Taiwanese-American blogging about his travels outdoors and occasionally his thoughts on life.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hiking Camelback Mountain, Paradise Valley, AZ

Caution: hiking Camelback Mountain during the summer is not a joke. Bring an abundance of water. Do not underestimate this hike.

Trail Description

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 Mountain is one of the most iconic hikes in 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, age, 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 hike is either in the early morning (6-8am at trailhead) or in the evening (after 5pm). But even then, you have to be careful. People underestimate how difficult Camelback is due to its trail length; but 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 and mindful of how much water to bring.

In the winter however, any time is fine. Remember to still bring water though. Cooler temperatures can trick you into thinking you're not as thirsty as you should be.

The 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 should be at the trail-head. The entrance 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 Camelback, but no longer. This change came for a number of reasons. For one, the trail isn't large enough to always accommodate pets and humans safely. Occasionally unleashed dogs would go dangerously off trail or force their way past hikers. For another, dogs would sometimes respond uncomfortably to the proximity of either other dogs or humans. People were also having issues keeping their pets safely hydrated.

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 trail begins right alongside one of the golf course holes and affords a nice view over some neighborhoods.

Very quickly though, you'll find yourself fixated on the path ahead of you as the effects of the incline hit your legs.

Along the way up, there will be a few "rest" spots that you can stop at. But be warned, 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.

It might be worth it to take these rest stops as an opportunity to look around. Remind yourself why you're suffering and you may find yourself surprisingly refreshed. Or not.

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.
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