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Camelback Mountain
Lens: 18-35 Art, 12-24 II Camera: SD1 Merrill, DP2 Merrill Photo Location: Phoenix, Arizona 
Posted By: scratchpaddy, 02-26-2014, 06:51 PM

The valley the Phoenix area occupies is generally very flat, but a few mountains crop up straight out of the city streets. The tallest of those is Camelback Mountain, rising about 1,200 feet (~370m) above the city below.

Since it's the highest place in the heart of a city of four million, it attracts a ton of visitors. The city website repeatedly tries to dissuade you from hiking there: the trail's harder than you think it is, it's really crowded, you'll never find a parking space, it's really hot, etc...

I went there at sunrise on a weekday morning, as weekend visits are all but impossible except to the few who find parking first.



I had actually meant to hike the Valley's second tallest peak that morning. I had gotten there just before sunrise, only to find a sign that said dogs aren't allowed. So, I wandered over to Camelback instead. This was my first visit, and I didn't know exactly how to get there, but a mountain is hard to miss. I found it quick enough, and figured out where I had to park on my second circuit around the mountain. Camelback is tall, but not that big otherwise.

All the city's fitness gurus were on the trail already. I'm not much for fitness. I just like to walk.



There's a helipad just before the trail's difficult section begins. Most who just came to jog turn around here; the final section is mostly done on all fours.



I found this guy in blue again while I was on my way back down. He was scrambling up a very steep area which was not actually part of the trail; he'd lost track of it, which is easy to do if you're in a rush.



I had to let Skippy off the leash for the last section. I needed all four limbs to climb, and she could do a lot better scrambling up the rocks without me holding her back. She was much better at it than I was, really.



This jogger was not about to let a little scrambling stop him, or even slow him down much at all.



These two were taking their time. She was, anyway. He seemed happy to wait.



The summit is a good place to show off your battle scars to the ladies.



I like this sign. "Cholla Trail: Straight Down." It's accurate. I hear the trail up the other side (Echo Canyon) is more difficult, though.



For scale, you can see someone still at the summit in this picture.



I met these two fitness gurus back at the helipad. Climbing a mountain is not enough! We need pushups and jumping jacks too.



They had a dog named Napa. Unlike his owners, he seemed sane enough.


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02-26-2014, 07:05 PM   #2
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Nice series, far from my home base...
02-26-2014, 07:14 PM   #3
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Nice story and photos too! I'm not sure what is worst: no mountains where you live (like me now) or having mountains but can't have 2 miles on the track without meeting people - or not having opportunity to go up, because the mountain it's "full". Napa looks like: Oh, these humans are crazy, OK that I've been leading them until the top, but now where is my tidbit?
Thanks for sharing!

---------- Post added 27-02-14 at 03:17 ----------

Btw: nice (and probably higher and less "populated") mountains in the distance, on the opposite side of the city!
02-26-2014, 08:54 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jacquot Quote
Nice series, far from my home base...
Thanks, Dave! I wouldn't mind being only a few hours from those Adirondacks of yours.

QuoteOriginally posted by Caver Quote
Nice story and photos too! I'm not sure what is worst: no mountains where you live (like me now) or having mountains but can't have 2 miles on the track without meeting people - or not having opportunity to go up, because the mountain it's "full". Napa looks like: Oh, these humans are crazy, OK that I've been leading them until the top, but now where is my tidbit?
Thanks for sharing!

Btw: nice (and probably higher and less "populated") mountains in the distance, on the opposite side of the city!
Thanks Bela! I actually don't mind all the people on the mountain. Everyone I met was courteous about sharing the narrow and occasionally treacherous trail. Plus, the human element adds interest to the pictures. The parking situation could certainly use improvement, though.



The mountains you see off to the east (most of the pictures face that way) are the Superstitions, which are also popular. If you go beyond them, though, you can have the whole world to yourself. I've been on a few hikes way out there, past Lake Roosevelt, and I might see one or two people while hiking all day. Maybe none.

02-26-2014, 09:32 PM   #5
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Nice to do a virtual hike. If I ever make it to Phoenix, you saved me a lot of work!
From your pictures at the top it looks like the climb must have been at least 1000 ft, maybe 2000 ft, vertical relief. How much is it?
02-26-2014, 10:21 PM   #6
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Awesome work, love this great series, your dog is my favourite one. You've done a great job!!
02-26-2014, 11:36 PM   #7
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Nice series Ian. Like you I have hiking close by. I can go out my door, and hike down to the river. If we have left a return vehicle down stream we can take the Kayaks down the hill to the riverbank and spend the day on the river.

And the Cascade mountains are right at my doorstep, with lots of railroad grade trails and other trails like a trail that goes to the fire lookout on Mount Pilchuck, Lake 22 or the Ice Caves at Big Four mountain.

For a real adventure we can go to Barlow Pass and hike up to Monte Cristo, an old mining town.

