Camelback Mountain Hike

Camelback Mountain Hike – Cholla Trail

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions
  • Camelback Mountain Hike Trail Maps
  • How to Get to the Camelback Mountain Hike
  • When to Hike Camelback Mountain
Distance3.1 miles (5 km)
Hike Time2:30 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)1,540 feet (469m)
Highest Elevation2,707 feet (825m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dog FriendlyNo
Park WebsiteCity of Phoenix Parks and Recreation
Park Phone602-261-8318
Stay In Touch - - -

The Camelback Mountain hike is one of the most popular hikes in Phoenix. Camelback Mountain is just 20 minutes from downtown and can be seen all over the area, rising to 2,707 feet. It’s a popular spot for hikers, rock climbers, and tourists, so make sure you do the hike as early as possible, with sunrise being the sweet spot. There are a few ways to hike Camelback Mountain, and this guide takes the easier, less trafficked, and more scenic Cholla Trail. It’s still a tough hike, but the Cholla Trail is a nicer way to hike Camelback Mountain, which is a must-do Phoenix hike.

About 450,000 people a year hike Camelback Mountain, and it can feel like all of them are with you on the trail if you leave at the wrong time. It’s not only important to leave early to beat the crowds, but also to beat the heat. You’re in the middle of the desert, and if the temperatures are high, the heat can be serious.

There are about 200 search and rescue efforts in Phoenix, with the majority of those happening at Camelback Mountain. That’s about one rescue every other day, which is pretty crazy. The two main reasons why hikers get in trouble is the heat, and from going off trail (intentionally or unintentionally). While this is a popular hike, it’s also a tough hike that requires you to be prepared and smart. Read this guide, follow the advice, and you should have a great time hiking Camelback Mountain.

Where is the Camelback Mountain Hike?

Use this trailhead to get to the parking area: 5191 N Invergordon Rd, Paradise Valley, AZ, 85253, USA.

Parking is free in a residential neighborhood. Don’t park on Cholla Lane or you’ll be towed.

Camelback Mountain Hike parking
Park on Invergordon Road. It’s street parking and it’s free.
Cholla Trail sign
Signs on the street lead you to Cholla Trail.
Invergorden Road
Walk to the corner of East Cholla Lane and Invergorden Road, this is where my hike mileage starts.

Another note, if you decide to take the other route up, Echo Canyon, the rangers are strict and aggressive about ticketing after official sunset in the trailhead lot. Do yourself a favor and just take the Cholla Trail (and park correctly).

Gear for the Hike

You can get away with workout clothes on this hike, and most people do. What’s imperative is bringing enough water and sun protection. Bring at least 1L of water. I brought 2L.

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La Sportiva Spire

The La Sportiva Spire boots feel like comfortable sneakers but offer the protection of hiking boots. They’re great on everything from short hikes to longer hikes of 10+ miles. You don’t want to skimp on your feet.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Opsrey Stratos 24

I test a lot of gear, and for short to medium day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) are consistently the best. They’re lightweight, hold a hydration bladder to make drinking water easy, have lots of pockets to organize gear, and most importantly, are incredibly comfortable. Check out the reviews; they are impressive.
Reviews & Colors Here: Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) 

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Camelback Mountain Trail Maps

Just a note on the trail. The last half a mile of the Camelback Mountain hike involves a rock scramble. I’ve seen kids, senior citizens, and dogs all do the rock scramble, but if you’re not comfortable with it, it may not be for you.

Click To View Map

Camelback Mountain Hike – Cholla Trail Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.

Camelback Mountain Hike 3d map
The Cholla Trail is a little longer but takes the gradual ridge line up to the Camelback Mountain summit.
Camelback Mountain Hike elevation
The hike to Camelback Mountain on the Cholla Trail is all uphill, but has a gentler slope than other options. Pace yourself and bring more water than you think you need.

Camelback Mountain Hike Directions

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Note: Hike milage references start from the intersection of Invergordon Road & Cholla Lane. 

