The ancient rock of Camelback Mountain calls out to hikers from across the world. Named for its resemblance to the hump and head of a kneeling camel, this incredible rock formation is located in Paradise Valley — a stone’s throw from downtown Phoenix, Arizona.
Although hiking trails around Camel Back Mountain are rated ‘strenuous’, most of them can be completed in roughly 2-3 hours, making this a perfect activity when visiting the city of Phoenix.
The amount time it takes to hike Camelback Mountain can vary depending on factors such as the weather, which trail you choose, your physical fitness, and how many breaks you take to admire the stunning surroundings.
As you make your way up Camelback Mountain, be sure to keep your eyes open to catch a glimpse of lizards, hawks, falcons, quails and other species in their natural habitat.
To learn more about the geology of popular mountains and trails, including Camelback Mountain, check out some of these hiking apps that can be used to help you identify unique flora and fauna.
Camelback Mountain Trails and Hike Times
There are two main hiking trails that lead to the summit of Camelback Mountain. Although both are rated ‘extremely difficult’, they are surprisingly quick to complete. In general, we recommend giving yourself a good 3 hours to hike up and down Camelback mountain. Keep in mind, if you hike slowly or have a health condition, these hike times can vary.
Echo Canyon Trail
If you’re looking for a challenging hike complete with stunning views, then the Echo Canyon Trail up Camelback Mountain is the trail for you. This hike is the more rugged of the two main trails. Just remember to pack the right shoes and outdoor kit before you hitting the trail.
Although both trails up Camelback mountain are about 2.5 miles long and take roughly 2-3 hours to complete, the Echo Canyon Trail is quite challenging and not for the faint of heart. This is an intense climb due to the elevation gain and the number of stairs and massive rocks throughout. The Echo Canyon Trail ascends to 1,280 feet and is roughly 2,000 feet above sea level.
To reach the Echo Canyon Trail, you’ll need to follow a steep, well-marked trail for nearly half a mile — just follow the old railway ties and remember to watch your head.
After a couple more rail sections, you’ll reach the Echo Canyon Trail. The canyon trail consists of large rocks and rugged terrain that must be overcome. Still, it’s worth it for the phenomenal views; be sure to have your camera ready to capture it.
Another section of Camelback Mountain that attracts multiple visitors is the Praying Monk. This is an impressive red sandstone rock formation that attracts many advanced climbers. You may wish to head over and watch them tackle the climb as it can be quite an impressive sight.
Keep in mind, Camelback Mountain attracts many visitors. As such, finding a parking spot can be difficult — especially on weekends. If you’re hiking on the weekend, I recommend hitting the parking lot early, at about 6am. Not only will you catch the early morning light reflected off the rocks, you’ll also beat the afternoon heat.
Restrooms are only available at the Echo Canyon trailhead. In addition, this trail is not dog-friendly. No dogs are allowed on the trail, even if on a leash, so remember to leave your dog at home. If you prefer to hike with your dog, there are other options available.
If the Echo Canyon trail seems a bit too strenuous and rugged, then the Cholla Trail may be more suited to your style. Both the Cholla Trail and the Echo Canyon Trail take between two to three hours to complete. Although the Echo Canyon Trail is slightly shorter in length, it’s more rugged and steep and takes just as much time as the longer Cholla Trail. Plus, the Cholla Trailhead is located in proximity to many parking spots. There is plenty of free parking located in the surrounding residential neighborhoods and on Invergordon Road.
Once you’ve located a parking spot, follow the street signs to the Cholla Trail which will take you through the beautiful East Cholla Lane. Once you reach the mountain, follow the blue Cholla Trail markers. Further up the mountain, the color of the trail markers will turn brown: don’t get confused! This trail is well travelled and highly visible thanks to the 450,000 people that climb it each year. Still, it’s always a good idea to research the route thoroughly and bring along a map and GPS. Every year, there are multiple search and rescues missions sue to people wandering off of the Camelback Mountain trails.
The Cholla Trail is a little longer than the Echo Canyon Trail as it follows the natural ridge line up to the Camelback mountain summit. Be prepared for some amazing views. Although this trail is less rugged and rocky, you’ll still have to clamber over rocks here and there to get to the next point of the trail. Be sure to take plenty of breaks to take in the scenery and catch your breath.
