How Long Does it Take to Hike Camelback Mountain?
The ancient rock of Camelback Mountain calls hikers from across the world. This incredible rock formation, named for its visual resemblance to a kneeling camel, is located in Phoenix, Arizona. Although this hike is rated as strenuous, it doesn’t take too long to complete, so it’s a perfect activity for a day hike if you’re visiting the city of Phoenix. In fact, it only takes 20 minutes to drive from downtown Phoenix before you can start climbing this resting beast. But exactly how long does it take to climb Camelback Mountain?
Hike times, especially for mountains, always depend on a few factors. The amount of time it will take you to hike Camelback Mountain will vary depending on the weather, which trail you choose, your physical fitness, and how many breaks you want to take to capture that perfect vacation shot or take in the stunning views.
Although we can’t tell you exactly the length of time it will take you to hike it, we can assure you that this hike is unlike any in the world. And as you make your way up the Camelback Mountain, make sure you keep your eyes open, to catch a glimpse of lizards, hawks, falcons, and quails in their natural habitat.
The unique shape of Camelback Mountain is owed to its geological formation. Camelback mountain owes its unique shape to its composition, where it thrusts up from the ground due to an unconformity between two separate rock formations. And both are breathtakingly ancient. The highest part of the peak or hump is made from Precambrian granite, which is about 1.5 billion years old.
What looks like the head of the reclining camel, however, is made from an entirely different stone: red sedimentary sandstone, which is about 25 million years old, giving the mountain its unique color and appearance. To find out more about the geology of the mountains or hills you’re hiking, or to identify some of the unique flora and fauna along the walk, check out some of our useful hiking apps.
Which trail should I take and does that affect how long it takes to hike Camelback Mountain?
There are two main hiking trails that lead to the summit of Camelback Mountain. And although both are rated as extremely difficult, they actually don’t take that long to complete. In general, we would recommend factoring in 3 hours for your round hike up and down Camelback mountain. However, if you hike slowly or have a health condition, these hikes might take you a little longer, as some parts of them are quite trying: even for the experienced hiker.
Echo Canyon Trail
If you’re looking for a challenge, stunning views, and a rocky climb, then the Echo Canyon Trail up Camelback Mountain might just be the hike of your dreams. This hike is the more rugged of the two main hikes which you can choose to take, so remember to take the right shoes and kit for your adventure. See below for more details.
Although both hikes up Camelback mountain are about 2.5 miles long, both taking approximately 2-3 hours, the Echo Canyon Trail is a challenging hike, and not for the faint of heart. This is an intense and aerobic climb, due to the elevation gain, and the numbers of stairs and rocks you’ll need to climb up. The Echo Canyon Trail ascends about 1,280 feet, bringing you over 2,000 feet above sea level.
The Echo Canyon Trail will bring you along a steep, well-marked trail for nearly half a mile, where you then follow the old railway ties. As you’re walking along this part of the hike, remember to watch your head! Next, you need to tackle the most difficult section of the trail, along the first rail. This is one of the steepest and most difficult parts of the trail, so don’t worry if you need to take your time and some breaks along this stretch.
After a couple more rail sections, the hike next leads you up the Echo Canyon Trail, and this is where you’re going to want to have your phone at the ready. The canyon trail consists of large rocks and rugged terrains that you may need to scramble across, but it’s worth it for the phenomenal views that this climb will bring. Here you may be stopping at multiple points to take photos or to take in the breathtaking scenery around you. This could add to the time of your hike too, so remember to factor that in while hiking.
There’s a couple of things you’ll need to note while planning your hike up Camelback Mountain. Another part of this rock formation, that attracts multiple visitors, is the Praying Monk. This is a red sandstone rock formation, which is used by many climbers in the area and is especially busy at the weekends. You might want to head over and watch them tackle the climb: it really is a wonder in a landscape like this.
Because Camelback Mountain has many visitors, it can be quite a wait at the parking lot to get a spot, especially at the weekends. If you’re hiking up the mountain at the weekend, we’d recommend getting here really early, even at about 6 am. Not only will you catch the early morning light reflected off the rocks, but you’ll also be able to miss the heat of the day, and be much more likely to catch one of those sought after parking spots.
Also, take note: restrooms are only available at the trailhead of the Echo Canyon trail. Also, this trail is not pup-friendly! No dogs are allowed on the trail, even on a leash, so remember to leave your dog at home. For some pointers on how, and where to hike with your dog, take a look at our useful tips.
If the Echo Canyon looks a bit too strenuous and rugged for your hiking needs, then the Cholla Trail might be more your style. Both the Cholla Trail and the Echo Canyon Trail take between two and three hours to complete. And this is because, although the Echo Canyon Trail is more rugged and steeper, more difficult climbs, the Cholla Trail is a little longer. If you’re nervous about getting a parking spot, then don’t fear with the Cholla Trail. You can park for free in a residential neighborhood, on Invergordon Road: and the Cholla Trail is the less heavily trafficked option.
Once you’ve parked your car in the residential neighborhood, follow the street signs to the Cholla Trail, heading up the beautiful East Cholla Lane. Once you reach the mountain, follow the blue Cholla Trail markers from the Cholla trailhead. Further up the mountain, the color of the trail markers turn brown: so don’t get confused! This trail is well-traveled, and quite worn by the over 450,000 people climbing it each year, but it is well maintained, and the markers take you clearly along the trail.
However, research the route thoroughly too, and bring a map and GPS or a compass, as there are many search and rescues sent to Camelback Mountain each year, often because people head off the trail. For more tips on how to prepare and stay safe on your hike in Camelback mountain, see below.
