If you are heading to Scottsdale or Phoenix, Arizona and are looking for one of the best places to hike, Camelback Mountain is the perfect option.
Scottsdale is a great place with so much to do and so many great hiking trails to choose from, and although it is a challenging route, Camelback is one of the most rewarding ones in this desert city. It’s super important to be well prepared for this hike, but the views at the top are spectacular and the leg work out is intense!
How Difficult Is The Camelback Mountain Hike In Scottsdale?
Camelback’s official trail rating is “Extremely Difficult” due to its many vertical inclines as well as the extreme conditions of the desert.
This rating should not be taken lightly because it is a challenging hike even for those that regularly exercise.
Each year more than 200 hikers are rescued in the Phoenix area, with a majority taking place at Camelback Mountain and most of them occur in the Winter months (November through April).
Can A Beginner Hike Camelback Mountain?
Whether or not a beginner should hike Camelback Mountain entirely depends on their fitness level and stamina.
For those that are just getting started with regular exercise or hiking, we would suggest holding off on Camelback for now. The only way you might consider hiking it as a newbie is with expert guides on a tour.
You may also want to skip it if you don’t do well with sudden elevation increases or have a really hard time catching your breath.
If you exercise regularly but haven’t hiked before, you might want to practice some incline exercise before showing up at Camelback. I exercise regularly and play sports but it had been awhile since I’d hiked, so it was a little difficult on my legs and lungs but I was still able to climb it fairly quick.
Can Kids Hike Camelback?
If you’re traveling to Scottsdale or Phoenix with young children, they should sit out on the Camelback hike along with any kids that have never hiked before.
Your children should also be good listeners if you plan to take them, not only for the dangerous terrain and quick drop offs, but also the hiking etiquette and rules you need to follow to keep everyone hiking safe.
Can Dogs Hike Camelback?
Unfortunately, leashed or not, dogs are not allowed on either Camelback trail.
If you do bring your dogs with you to Arizona in the summer time, be sure not to take them for walks without doggy shoes so they don’t burn their feet (because their feet will burn and you will even feel the heat through your shoes).
What Are The Two Camelback Mountain Trails?
The two trails to hike at Camelback Mountain are Echo Canyon and Cholla. The Cholla trail had been closed under construction for a few years but it just reopened to the public in September 2022.
Which Camelback Trail Is Best?
Echo Canyon is technically known as the harder trail for some of the steep bouldering towards the top of the mountain but the trail is much wider in most places.
The Cholla trail is longer than Echo Canyon and it was actually closed down a few years ago to address some of the dangerous situations like narrow passes, the 300 pound boulder that pinned a man down, and the active bee situation.
Renovations to Cholla included safety along the trail, added bathrooms, a bike rack, a drinking fountain, and a ride share drop off section.
In my opinion, Echo Canyon is the best trail to hike because it is shorter, wider, and actually fun to boulder up towards the top of the mountain.
Where Is Camelback Mountain Exactly?
One of the reasons that the Camelback hike is such a popular tourist activity (unfortunately often unprepared tourists) in Scottsdale and Phoenix is because of its convenient location.
The mountain is located within 10 to 20 minutes of popular areas like Old Town Scottsdale, The Biltmore Area, Tempe, The Phoenix Airport, Paradise Valley, and North Scottsdale.
The mountain sits in between E McDonald Drive to the north and E Camelback Road to the south. Homes, golf courses, and the luxurious Phoenician Resort surround the mountain on all sides.
Where Do You Park To Hike Camelback Mountain?
Parking is very limited at both trails which is another reason why arriving early is very important. Spots will fill fast and at Echo Canyon they will close off the parking and not reopen it that day (even if cars are leaving).
For the Echo Canyon trail, parking is located in the lot right next to the Echo Canyon Trailhead. There are also bathrooms, bike racks, educational information, a drinking fountain, and trash cans here.
For Cholla trail, street parking is still the only option along Invergorden Road just south of Vista Drive. New renovations have added bathrooms, a bike rack, a drinking fountain, and a ride share drop off.
Is Parking Free At Camelback Mountain?
Although parking is very limited, it is entirely free at both the Echo Canyon trail and Cholla trail. Echo Canyon parking is located right at the start of the hike, but Cholla trail parking requires a mini hike (about 10 minutes depending on the spot you get) to get to the start of the hike.
How Much Is It To Hike Camelback Mountain?
As with parking at Camelback Mountain, the cost to hike it is entirely free. Aside from extremely limited hikes like The Grand Canyon, Havasupai, and Antelope Canyon, most hikes in Arizona are completely free.
What Time Does Camelback Trail Open?
Camelback officially opens at sunrise but many people get there while it’s still dark and use a headlamp or flashlight for the first 10 to 20 minutes.
When you go at this time on the Echo Canyon Trail, the mountain blocks the sun as it rises so it stays nice and cool while you hike and then sunrise views of the valley are beautiful once you make it to the top.
