If you’re crazy like us and don’t mind the Phoenix heat and want some amazing views of Phoenix then Camelback Mountain is the place to go. Don’t worry, we went early enough before it got too hot and we recommend doing the same or else you’re asking for a sunburn.
Camelback Mountain via Echo Canyon is located near Paradise Valley and is easily accessible for anyone in and or around Phoenix. Camelback is quite iconic because it truly looks like a camel’s back (hence the name) and you can see it from miles away which is pretty cool!
Be prepared to start early and to bring a lot of water! Even though it seems like it’s a short hike (7.7 km / 4.8 miles return) the Arizona heat and the steepness of the hike will exhaust you!
Camelback Mountain hike is a hard but rewarding one in the Phoenix area
The views at the end are totally worth it. You’ll get to see for miles and miles and you’ll see hills that look like anthills once you’re at the top of Camelback Mountain. The views are rewarding and there’s a reason why Echo Canyon Trail up to Camelback is such a busy trail.
You meet quite a few tourists hiking up to the top but you also get a lot of locals who do the trail as their daily morning cardio. We even met a guy who claimed to do it every single morning!
It’s quite a fun hike since you’re basically in the middle of the city with neighborhoods surrounding you on all sides. You sort of feel like you’re on top of the world because the desert is so flat and all you see is smaller hills all over the place. It’s very different from hiking in the Rocky Mountains or say Oregon. But very rewarding in its own way.
Instead of dealing with wildlife and extreme elements you are dealing with the heat and that is something you have to take super seriously. So that’s why we decided to start hiking up echo trail around 7 am instead of later in the day like we would other hikes.
We’d definitely rate the hike hard but manageable. You can see in recent years that due to the increase of hikers they have made the hike more people-friendly and have added railings and such in places you’d maybe have to scramble in the past. Don’t get us wrong, it’s still a hard hike with a bit of rock climbing, but it’s definitely doable for most people as long as you’re ok with the Phoenix heat bearing down on you. 😉
Camelback Mountain via Echo Canyon Trailhead
There are two starting points to hike up Camelback Mountain. We decided on the Echo Canyon Trail as our starting point since it was closer to our friend’s place. The Echo Canyon Trail car park is super convenient because there is a bathroom and water fountain at the beginning of the hike. So you can prepare yourself before climbing up to the top and once you’re back you can drench yourself in water to cool down!
The second trailhead is Cholla trailhead which we believe is just a car park. So depending on what part of town you come from you can pick whatever car park is more convenient for you. Some people also go from one side to the other and arrange a pick up after.
We personally recommend doing the Echo Canyon trailhead because of the way you hike up the mountain – this will give you more shade early in the morning.
Even if it’s for ¼ or ½ of the hike it makes a huge difference hiking in the shade as opposed to being directly in the sun. Either way, the hike is great and it’s at the top of our list for hiking in Phoenix.
Practical information about Echo Canyon Trail via Camelback Mountain
Distance: 7.7 km return / 4.8 miles return
Elevation: 798 m / 2618 ft. elevation gain
Type: Out and back
Length: 2-3 hours return
Difficulty: Hard (Because of the heat and elevation)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Here’s a map of the beginning of Echo Canyon Trail
We can’t stress it enough but on this hike, you have to bring a lot of water. On most hikes you should, but Camelback especially. It seems like a quick trip up and down since it can be done in two hours but you’re in a desert and the sun can seriously tire you up super quickly. We don’t want you to get sunstroke.
Since the hike is just in the greater Phoenix area there is no need for the America the Beautiful pass or anything like that because you won’t be in a national park. Parking is free (in 2019 at least).
Again, there are bathrooms and water fountains at the bottom of the Echo Canyon Trailhead so that’s a good place to park if you plan on doing this hike while you’re in Phoenix or if you live in Phoenix.
Here is some extra information on the hike if you’d like to know a little more about exactly what you will be getting yourself into.
How to get there
From anywhere in Phoenix:
If you’re in Phoenix then this hike is doable from anywhere in and around Phoenix. Since it’s located in the northern part of Scottsdale you may have to drive a little bit longer depending on what part of Phoenix you’re coming from. Definitely worth the drive to hike up Camelback.
The exact directions for the parking lot are here.
Before you go
Make sure to check the weather and plan accordingly. Either early morning or late afternoon would be great times. Even being up for sunset or sunrise could also be beautiful but then you would have to make sure to come prepared with a head torch or a flashlight. Once the sun sets it will get really dark and it can potentially be really dangerous without any source of light.
What to bring
It’s most likely going to be very hot outside when you go, it’s Phoenix of course! So anything that can protect you from the sun!
- Water! Water! Water!
- Sunscreen is a must hiking anywhere in Phoenix or Arizona! Even if you go early in the morning.
- A Camelbak (backpack full of water) no pun intended, haha.
- It’s always nice to have some food once you summit the mountain. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the views with a nice PB&J, trail mix, or whatever!
- Also, this is a great list of hiking gear that you may need on a hike!
The summit itself is quite a big area so you will have lots of room to take pictures and enjoy the view!
Other useful info
- This is another great hard hike in Phoenix if you’re looking for more to do.
- This hike in South Mountain Preserve is a great moderate hike.
- You can buy the America the Beautiful pass online if you’re planning on visiting a bunch of national parks this year.
We hope you enjoy this hike in Phoenix as much as we did! Enjoy and stay safe out there!