Sunday, February 12, 2017
Hiking Camelback Mountain, Paradise Valley, AZ
Caution: hiking Camelback Mountain during the summer is not a joke. You absolutely need an abundance of water despite how short this hike it, both for you and your dog. Do not underestimate this hike during the summer.
Length: 2.6 miles round trip
Trailhead Elevation: -- ft.
End Elevation: -- ft.
Elevation Change: 1253 feet
Difficulty Assessment: Medium
Trail Type: Out and Back
Camelback is one of the most iconic hikes of Phoenix. Located in the city of Paradise Valley, Camelback's popularity seems to stem from its centralized location in the valley, its balance between difficulty and time required to complete the hike, and of course, the view.
All throughout the week, the trail can be seen teeming with hikers of all shapes and sizes.
There are two ways to approach the hike: the Cholla Trail and the Echo Canyon Trail. Which one is tougher seems to depend on who you ask. For this particular post, I will be talking about the Cholla Trail.
During the summer, the best time to go hiking is either in the early morning (6-8am at trailhead) or in the evening (after 5pm). Even then, you have to be careful. I cannot stress this enough with this hike. People often underestimate how difficult Camelback is due to its trail length. It's not the length you need to be wary about, it's the extreme heat, the lack of shade, and crowds that make this a difficult hike. Be diligent in your preparation.
In the winter however, any time is fine for this hike.
To get to the Cholla Trail trailhead, you need to park on North Invergordon/N. 64th Rd (they are the same road, depending on which direction you are coming from).
Park anywhere between East Jackrabbit Rd and Camelback Rd. Pay attention to the signs.
Once you've parked, walk towards East Cholla Lane and turn in. After a 5 minute walk or so, you'll be at the trailhead. It should be next to a golf course hole.
Over the years, the city has done an amazing job of making the hike safer for all its visitors. Not only are the trails more clearly marked, but an abundance of warning signs have been posted to better educate hikers.
Dogs used to be allowed on trail, but too many irresponsible owners ruined it for everyone. Who would have thought that dogs needed a lot of water too when it's hot?
The trail itself is very straightforward and practically the entire hike is at an incline. Losing the trail should not be an issue at all. Even in absence of all the hikers, you would have to try hard to get lost. The beginning of the trail brings you right alongside one of the golf course holes and affords a nice view over some neighborhoods.
Quickly however, the majority of your view then becomes the path ahead of you pointed up.
Along the way up, there are a few, flat, resting spots you can stop at. There is very little shade at any of these "rest" spots. In the winter, this isn't an issue, but during the summer it can be.
Take these rest stops as an opportunity to look around, enjoy the view, and remind yourself why you're suffering. It may be refreshing!
At some point in the hike, there will be some scrambling involved. This takes place in the final 20% of the hike. I don't feel like it's overtly difficult, but it may test some people and what they're comfortable with. At this stage of the hike, it is not uncommon to see a line of hikers being held up by one or two hikers scared of climbing down or experiencing some difficultly pulling themselves up.
Once you've hit the part with the scrambling, you probably have only an additional 10-15 minutes more of hiking until the top.
There at the top: enjoy the view, have some lunch, take some selfies, and start planning who to bring the next time you attempt the hike.