Top Five Tips for Hiking Camelback Mountain


Bev is the co-founder of Staying Native. She left her corporate gig to be able to travel more with her young family. She loves traveling and likes to share her local experiences with others. As an amateur photographer, her stories come with lots of pictures. Bev is Staying Native's lead tweep, moderator of the "Do it like a local" blog and the curator of all things social media.

Camelback Mountain is an icon and a central element of the Phoenix skyline.  Reminiscent of a camel lying down, you can’t miss it when taking off or landing at Sky Harbour Airport, or driving through the city.  Naturally, hiking up Camelback Mountain is extremely popular, especially in the winter and spring, when the temperatures aren’t too hot in this part of the Sonoran Desert. 

I’ve been to the Phoenix area a number of times before this visit and hiked many of the great trails in the area.  On this trip, I decided that Camelback would be on my must hike list.

Here are my top five tips for hiking Camelback Mountain.

1. It’s beautiful, but might be more strenuous than you expect

There are two well-marked trails that lead to the summit – Echo Canyon Summit Trail and Cholla Trail, which are open from sunrise to sunset.  On a cautionary note, both of these trails are marked double black diamond and therefore are not recommended for young children or those who are uncomfortable climbing exposed rock faces with potential drop.  On the hike you will gain 1200 feet in elevation, to arrive at the summit height of 2704 feet.

As noted on the City of Phoenix site, “Nearly everyone who hikes Camelback Mountain for the first time reports that it was harder than they expected”.  We hiked the Cholla Trail, which is slightly longer but less technically challenging that the Echo Canyon Summit Trail.  My opinion?  Tough, but worth the effort.

2. Pick your day to visit and arrive early, especially on weekends

Parking is limited regardless of which trail you choose to tackle so it is best to arrive early.  Not only will you get a parking spot but you’ll be able to complete the hike before the heat of the day sets in.  Weekday afternoons are les busy than mornings and weekends, but even in the winter, it gets pretty hot since there is very little shade on the mountain.

The two hikes start from different sides of the mountain. Here's how to get there.

Echo Canyon Recreation Area

4925 E. McDonald Dr.
Driving map to the Park

There is a parking lot within the park.

Cholla Trail

6131 E. Cholla Lane
Driving map to Cholla Trail

Parking is on the west side of N Invergordon Rd, south of Cholla Ln.  Beware as you will be towed if you park illegally.

3. Take Breaks, Stay Hydrated and Bring Snacks

Despite that fact that we were passed by many, very fit people running up and down the mountain, we recommend taking lots of water and snacks on this hike.  Take as many breaks as you need.  We tried to stop in shade, when possible. 

4. Stay on the Trail

Follow the markers.  Not only does it help to protect the native plants and animals but the trails are the safest route up to the summit.  There were a couple of times when we accidentally ended up off the trail (because we were following the person in front of us).  These departures from the trail were the most challenging and life affirming parts of our ascent.  On the way back down from the summit we followed the marked trail and it was much less difficult (not to mention less scary).

5. Enjoy the Day

Most importantly have fun.  Take photos. Get some proof that you were there.

The scenery is spectacular but ensure you take a good look on the way up because on the way back you’ll be spending too much time looking down to make sure that you have proper footing.

And my personal favorite, take some time at the summit to appreciate the fantastic view of the city.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Want to share your travel stories and more?

We're looking for authentic travel experiences and local insight into your city to give fellow travelers the inside scoop.

Contact us at