East Cholla Lane
Hike up beautiful East Cholla Lane. Some of the homes here are valued in the millions.
Cholla Trail trailhead
At about 0.3 miles on the left, you’ll see the Cholla Trail trailhead. Notice all the warning signs. Be prepared and take it seriously.
water on cholla trail
Sometimes rangers leave cases of bottled water here for the folks who are unprepared.
blue Cholla Trail makers
Look for the blue Cholla Trail makers and hike your way up the well worn trail.
Camelback Mountain Hike views
As you hike up, you’ll immediately have nice views.
Camelback Mountain Hike rock stairs
The trail is well marked and climbs up rock stairs for a while
Camelback Mountain Hike signs
Blue blaze signs mark the Cholla Trail and yellow signs warn of fragile and dangerous areas.
Camelback Mountain Hike left turn
At about 0.5 miles, hike to the left along the trail.
Cholla Trail signs
Keep following the blue blaze Cholla Trail signs.
desert quail
Keep your eyes open for lizard, hawks, falcons and quail.
Camelback Mountain Hike signs
The trail signs change to brown occasionally.
Camelback Mountain Hike crosses rocks
Occasionally the trail goes over rocks. Usually there’s a sign marking where the trail crosses them.
Camelback Mountain Hike views
The climb is tough, so take breaks and soak in the views.
Camelback Mountain Hike trail
At around 1 mile, the hike turns toward the saddle of Camelback Mountain and gently climbs up.
Camelback Mountain saddle
At about 1.2 miles, the gradual climb ends at the saddle of the mountain. This is the middle of “the hump” of Camelback Mountain. Make the right to hike up to the summit.
people climbing on camelback mountain
The saddle has great views. On this day, someone was climbing along the cliff at the saddle. DON’T DO THIS. This is why people get hurt and die on Camelback Mountain.
Camelback Mountain hikers
This section of the hike goes up the ridge of the mountain. The trail is rocky and not a dirt path. If you want to know which way to head, look for other hikers going up and down.
Camelback Mountain Hike trail markers
This is where the rock scramble begins. The small blue signs are now mixed in with yellow blazes and reflectors on the rocks. Follow them up. There is no rhyme or reason to which marker is used when. You’ll also see the brown and yellow signs occasionally.
Camelback Mountain Hike rock scramble
You will have to use your hands to pull yourself up some sections of the hike. You can do it, just take your time and stay away from the edges of the ridge.
Camelback Mountain Hike trail
There are points where there are no clear trail markings. Look for footprints and wear on the rocks to make you best guess at which way to hike. You can also turn around and look for markers going down, they will offer clues as to where the Cholla Trail is. If at any point you feel lost or scared, stop, make sure you’re safe, and go back the way you came until you know you are safe.
Camelback Mountain Hike sign
When you see trail signs, you know you’re hiking in the right place.
blue and yellow paint blazes
You’ll also see a mix of trail markers, including blue and yellow paint blazes.
Camelback Mountain Hiker
If you loose the trail, you can wait to look for hikers coming down for a clue as to which way to go.
Camelback Mountain Hike side trails
In general, you want to hike towards the middle of the ridge. There are side trails that dead end. Just turn around and hike back.
Camelback Mountain Hike
Be prepared to pull yourself up some sections.
Camelback Mountain summit
A post with the blue Cholla Trail marker tells you that you’re almost at the Camelback Mountain summit.
Camelback Mountain summit
You made it! Welcome to the summit. There will be hikers here who took the tougher Echo Canyon trail too. At least you’ll have someone to take your picture.
Camelback Mountain Hike views
From the Camelback Mountain summit you have 360 degree views of Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Cholla Trail summit marker
Don’t forget to get a shot with the Cholla Trail summit marker.
cholla trail sign
You’re going to hike down the way you came up, on the Cholla Trail. There’s a sign for the Cholla Trail if you forgot where you entered the summit.
Camelback Mountain Hike trail
The scramble down the Cholla Trail is easier because you can see the way.
Camelback Mountain Hike
You might have to go down on your butt for sections of the scramble. Again, take your time, have fun, and most importantly, play it safe.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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