Hiking this mountain had been a priority for me, although I figured it was highly unlikely it could live up to all the hype. John Stanley with the Arizona Republic calls Camelback the Mount Everest of the Valley. Maybe it was because we had just watched Everest two nights prior, but suddenly I had the urge to get up close and personal with the reigning king of the Seven Summits of Phoenix. And so there I was early one recent morning, full of gusto and raring to go, standing at the foot of Camelback's Echo Canyon Summit Trail. It hadn't taken several years as it had in Tennessee for me to finally make time for the Fiery Gizzard Trail, but it did take almost six months to get here.
View from the Echo Canyon Trailhead
The city's parks and recreation website says a fit hiker can reach the peak in 45 minutes and descend in the same amount of time. I found that to be right on the money. Echo Canyon is a short trail, merely 1.325 miles long, but it also climbs about 1,200 feet during that brief span and requires that hikers traverse slippery stone and long sections of boulders tilting toward the sky.
Be prepared to scramble in places
Scrambling is good idea, if not outright necessary, in some instances. Other areas offer handrails to help safely navigate over beds of slick rock found on particularly steep grades. Landscape timbers anchored into the ground serve as stairs to assist the hiker up and down the mountain along what would otherwise be another treacherous stretch.
Wooden steps make it easy for hikers
Reaching the top was somewhat anti-climatic. Maybe it's because I've seen similar views of the city from other area peaks or maybe it was the large group of hikers assembled there who appeared in no hurry to move. Either way, even though it was a new summit, it felt as if I was watching a movie I'd seen before. I took of couple of requisite pictures and, after about five or six minutes of rest, headed back down the mountain.
Two views from Camelback's peak
I found the trail to be pretty easy to follow. It seemed adequately marked and if any question as to trail location had arose, there was always a fellow hiker either up ahead or behind who could provide guidance. Compared with other area trails, I would consider the signage along the Echo Canyon Trail most acceptable.
Sign shows the way
Hiking Camelback makes for a terrific workout. Some folks go up and down the mountain every day. Some run the trail (where running is possible). And the mountain is for all ages. There were small children as well as retirees on the trail. I encountered a 68 year-old and a 71 year-old, both of whom were moving up and down the trail with relative ease. All, it seems, are drawn to Camelback. Come see it for yourself. It's the Camelback Experience, and you won't soon forget it.
Tip: Echo Canyon Trail is shaded in the early mornings