Camelback Mountain resembles a camel at rest in the Sonoran Desert. The “head” of the camel is made up of red sandstone. Its “hump”, the peak of the mountain, is a granite formation that rises 2,704 feet (824 meters) above sea level. This makes it the highest mountain in Phoenix with one of the best panoramic views in Arizona.Walking or climbing the trails is a popular half-day trip.
For millions of years the huge landform stood deserted until the Hohokam people took up residence here in the first century. They abandoned the site some 1,450 years later for unknown reasons. The ceremonial cave they left behind gave Camelback its folk name: Sacred Mountain. Today, hundreds of thousands of hikers tackle the slopes each year.
To reach the summit, you have to ascend roughly 1,200 feet (365 meters) from the base at Echo Canyon. Steep narrow paths and rough surfaces can make it a challenge, especially on hot days. The Echo Canyon Summit Trail, a 2.3-mile (3.7-kilometer) round trip, is one of the more strenuous. The longer Cholla Trail is more gradual, but joins up with the final steep section of the Summit Trail. It is worth the effort to get a 360-degree view over the Valley of the Sun. Allow a few hours for the return trip. Watch out for snakes and sharp rocks, wear adequate clothing and carry your water on your back because you’ll need your hands for climbing.
There are plenty of great ascents for rock climbers. After a relaxing walk with a view, try one of the trails around Camelback’s base. Check out the rugged landscape of cacti, wildflowers, gardens of lichens, and rocks that have been beaten into a myriad of shapes by millennia of erosive forces.
Camelback Mountain is a 25-minute drive northeast of downtown. Come early, because parking near the base is very limited.
Please note that in January 2013 work began on an upgrade of the Summit Trail, Echo Canyon Recreation Area, parking area and restrooms, making future access easier but closing the trail for a large part of the year.