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Located just 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix, Camelback Mountain is one of Phoenix's best hikes and most popular attractions for thousands of visiting hikers each year. Two difficult trails ascend 1,420 feet to a summit resembling the hump of a camel's back, affording 360-degree views of the surrounding city.
Part of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, Camelback gets its name from its two rock formations that resemble the head and back of a kneeling camel. It became a city park in 1968, and sits right next to Phoenix's Arcadia neighborhood — a great dining spot — and the town of Paradise Valley.
Trailhead hours: Sunrise to sunset
Both Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail are rated extremely difficult, challenging hikers with exposed rock, strenuous climbs and sections of hand-over-hand climbing. Dogs are prohibited at all Echo Canyon and Cholla Trail areas.
Distance: 1.2 miles out-and-back
Time: 2-3 hours roundtrip
Trailhead: 4925 E McDonald Dr, Phoenix. This trailhead has restrooms, benches and water. The parking lot is busy and will typically remain full from early morning throughout the day on weekends
What to expect: This steep and rocky ascent requires assistance of handrails and climbing to reach the top, but the 360-degree views from the summit are worth it. The Echo Canyon Trail is considered to be a more difficult ascent than the Cholla Trail.
Distance: 1.5 miles out-and-back
Time: 3 hours roundtrip
Trailhead: 6131 E Cholla Ln, Paradise Valley. This trailhead does not have facilities or designated parking.
What to expect: Cholla Trail is a slightly longer and steadier climb than Echo Canyon, but that doesn't mean it's not tricky. Lower portions are easier to follow, but the last third of the climb is a challenging scramble over large boulders.
Phoenix's desert preserves, including Camelback Mountain, are home to native species such as the desert tortoise, Chuckwalla lizard, cottontail rabbits, and rattlesnakes (hike with caution). Plant species include the saguaro, cholla and prickly pear cacti, as well as native trees such as mesquite and palo verde. Learn more about the Sonoran Desert here, or if you're looking to see more of the desert's birds, check out some top bird watching spots.
If you'd rather gawk at the Phoenix landmark from the ground (preferably with a cocktail in hand), there are plenty of restaurant patios and resort pools with views of Camelback Mountain, including The Phoenician, Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, Chelsea's Kitchen, and Steak 44. Find some hotels and resorts to stay at here.