March 13, 2019

Arizona 2019 Vacation Trip:  Phoenix Mountains

Camelback Mountain Summit Loop: counter-clockwise

Camelback Mountain (2704′)

——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–

Region: Echo Canyon Recreation Area

Starting & Ending Point: Echo Canyon Trailhead (East McDonald Drive)

Way Points: Echo Saddle & Camelback Mountain summit & Cholla Bench & Cholla  Trailhead & Cholla/Invergordon intersection & Invergordon/McDonald intersection (hike & scramble & walk via Echo Canyon Trail—Cholla Trail—Cholla Lane—Invergordon Road—McDonald Drive)

Summit: Camelback Mountain (ascent via West Ridge; descent via East Ridge)

Approximate Stats: 6 miles traveled; 1450 feet gained & lost; 3.3 hours total time.

——————– Full Trip Report ——————–

While vacationing in Phoenix, Eileen and I took the opportunity to tuck in Camelback Mountain. This is the iconic landform that stands 1500 vertical feet above the surrounding desert plain on the eastern edge of the city. Due to its proximity and visibility, Camelback Mountain is an extremely popular destination; even on our midweek trip, we shared the trail and summit with over 100 other hikers.

Echo Canyon Trailhead Sign

We began at the Echo Canyon Trailhead at the base of the mountain’s western ridge. Cars were queued up in the parking lot, but we managed to secure a parking space after waiting 10 minutes. From here, the well-worn trail ascends easily to Echo Saddle, then wraps around a cliff and begins ascending more steeply.

Lower Part Of Echo Canyon Trail

The trail degenerates into a Class 2-3 scramble as elevation is gained. However, the scrambling is always enjoyable, with negligible exposure.

Scrambling Up Echo Canyon Trail
Upper Part Of Echo Canyon Trail

In addition to its iconic status, Camelback Mountain presents an interesting geological condition. The western flank (including the “camel’s head”) consists of tilted sandstone, conglomerate, and breccia, whereas the bulk of the mountain (including the “camel’s hump”) consists of massive, coarse-grained pre-Cambrian granite estimated to be more than 1.5 billion years old.

Weathered Pre-Cambrian Granite

We reached the busy summit at noon (0.9 hours + 1300 feet from TH) and took in views of the sprawling Phoenix metropolis. Visibility was unusually good, we were told, thanks to recent rainstorms.

Eileen On Summit Of Camelback Mtn

Never missing a good opportunity for a loop hike, Eileen and I elected to descend by means of the Cholla Trail, which wanders down the mountain’s eastern ridge.

Upper Part Of Cholla Trail

This east-side trail is less popular and less scrambly than the west-side trail, so it makes a good descent route. We reached to Cholla Trailhead in 1.0 hour from the summit (2.3 hours from starting TH).

Lower Part Of Cholla Trail

In order to close the loop, it was necessary to walk 3 miles back on the arterial roadways that run orthogonally around the northern side of the mountain. This part of the loop isn’t very exciting, but it does provide a nice view of the camel’s ridgeline.

Clouds Over Camelback Mtn

After an hour of road-walking, we were back at Echo Canyon Trailhead (3.3 hours + 1450 feet over 6 miles) to finish off a fun loop.

——————– Route Map / Sketch ——————–

Camelback Mtn Area Map

——————– Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————–