Whether you are going in the Summer or in the Winter, Camelback experts suggest starting your hike as early in the morning as possible to avoid extreme heat or large crowds (which are pretty heavy in summer, and extremely heavy in winter).
Camelbacks sunset closure is strictly enforced so if you choose to hike later in the day, make sure you and your car are out of there before the sun goes down.
Can you hike Camelback at night?
Camelback officially closes at sunset so you can not hike it at night and it is extremely inadvisable to try and do so. It is hard enough to make sure you have your footing right on some of the rocks during the day so trying that in the dark is way too risky.
How Long Does It Take To Get To The Top Of Camelback?
How long it takes to get to the top of Camelback also depends on your fitness level and stamina.
When I hiked Camelback I went with a regular (there are some that hike it every day or every week) and we made it to the top in about 45 minutes. She told me that she’s hiked with other Camelback newbies and one took as long as 2 hours just to get to the top.
When we were at the top of the mountain, one of the regulars that was huffing and puffing quite a bit had just hiked it in about 15 minutes.
The amount of time it takes to get to the top can also depend on how busy the mountain is. That is another reason why starting the Camelback hike early is so important.
When I hiked, I didn’t have to wait on anyone on the way up, but on the way down (around 7:00 am) there were already a lot of clumps of people hiking up that often had to wait on those in front of them. Those going uphill have the right of way over those going downhill but they would often stop to let us go by anyway.
How Many Miles Is The Camelback Hike On Echo Canyon Trail?
The length of the Echo Canyon Trail to the top of Camelback Mountain is officially 1.14 miles.
The Cholla trail is officially 1.42 miles from the start to the top of Camelback.
What Is The Elevation Of Camelback Mountain In Phoenix?
The hike to the top of Camelback Mountain is at an elevation of 2,704 feet looking down over the valleys of Phoenix and Scottsdale.
The Echo Canyon Trail goes from an elevation of 1,440 feet to 2,704 feet, for an overall elevation gain of 1,264 feet.
The Cholla Trail starts at an elevation of 1,469 feet and rises to 2,704 feet, for an overall elevation gain of 1,235 feet.
Does Camelback Mountain Really Look Like A Camel?
The mountain is called Camelback because it really does look like a camel laying down. From a distance you can see the head and the two humps of the camel 🐫 and at the nose of the camel you can see what they call “The Praying Monk”.
Why Is Camelback Mountain So Popular?
The hike on Camelback Mountain is such a popular activity for both locals and tourists visiting Phoenix or Scottsdale for multiple reasons.
📍 The first reason is because the hike up Camelback Mountain is at a very convenient location right in the middle of the Scottsdale and Phoenix areas. It’s under a 20 minute drive from popular areas like Old Town, Tempe, The Biltmore, North Scottsdale, and more.
🥾 Another reason the hike is so popular is because of it’s difficult yet rewarding experience. It is very accomplishing to say that you successfully made it to the top of one of the most difficult hikes in the area in which many have to be rescued from.
🦵💪 The exercise and extreme work out you get from hiking Camelback is also a contributing factor. The legs definitely get a majority of the work, but I was super surprised at how sore my arms were the day after (I think mostly from the bouldering towards the top).
🏜 And lastly, the 360 degree views from the top of Camelback are some of the most beautiful in the entire area. The peak is the highest point in Phoenix so you’ll be able to see everything.
Can You Hike Camelback In The Summer In Scottsdale, Arizona?
In Arizona you can technically hike any mountain including Camelback any time of year but during the summer you must take certain precautions or you could end up in the hospital or worse.
📆 The first thing you should know is that summer in Arizona can start as early as April and last all the way through October. Hikes are typically less busy than winter months but still fairly crowded at the right time of day.
🌡 Temperatures during the summer typically stick above 100 degrees and the hottest months, July and August, can get as hot as 120 degrees. You must hike very early in the morning or very late in the day to avoid the most extreme temperatures of the day (the hottest time is usually 3:00 to 4:00 pm).
☀️ Along with hot temperatures, it is important to go early or late in the day because of the intensity of the sun. Monsoons can happen in the latter months of summer, but weather conditions are usually very sunny with zero clouds.
💦🧢🕶 Anytime of year, but especially during the summer, you must go well prepared for any hike. Water is the most important and Camelbak’s are the best way to make sure you have plenty. Hats, Frogg Toggs Towels, sunglasses, good shoes, snacks, and a healthy sunscreen for your body and face are essential as well.
How Do I Prepare For Hiking In Arizona And At Camelback Mountain?
The expert regular Camelback hiker I went with when I was back in Scottsdale told me that tourists often show up completely unprepared for the hike, some even wearing flip flops.
They think its just going to be an easy walk up to get some perfect Instagram photo opportunities but they couldn’t be more wrong.
If you don’t want to end up with injuries, being rescued, in the hospital or worse, you must show up prepared to hike Camelback or any other mountain in Arizona.
What Should I Wear Hiking In Arizona?