And there are natural hot springs in some areas too!
02-27-2014, 04:35 AM   #8
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Good series, nice to see a blend of landscape and people photography

02-27-2014, 06:28 AM   #9
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A very enjoyable narrative and view! Awesome photos that both told a story and showed us the magnificent landscape above Phoenix. Thank you for sharing!
02-27-2014, 08:05 AM   #10
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Well, I'm taking that sucker off my bucket list! Gorgeous scenery from up there and as long as you and Skippy are willing to tackle it there is no reason for me too.
02-27-2014, 10:35 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by slowpez Quote
Well, I'm taking that sucker off my bucket list! Gorgeous scenery from up there and as long as you and Skippy are willing to tackle it there is no reason for me too.
I sooooo agree.

I've lived in Phoenix for 18+ years and I'm quite happy to let others hike it and post pics for me....lol
02-27-2014, 10:41 AM   #12
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Have they reopened the Echo Park trailhead? Last time I was there was before they improved upon it. When I was still there, I opted for South Mountain, or just left town (Usery Mountain Pass, Superstitions, etc) because this place was always so damn crowded.

They're unfriendly to rock climbers there, too, even though some historically important climbing that's been done there.

Still not as bad as Pinnacle Peak, where rock climbing was seen as a distraction to the new golf course, and was banned in most areas...
02-27-2014, 02:49 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by First Poster Quote
Climbing a mountain is not enough! We need pushups and jumping jacks too
That's just wrong, had these people not had enough fun by then?

Thanks for posting an interesting series of images.
02-28-2014, 09:04 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeoJerry Quote
Nice to do a virtual hike. If I ever make it to Phoenix, you saved me a lot of work!
From your pictures at the top it looks like the climb must have been at least 1000 ft, maybe 2000 ft, vertical relief. How much is it?
Believe me, the hike itself is far easier than finding a parking spot on the weekend!

The summit elevation is 2,704 ft, while the surrounding city is between 1,100 and 1,300 ft. The trailhead starts at 1,470 feet, but the nearest parking is 100 feet below that, half a mile away.

QuoteOriginally posted by ausmoose Quote
Awesome work, love this great series, your dog is my favourite one. You've done a great job!!
Thanks! I like that one, too. Somehow, I wound up with very few pictures of Skippy on that hike, but one good one is better than many okay ones.

QuoteOriginally posted by Racer X 69 Quote
Nice series Ian. Like you I have hiking close by. I can go out my door, and hike down to the river. If we have left a return vehicle down stream we can take the Kayaks down the hill to the riverbank and spend the day on the river.

And the Cascade mountains are right at my doorstep, with lots of railroad grade trails and other trails like a trail that goes to the fire lookout on Mount Pilchuck, Lake 22 or the Ice Caves at Big Four mountain.

For a real adventure we can go to Barlow Pass and hike up to Monte Cristo, an old mining town.

And there are natural hot springs in some areas too!
You sure have yourself a wonderful little corner of the country over there. It's something I'd love to see someday, in person.

QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Good series, nice to see a blend of landscape and people photography
Thank you. The people were hard to avoid, so I thought I'd make the most of it.

QuoteOriginally posted by tessfully Quote
A very enjoyable narrative and view! Awesome photos that both told a story and showed us the magnificent landscape above Phoenix. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks, Tess! I don't think I ever would have come to Phoenix if my job hadn't all but forced me to do so, but now I'm so glad I'm here. So many things to see!

QuoteOriginally posted by slowpez Quote
Well, I'm taking that sucker off my bucket list! Gorgeous scenery from up there and as long as you and Skippy are willing to tackle it there is no reason for me too.
Well, I hope you'll at least consider some of our less crowded (and less strenuous) destinations instead. You'll never get rained out around here.

QuoteOriginally posted by nomadkng Quote
I sooooo agree.

I've lived in Phoenix for 18+ years and I'm quite happy to let others hike it and post pics for me....lol
Ever the pragmatist.

QuoteOriginally posted by fretlessdavis Quote
Have they reopened the Echo Park trailhead? Last time I was there was before they improved upon it. When I was still there, I opted for South Mountain, or just left town (Usery Mountain Pass, Superstitions, etc) because this place was always so damn crowded.

They're unfriendly to rock climbers there, too, even though some historically important climbing that's been done there.

Still not as bad as Pinnacle Peak, where rock climbing was seen as a distraction to the new golf course, and was banned in most areas...
Echo Canyon Trail is currently open again to hikers, but dogs are not allowed until June 15th of this year. I have no idea what makes it okay for people, but not dogs, or what exactly changes on June 15th, but hey, I don't make the rules.

That's a shame about rock climbing. Scottsdale has too many stuffy rich people.

QuoteOriginally posted by Kerrowdown Quote
That's just wrong, had these people not had enough fun by then?

Thanks for posting an interesting series of images.
Thanks! It gets better: that couple does the hike four or five times a week.
02-28-2014, 09:25 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by scratchpaddy Quote
You sure have yourself a wonderful little corner of the country over there. It's something I'd love to see someday, in person.
It is almost Paradise.

You get close when you trek to Oregon to visit your folks.
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