Camelback Mountain likely Arizona’s most popular hiking destination

If you asked ten random people to name a mountain in Arizona, most of them would likely say Camelback Mountain. And why not? It’s the first landmark people see when they fly into nearby Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Same if you drive into the Phoenix/Tempe/Scottsdale area on any major highway.

Panoramic view of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, AZ
Situated just 10 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, Camelback Mountain is one of the most noticeable landmarks upon arrival in Arizona.

Why is it called Camelback?

What else would you call a mountain located in the middle of the desert with a mountainous rock hump (or two) flanking another one that resembles a camel’s head?

A favorite among hikers, fitness buffs and photographers

Because of its convenient location and fantastic views of the Valley of the Sun, Camelback Mountain is a popular go-to spot for locals and visitors to see and be seen.

On weekends, the parking areas are completely full from sunup to sundown, with people waiting to park pretty much the entire day. And the trails are just as busy, with traffic jams occurring often on narrow sections. Some Camelback frequent fliers have learned it’s best to Uber to the trailhead from nearby schools, businesses or other public spots.

Camelback Mountain Camelback Mountain with a red hue from the sunset
Camelback Mountain often takes on a red hue for a short time after sunrise and before sunset.

Although Camelback is not as high as other mountains in Arizona or neighboring states, it poses a unique challenge because of the extreme heat and intense sunlight. Each year, dozens of unprepared hikers are rescued from Camelback due to heat exhaustion and other health issues. Proper footwear, clothing, hat and plenty of water are crucial if you’re going to attempt hiking Camelback.

Steep section of Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain
Hikers navigate one of the steep sections of Cholla Trail near the summit of Camelback Mountain.
Birdseye view of the Phoenician Resort from Cholla Trail.
Birdseye view of the Phoenician Resort from Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain.
Christmas tree on Camelback Mountain Phoenix AZ
An annual tradition, mystery and controversy, each December a Christmas tree appears on the summit of Camelback Mountain. Some people curse the tree; others decorate it.
Camelback mountain
Camelback Mountain viewed from a Phoenix neighborhood.

Camelback quick stats:

  • Peak elevation: 2,707 feet (825 m); roughly 1,420 feet (432 m) elevation gain from either of two trailheads
  • Cholla Trail length:  1.5 miles (2.4 km)
  • Echo Canyon Trail length: 1.2 miles (1.9 km)
  • Open year-round from dawn to dusk
  • No admission fee

Locals’ tips for visiting Camelback:

  • Early morning is the best time to go, especially in the summer months
  • Bring plenty of water (2 to 3 liters) and turn around when your water is half gone
  • Cholla Trail is longer but not as steep as Echo Canyon Trail
  • Pets are not allowed on the trails at Camelback

Want to check out Camelback? Tap the map(s):

Map to Cholla Trailhead:

Echo Canyon Trailhead:


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