Part of being well prepared for a hike in Scottsdale or Phoenix, Arizona and specifically for Camelback Mountain is being dressed properly. As I mentioned, some tourists show up to Camelback wearing flip flops thinking its just going to be an easy walk, so don’t be like them.
🧢 Going from head to toe, a hat that gives you some relief from the hot sun is very important. If you hike Echo Canyon right at sunrise, the mountain will block the sun pretty much the entire way up but it’s just better to come over prepared.
🎽 Whether or not you want to wear sleeves or a tank is up to you but choose light colored shirts, with white being the best color to wear because it absorbs the least amount of sun.
🧥 If you get cold easily, you may want a light jacket during the winter or before the sun fully comes up during the summer at the beginning of the hike. Once you start hiking, you’ll likely be warmed up enough not to need one so you should only bring one if you’re okay carrying it the rest of the way.
🩳 You typically won’t want to wear pants in Arizona, even during the winter because the sun is typically warm enough. Along with shirts, wear bright and light colors, and make sure you have shorts that won’t bother you or make your legs rub.
🥾 Possibly the most important, make sure you have good closed toed shoes. You don’t have to have hiking shoes but your sneakers should have good treads so they don’t slip on the gravel and the rocks.
🥶 Additionally, another thing you can bring to keep you cool during the hike are towels like the Frogg Toggs.
What Should I Eat The Morning Of A Hike?
I have the hardest time figuring out what to eat in the morning before an activity like hiking or playing soccer to make sure I have enough energy but not too much food to upset my stomach.
With hiking in Arizona, you’re also getting up at like 3:00 or 4:00 am so it’s hard to actually feel hungry. For me, I’ve found that organic fruits or my homemade chocolate walnut balls are the lightest on my stomach but still energizing.
Once I start hiking, I bring snacks with me but I typically don’t eat much if any at all. I do however drink a significant amount of water in the 24 hours leading up to an intense activity and continue to drink lots of water throughout the activity.
After the hike, Scottsdale has some of the best healthy and allergy friendly restaurants in the country so there are great options to choose from following your hike. My favorite is the gluten free burrito from Tocaya Modern Mexican.
What Is The Best Snack For Hiking?
We only eat food and snacks that are healthy, gluten free, organic, and other allergy friendly so we choose the same options when hiking.
Fresh fruit like organic apples or bananas are really good because of their natural sugars as well as organic no sugars added peanut butter snacks. We love the Truvani Only Bars and their Chocolate Peanut Butter bar is perfect to give you energy for an activity like hiking.
How Do You Carry Water While Hiking?
For any hike in Scottsdale or Phoenix, Arizona at any time of year, you have to bring a lot of water but especially for Camelback and especially during the summer. Seriously bring enough water; so many people think they’ll be fine but they end up having to be rescued.
You use your hands quite a bit on Camelback so carrying water in your hands is not the best idea. If you are bringing bottled waters, put them in a backpack.
However, the easiest way to carry water while hiking is with the Camelbak packs and you can easily drink from them continuously throughout the hike without having to stop and dig around for water in your bag.
Are There Bathrooms At Camelback Mountain?
Yes, both Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail have bathrooms at the start of the hike. But there are no bathrooms along the trails or up at the top of the mountain.
Are There Rattlesnakes On Camelback Mountain?
Anywhere you go in Arizona, especially natural desert areas like Camelback, there is a possibility of seeing Arizona wildlife like rattlesnakes.
🐍 During the day, they are typically curled up in rocks and crevices so be careful where you put your hands and do your best not to disturb the desert landscapes. Snakes and other insects are another reason why you want to wear good closed toed shoes while hiking.
🐍 In the late afternoon and evenings, a lot of rattlesnakes like to stretch out on the hot pavement so you’re somewhat more likely to run into them during these hours.
Other Arizona wildlife you might encounter on Camelback or just during your visit to the desert includes but is not limited to scorpions, mountain lions, bobcats, javelinas, coyotes, Gila monsters, and roadrunners.
What If I Don’t Want To Hike Alone?
If you’re new to hiking or just don’t like going on your own, Camelback is the best place to go. There will always be people hiking Camelback so you technically won’t ever be alone.
If you want to get to know people while you hike, you can check out some hiking meetups like the group Trail Mix Hiking.
If you want a guided hike led by experts that are trained as either an EMT or Wilderness First Responder, you can check out this option from Mad Desert Trekking.
For more great hiking you can also head up north to the Grand Canyon but we definitely recommend a guided hike here to stay safe in that rocky, steep, and potentially dangerous terrain.
Wrap Up: The Camelback Hike In Scottsdale, Arizona
No matter what time of year you visit the Scottsdale and Phoenix areas, make sure you are well prepared if you plan to hike Camelback Mountain. Start early in the morning, bring lots of water, protect yourself from the sun and heat, wear proper clothing and shoes, follow all rules, and enjoy the climb as well as the views on top of Camelback! 🐫