The Cholla Trail is a little longer than the Echo Canyon Trail, as it takes the natural, gradual ridgeline up to the Camelback summit. But this also means that you get some stunning views as you slowly make your way to the summit.
Although this trail is less rugged and rocky, there are some parts where you’ll have to clamber over rocks to get to the next point of the trail. Also, although easier, this climb is not a walk in the park! It’s also pretty challenging, to take plenty of stops to take in the stunning panoramic views and remember to stay well hydrated.
Before following the ridge of the mountain to get to the peak, take a break after the climb up to the saddle of the mountain. If you’re a local and looking for a short version of the hike, you can stop here and take in the breathtaking views, before going back down the trail.
After the climb, you might want to take a breather anyway and sit on the saddle of the mountain taking in the views. After this point, the hike gets a bit harder. Take a right to go all the way up to the peak, along a rocky, steep path. It’s easy to see the right way to go, just follow the line of other fellow hikers.
At the end of the hike, before the peak, there is a rock scramble, marked with yellow blazes and reflectors in the rock. Take your time, and follow them up the boulders. At some points, you’ll need to use your hands to help pull you up to the peak, probably why this hike is rated as difficult, and we would only recommend serious hikers attempting it. However, just follow the markers, and stay away from the edges of the ridge, and you’ll find it’s not as difficult as it looks.
Whether you take the Cholla Trail or the more difficult Echo Canyon Trail, you’ll have earned the rewarding feeling you get when you reach the peak of the Camelback Mountain. Both of these hikes are challenging, and include some challenging, rugged climbs. But once you reach the summit, the 2 to 3-hour round trip will all be worth it. From the summit of Camelback Mountain, you have wonderful 360-degree views of Phoenix, Paradise Valley and Scottsdale, and the hills and mountains in the distance.
How to prepare and stay safe on the Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain has over 450,000 visitors every year, who flock from around the country and the world to climb this amazing rock formation. It’s one of the most popular activities to do if you’re visiting Phoenix and can be seen from almost all parts of the city. However, many times a year search and rescue is called out to Camelback Mountain. So what can you do to prepare for your hike here?
The first thing you need to be wary of is the heat. Temperatures in Arizona can get up to 110 degrees, and the summers 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 more water than you think you’ll need. 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 to reach the summit. Make sure you wear sunscreen and a hat to protect the top of your head.
Heatstroke is a real possibility on this mountain, and the desert in general, and it’s one of the most popular reasons why search and rescue are called. To make sure you’re safe, we would recommend starting to hydrate before you even head off on the trail, and always turning back once you’ve used half of your water. To avoid disappointment makes sure you pack plenty of water, more water than you think you’ll need. Sometimes friendly fellow hikers leave bottled water out, but even so, we would say don’t chance it.
Secondly, be well prepared for your hike. One of the reasons why hundreds of times a year search and rescue is called to Camelback mountain is because people lose their route, become disoriented and lost on the mountain. Although trails are mainly clearly marked, there are some rocky parts of both routes which make it difficult to see where the trail continues, and sometimes the trail markers change color or shape.
To make sure you stay safe and on track, we would recommend thoroughly researching the route before you head off, and taking a map, GPS or a compass with you. You can also use your common sense on the hike to protect you! In some parts of the Cholla Trail, for example, in the rock scramble, paths lead off to dead ends. If you follow one of these routes, then retrace your steps until you’ve rejoined the main trail.
Also, a good indicator of whether you’re going in the right direction is to look at where the line of fellow hikers is headed. If your view is obstructed, wait and take stock, until another fellow hiker is coming down the mountain, and follow their route up.
If you’re afraid of heights, then both trails on Camelback Mountain might cause you issues. However, your fear is not unfounded. People have died from falling down the sheer rock face. Make sure you stay well away from the sheer cliff drop-offs, and that you’re on stable ground at all times. And always stay on the trail, to make sure you’re safe on your hike up Camelback Mountain.
Because the hike up Camelback Mountain is usually pretty hot and strenuous, most people get away with wearing work out gear, like leggings, shorts or sneakers. Make sure you’re comfortable in your hiking gear, and it allows you to be flexible. You definitely don’t want to be wearing heavy hiking boots, as you’ll be scrambling up many rocks, so you’ll need your footwear option to be as noble as you are.
We’d also recommend bringing a comfortable, compact backpack, to store food, water, sunscreen, and other necessary supplies for your hike. If you’re going camping too, check out our complete camping checklist to prepare.
Arizona has some of the most beautiful desserts, and landscapes, in the United States. It’s unique rock formations and staggering dramatic colors make a perfect backdrop for the avid rock climber and hiker. As we have seen, there are two main hiking trails which take you up Camelback Mountain, which vary in difficulty. But don’t be fooled by the handrails or some stretches of gentle climb: the hike up Camelback Mountain can be grueling even for experienced hikers, especially if it’s a sweltering day. The hike is rated as strenuous, so don’t try it if you tire easily or cannot climb over boulders.
Answering the question of how long does it take to hike Camelback Mountain doesn’t have just one answer. Depending on your level of fitness, the weather, if you’ve taken the right kit, and how many stops you take, it can take between 1.5 and three hours. Although this might seem like a short hike, we would recommend setting off early in the morning. Watching the sunrise, or the early morning light reflect off the landscape, is a magical experience. And it will mean that you avoid the crowds, and are more likely to get one of the coveted parking spots to climb the Echo Canyon Trail.
Bonus tip: Check out this useful video to see the difference in the experience of hiking the Cholla or Echo Canyon Trail!