, and steep drop-offs along the Cholla Trail. Proper hiking gear, including sturdy shoes with good grip, is essential for this trail. Hikers should also bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks as there is no water available on the trail.

The trail offers stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape, and hikers may even spot some of the local wildlife, such as bighorn sheep and rattlesnakes. The trail ends at the summit of Camelback Mountain, where hikers can take in panoramic views of Phoenix and the surrounding area.

Ramada Loop Trail

Visitors to Camelback Mountain can also enjoy an easy hike and great views on the Ramada Loop Trail. The Ramada Loop Trail covers a distance of just one-eighth of a mile, with an elevation change of one hundred feet. This short hike takes you on a short but scenic hike around a small ramada and butte and is also accessible from the Echo Canyon Summit Trail parking lot.

  • Trail Length: 0.125 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 100 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Open: Sunrise to sunset

Bobby’s Rock Trail

Bobby’s Rock Trail is among the easiest of Camelback Mountain’s four trails. This trail covers a total length of just a quarter-mile with an elevation change of two hundred feet, making it ideal for visitors who want to enjoy views from Camelback Mountain but have a limited amount of time available for more strenuous hiking. This trail is accessible from the Echo Canyon Summit Trail parking lot.

  • Trail Length: 0.25 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Open: Sunrise to sunset

Points of interest and photo opportunities on the hike

Camelback Mountain is not only a great hike to get some exercise and take in the beautiful scenery but also an opportunity to capture some breathtaking photos. The summit offers panoramic views of the Phoenix metropolitan area that will surely leave you awestruck.
As you make your way up the trail, there are several points of interest that you won’t want to miss. The first notable point is the Praying Monk, a rock formation that resembles a monk in prayer. This unique rock formation is a popular spot for hikers to take photos, and it’s easily accessible from the trail.

Praying Monk with Halo Camelback Mountain
Praying Monk with Halo Camelback Mountain by Striking Photography by Bo Insogna is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Another point of interest is the Saddle, the halfway point of the hike. The Saddle offers a great view of both sides of the mountain and is a popular spot for hikers to rest and take photos before continuing up to the summit.

Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape. The view is particularly stunning during sunrise and sunset, but any time of day will leave you in awe.

Parking and transportation options

Parking and transportation options for hiking Camelback Mountain are important to consider before embarking on your adventure. The parking lot at the trailhead is known to fill up quickly, especially during peak hiking season, which runs from October to April. Arriving early in the morning or late in the afternoon can help to avoid crowds and secure a parking spot.

If the parking lot is full, there are several alternative options to consider. The first option is to park in the surrounding neighborhoods, but be sure to read the signage carefully to avoid any fines. Another option is to take public transportation, such as the Valley Metro bus or light rail.

The bus has a stop located near the Echo Canyon Trailhead, while the light rail has stops near the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden, which are both located near the Cholla Trailhead. Many hotels also offer shuttle services to Camelback Mountain for their guests, so be sure to check with your accommodations if this is an option.

After the hike: nearby restaurants and attractions

After a strenuous hike up Camelback Mountain, you’ll be in need of some serious refueling. Luckily, the surrounding area has plenty of options to satisfy your hunger. Just a short distance from the trailhead, you’ll find the charming town of Paradise Valley, which boasts numerous restaurants serving up delicious cuisine.

One popular spot is The Henry, located on E. Camelback Road. This trendy eatery offers a variety of dishes, from avocado toast to grilled salmon, and has a laid-back atmosphere perfect for unwinding after a long hike.

Paradise Valley sunset
Paradise Valley sunset by Al_HikesAZ is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

For those looking for a more upscale dining experience, elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa is a must-visit. The restaurant features stunning views of the mountain, as well as a menu filled with innovative dishes inspired by local ingredients.

If you’re interested in exploring more of the area’s natural beauty, head over to the Desert Botanical Garden, located just a short drive away. This 140-acre garden boasts a stunning collection of desert flora, as well as rotating exhibits and events throughout the year.

Alternatively, for those seeking a more cultural experience, the Heard Museum is a must-see. This renowned institution is dedicated to showcasing the art and culture of the Southwest and features an impressive collection of Native American art, jewelry, pottery, and textiles.

Share on: