Camelback Mountain Hike: How to Conquer this Famous Mountain

Camelback Mountain Hike
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If you love mountain hikes, then you’ve probably already heard of Camelback Mountain. This is an iconic piece of the American landscape, with a distinctive shape and profoundly beautiful views. However, a Camelback Mountain hike isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s important to do your research before you go.

North America is filled with incredible mountain ranges, from the Rockies to the Great Smokies. Conquering them is part of the culture here, the desire to climb running through the veins of US citizens, something that dates back to the earliest explorers of this holy land. Camelback Mountain is a great place to recreate the rush of a spectacular hike.

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert hiker, there’s a trail to match your abilities. Keep reading to learn all about Camelback Mountain. Find out how long you need and which trail to take. Then, you’ll be equipped to go out and conquer this amazing mountain for yourself.

What is Camelback Mountain?

Camelback Mountain
Credit: Chris Tingom, Unsplash

The USA is full of some of the world’s most incredible mountains but they’re often located in remote, rural locations that are hard to reach. This isn’t the case with Camelback Mountain since it’s located right next to the city of Phoenix Arizona. That’s what makes it one of the most popular hiking destinations. If you’re visiting this city but want the chance to explore Arizona’s incredible nature, then a Camelback Mountain hike might be in order.

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It’s named for its iconic shape, which mimics the hump and head of a kneeling camel. It’s located between Arcadia and Paradise Valley, putting it within easy reach of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Many locals visit the mountain for hiking and rock climbing. That makes it an often frequented mountain that’s generally safe to explore, even for beginners.

Camelback Mountain has been inhabited since prehistoric times, originally by the native Hohokam people. It rises to an impressive 2,706 ft (825 m), making for an impressive but achievable hike. Climbing this particular mountain isn’t something to be taken lightly but it’s certainly a rewarding experience if you’re ready and prepared.

Is Camelback Mountain a Hard Hike?

View after Camelback Mountain hike
Credit: Olly Levine, Unsplash

In general, a Camelback mountain hike is considered difficult. Beginners will be able to explore the foothills of the mountains and get some of the benefits of this spectacular ancient monument. However, if you’re looking to conquer the mountain and reach its peak, then be careful. You should be an experienced climber that is well-prepared for the challenges ahead of you. The rugged terrain and extreme temperatures can cause serious injury if you’re not careful.

The trails up the mountain often involve scrambling over rocks and tackling steep inclines. There isn’t simply a gradual footpath that takes you all the way to the top. While some areas do include a steady footpath like this, the higher you get, the more dangerous and demanding your Camelback Mountain hike will become. That being said, this isn’t a hike that requires any specialist climbing equipment.

If you’re a fit and experienced climber, then you might not find Camelback Mountain too difficult. If you’re a complete beginner or live a sedentary lifestyle, however, then this will be an extremely hard hike. It’s up to you to assess your own fitness and experience level. Also, be sure to research the different trails. There are two main ones, which are described below. One is significantly harder so make sure you’re following the easier trail if you’re a beginner. Your main concerns will be heatstroke and dangerous animals, which are what make this hike so difficult.

How Long does a Camelback Mountain Hike Take?

Atop Camelback Mountain
Credit: Diego Lozano, Unsplash

Like all strenuous hikes, the amount of time you spend on Camelback Mountain can vary significantly. If you’re looking simply to get up and down in record time, then it can be relatively quick. However, most people are tourists who want to enjoy the views and take plenty of breaks for photos. Furthermore, if your fitness levels aren’t as high as they could be, then it’s recommended that you take regular breaks. Remember, Phoenix can easily reach temperatures higher than 100°F (40°C) in the summer. When it’s this hot, take it slowly and stop often to rehydrate.

With all that in mind, it’s important to allow extra time than you’ll think you’ll need. Most experts recommend that you allow between two and three hours for the total hike. If you want to take a good amount of breaks, then give yourself five hours. Make sure you can get up and down in that amount of time before you lose daylight.

There are faster trails and quicker trails. For your first Camelback Mountain hike, you’ll probably take the easier trail. However, it’s important to remember that the easier trail is also the longest one. Two hours is the absolute minimum time you’ll need, with four or five hours being more likely. Make sure you give yourself enough time so you don’t feel like you’re rushing.

How Far is a Camelback Mountain Hike?

Mountain views
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Camelback Mountain is a vast area and you could end up exploring it for a long time. However, if you follow the trails, the overall distance isn’t that long. The main two hiking trails are just under 2.5 miles (4 km) each, meaning a five-mile round trip (8 km). This might not sound like much but you have to remember just how steep this mountain is. That’s why it will likely take you a good few hours to complete.

One trail is slightly shorter than the other so you may be tempted to take this one. However, it’s important to remember that it’s only shorter because it takes a more direct route up the mountain. As a result, it’s usually best to take the longer one. The difference isn’t that much in terms of distance but the shorter trail is certainly a lot easier.

Of course, Camelback Mountain consists of more than just the trails to the top. There are lots of recreation areas that you might also want to visit. This can add significant distance to your journey. It’s important to plan ahead if you want to add these extra activities to your day. It’s easy to end up walking 10 miles around this incredible natural area.

Can Beginners Hike Camelback Mountain?

A view from the mountain
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Camelback Mountain hikes are described as being extremely difficult. For this reason, it’s not usually recommended for beginners. That being said, it doesn’t require any specialist climbing equipment or knowledge, meaning that beginners can and do try to tackle this monster of a mountain. If you’ve not done a lot of hiking before, then this isn’t a great place to begin. If you do start here, though, just make sure you’re prepared and bring more experienced hikers with you.

The start of the hiking trail is relatively gentle and easy. Beginners might want to just tackle half of the climb, which is totally fine. The top third of the trail is where it gets dangerous. The path is steep, with big drops on either side. You may find yourself scrambling over rocks and having to be extremely careful with your footing.

Make sure you have more than enough food and water and do the hike in winter when temperatures are more manageable. Injuries and heatstroke are not uncommon on Camelback Mountain. If in doubt, find smaller mountains to conquer first. Camelback Mountain isn’t going anywhere – you can always come back when you’re more experienced.

What’s the Best Trail for Experiences Hikers?

Camelback Mountain peak
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Camelback Mountain has two main trails: the Echo Canyon Trail and the Cholla Trail. The Echo Canyon is the most strenuous, which is why it’s generally preferred by expert hikers. This will get you to the summit faster but you’ll have to traverse steeper inclines and more perilous paths. If you’re not confident in your abilities, then it’s not recommended that you take this trail.

This trail comes with larger drops on either side, meaning that’s it not suitable for people with a fear of heights. People have died falling off this trail so make sure you stick to the path. You may have to scramble over large rocks, which adds even more physical exertion. If you’re not fully fit, completing this trail can be extremely difficult.

What is the Easiest Trail for Beginner Hikers?

Man on a Camelback Mountain hike
Credit: Emma Dau, Unsplash

If you’re looking for a more manageable climb, then you should take the Cholla Trail up Camelback Mountain. We’re not saying it’s easy but it’s the one that’s most suited to beginners. This trail involves a more gradual climb to the top and there won’t be so many large rocks in your way. It’s much more of a standard footpath.

However, it still involves deep and potentially deadly drops, especially if you wander off the trail. The top remains a steep and difficult climb which most beginners will struggle with. If you want to conquer Camelback Mountain as a beginner, then take this path. Just ensure you’re fully prepared and surrounded by experienced climbers.

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