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Camelback Mountain - Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Summary: A popular, short, steep climb to the top of Camelback Mountain. It's best to get an early start if you want to find a parking space. The hike also gives you the opportunity to practice your trail etiquette: descending yields to ascending, slower yields to faster, those with dogs yield to all.
Directions: There are two trailheads and several ways to get to each. Here's one route:
Echo Canyon: The western and more popular trailhead since it has a parking lot. Take Route 101 to the McDonald exit. Follow McDonald Drive west for 5 miles and turn left (south) into Echo Canyon which has porta-potties.
Cholla Lane: The eastern trailhead. Take Route 101 to the MacDonald exit. Follow MacDonald Road west and turn left (south) onto Invergordan Road. Try to find a place to park on the side of the street near Cholla Lane. Walk up Cholla Lane to the trailhead.
There are probably other places in the area to park when the lot is full, but I'm afraid I don't do these city hikes regularly and am not sure where the alternate spots are located.
Alternative Parking: Park n' Hike is now offering a shuttle to the often full trailhead. Click here for more info.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car
Navigation: Easy
Length: 2.2 miles - Echo Canyon to the summit and back
2.8 miles - Cholla Lane to the summit and back
5 miles - Hike from one trailhead to the other and back again
Date Hiked: December 2004
Weather Conditions: Cool and cloudy
Required Skills: None
Hike Description: From the Echo Canyon Trailhead (0 miles, 1424 ft) pick up the wide, rocky Camelback Mountain Trail which heads to the summit. After a minute you'll pass a junction with the right branching Bobby's Rock Trail which is a short path which winds its way along the head of the camel and is probably used mostly by climbers to access routes along the cliff face. Continue straight at this junction, up a series of steps formed by railroad ties then travel between a fence line and cliff to a very steep section of trail which has handrails installed to assist with the climb. The path then breaks out onto an open ridge which it follows steeply up to the summit (1.1 miles, 2704 ft). The summit features 360 views of Phoenix as well as the brown cloud that covers the city like a warm, winter (albeit toxic) blanket. Most will turn around here. To continue on, the Cholla Trail follows the ridgeline to the southwest, descending moderately to steeply and is marked (rather unnecessarily) with blue dots. Be careful on the way down since the rocks are polished with use and covered with gravel that can roll beneath your feet. After descending the ridgeline, the path descends more moderately before eventually bending north to arrive at Cholla Lane (2.5 miles, 1424 ft). Return the way you came (5 miles).
Rating (1-5 stars):
I'm not a fan of these city hikes, so take the rating for what it's worth. The author hiked from Echo Canyon to Cholla Lane and back again, then out and back on the Bobby's Rock Trail in about 3 hours.
Maps: Beartooth Maps - Phoenix Area Mountain Parks
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

The steepest section. Steep climb towards the summit.

View of the city and the
brown cloud.
The ridgeline of the Cholla Trail.