Camelback Mountain is the most popular mountain to hike in the Phoenix area for good reasons. It’s a fun challenging hike from either side, it has good views of the Phoenix area, and it’s entertaining to compare its profile to a napping camel. There are two popular routes up this dromedary. The Cholla Trail is the more gradual, but longer route of the two.
Getting to the Trailhead
One alternative is to take a rideshare service (Uber, Lyft, etc.) If you live too far for that you can park in a shopping center nearby and use a rideshare service to get you to East Cholla Lane from there. If you do take a rideshare service, they are not allowed to drop you off on East Cholla Lane – you must get dropped off on North 64th Street. There are often rangers at the trailhead enforcing the no drop-off rule, the no dog rule, and checking that hikers are prepared.
Hiking Camelback Mountain via the Cholla Trail
Once you’ve finished reading all the rules at the trailhead, start up the gradual steps that lead beyond the signs. The trail is very mellow at first, but by mile 0.2 the incline is already turning up.
As it becomes steeper, it also makes a few switchbacks and gains the center of the ridge. At mile 0.6, the trail flattens out some as it begins to drop to the right of the ridge’s apex. The trail stays relatively flat on the north side of the ridge, steepens around mile 0.75, then regains the top of the ridge at mile 1.0. This is where the views get even better, and you now start to see the real climb ahead of you.
Beyond here the trail is significantly more difficult. You will want to use your hands in certain spots, and the route ahead can be unclear. Fortunately, there are some blue marks on the rock along the way, and in some really confusing places there are signs with arrows pointing you in the right direction. There are a few places where you will drop left of the crest, but in general you want to stay on top or close to the top of the ridge.
At mile 1.2 the trail drops down a little. If you look up from here, you may clearly see people standing on the summit – you’re almost there! Continue straight for about another tenth of a mile, then the route curves right and up to the very top of the mountain.
This peak is notoriously disorienting once you get to the top, so pay close attention to which way you came up. Many hikers begin descending the opposite trail by mistake.
Once you’ve taken all the selfies you desire, return down the way you came up. There are a few bottlenecks near the top, so watch for people coming up. Remember uphill hikers have the right-of-way, and give them space to safely pass.
Camelback Mountain via the Cholla Trail Map & Elevation Profile
Camelback Mountain Hiking Resources
- Camelback Mountain Overview via VisitPhoenix.com
- Official City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation page for Camelback Mountain
- Get turn-by-turn driving directions to the Cholla trailhead via Google Maps
Arizona Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge – Winter Edition
This hike is part of the Arizona Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge – Winter Edition. This self-paced hiking challenge includes six hikes all easily reached from the great Phoenix metropolitan area. They are a great way to explore the area, train for bigger adventures, and you’ll be doing good, with a portion of the net proceeds going to support Big City Mountaineers.
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