Before reaching the summit, I recommend relaxing for a while to take in the view and catch your breath. After this point, the hike gets a bit harder. Head right and go all the way up to the peak, by following along the rocky, steep path. It’s easy to see where to go; just follow the line of hikers.
At the end of the hike, just before the summit, there are rocks marked with yellow blazes and reflectors. Take your time, and follow them upward. You’ll need to use your hands for traction — probably why this hike is rated as difficult. Just follow the markers, and stay well away from the edges of the ridge, and you’ll find it’s not as difficult as it looks.
Regardless of whether you take the Cholla Trail, or the more difficult Echo Canyon Trail, you’ll have earned the rewarding feeling of success once you have reached the summit of Camelback Mountain. Although these hikes are challenging, once you have reached the summit, the 2 to 3 hour round trip will be well worth it. From the summit of Camelback Mountain, you’ll experience wonderful 360 degree views of Phoenix and Scottsdale, and the surrounding hills and mountains in the distance.
How to prepare, and stay safe, on Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain receives over 450,000 visitors every year from the United States and all over the world. Hiking to its summit is one of the most popular activities for visitors to Phoenix. As such, many search and rescue missions are called out to Camelback Mountain.
The first thing you need to be weary of is the heat. Temperatures in Arizona can get up to 110 degrees, and the summer months can be sweltering hot. If you’re planning on hiking Camelback Mountain in the summer, or even early fall or late spring, remember to take plenty of water — more than you think necessary. It’s essential to ensure you’re well hydrated on this hike, especially considering the amount of energy it takes to scramble up the rocks in order to reach the summit. Make sure you wear sunscreen and a hat for further protection from the sun.
Heat stroke is a real possibility and is one of the leading causes of rescue missions. To ward off heat stroke, I recommend starting to hydrate before you even hit the trail. If you don’t think you have enough water, turn back. Always make sure to pack more water than you think you’ll need.
Be well prepared for your hike. Disorientation and wandering off of hiking trails are another leading cause of rescue missions. Although most trails are clearly marked, there are some rocky parts which make it difficult to see where the trail leads to. In addition, sometimes the trail markers change color or shape — be aware and prepared for this. As I mentioned earlier, always pack a map, GPS, or compass and use common sense.
If you’re afraid of heights, then the Camelback Mountain trails may be an issue for you. Sadly, your fear is not unfounded. People have died from falling down its sheer rock face — there are no handrails here. Make sure you stay well away from the sheer cliff drop offs, and that you’re on stable ground at all times.
As the hike up Camelback Mountain is typically quite hot and strenuous, most hikers prefer to wear work out gear, like leggings, shorts, and sneakers. Make sure that your hiking gear is comfortable and flexible. You definitely don’t want to be wearing heavy hiking boots as you’ll be scrambling up and over large rocks. I always recommend bringing a comfortable, compact backpack, to store food, water, sunscreen and other necessary supplies in. If you plan on doing some camping, be sure to check out our complete camping checklist.
Arizona has some of the most beautiful desserts and landscapes in the United States. It’s unique rock formations complete with staggering dramatic views make for the perfect backdrop for any avid rock climbers and hikers.
As you are now aware, there are two main hiking trails (varying in difficulty) which will take you up Camelback Mountain. Don’t be fooled by the handrails; hiking up Camelback Mountain can be a grueling experience — even for experienced hikers. These trails are rated ‘strenuous’, so don’t attempt them if you tire easily or cannot climb over boulders.
So, just how long does it take to hike Camelback Mountain? Although there’s no single answer, depending on your level of fitness, the weather, if you have the right gear, and how many stops you take, it can take anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours.
Although this may sound like a short hike, I always recommend you get an early start. Watching the sunrise and the early morning light reflect off the landscape can be a magical experience. Plus, you’ll beat the heat and the crowds of hikers.
See you on the summit!
Bonus tip: Check out this useful video that highlights the differences between hiking the Cholla and Echo Canyon Trails!