Distance: 3.5 miles round trip on trail and use trail
Summit Elevation: 2704'
Elevation Gain: 1150'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.92
Round trip time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Recommended water: 32 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Echo Canyon Park
Camelback is a very popular hike in the Phoenix, AZ city limits. There are two trails to the summit, the Cholla Trail, and the more direct ascent I took up the Echo Canyon Trail. This was completely unplanned. I was in Phoenix visiting Arizona State University with my daughter who is considering going to college there. After the tour, my wife and kids dropped me off at the trailhead before going to the zoo. Even on a Monday afternoon, the parking lot was nearly full and people were milling everywhere. It reminded me a lot of Cowles Mountain in San Diego, with hikers of all abilities coming up and going down in ant-like formation.
I found a place in the flow and headed north of Camels Head, a stark Sandstone block. Just before the saddle there is a difficult section made easy by the steel railing installed in the rock. Shortly after that was a second railing on a less difficult section. The saddle has a stone bench a some local infotainment signs. The rest of the trail was a 0.7 mile boulder scramble. It was short, fun, and intense. The summit was crowded as expected with no register and no benchmark. Nice views of the Phoenix area in all directions though a little hazy. Without my gear, my phone acted as both GPS (map my hike), and camera. I had on regular street running shoes and carried some water in a plastic shopping bag, looking very much like a rookie. On the way back, I texted my wife and she was still about 45 minutes away, so I explored the Camels Head. There was a use trail from the saddle between the two heading around the south side. I followed it looking for a way to up, but found nothing in my skill range. The best possibility I found was a crack in the crumbly rock near the end of the use trail. My side trip added a mile to the hike, but it was nice to get some dirt under my toes.