Did You Know: Camelback Mountain Is More Than Just Hiking Trails

July 11, 2014

(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
This is a view of the East Valley and beyond. There are several mountains in the background including Superstition, Four Peaks and McDowell Peak. The sign helps hikers identify where the mountains are located.

It’s one of the most popular mountains in the Valley. Known for its difficult hiking trails and unique shape, this centrally located mountain also has a few interesting areas to visit.

Surrounded by private property, Camelback Mountain stands 1,500 feet high. It’s regulated by the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation department. Did You Know … part of Camelback Mountain is more than a billion years old and is chock-full of prime sight-seeing spots?

“It’s in the hub of the city, you know 20 minutes from downtown you’re right here. It’s the highest peak in the city of Phoenix, so 2,706," said Cody Huggins, the Phoenix ranger who led the hiking tour. “Up here there’s a lot of climbing. Climbing dates back to the 40s here.”

Camelback Mountain got its name from those two humps you can spot from pretty much anywhere in the city. It resembles a kneeling camel facing west. From head to end, it’s about two miles long.

This city park has two hiking trails. Both are steep and strenuous. We’re on the Echo Canyon Trail near McDonald Drive. Huggins said there’s more to this mountain than just hiking. He points to the mountain floor line below the camel’s head.

This over here has some native American history. The Hohokam used this for ceremonies,” he said.

It’s a cavern-like opening known as the ceremonial grotto. The cavern ceiling rises to about 50 feet high. Its arched wall makes it feel like you’re in a symphony band shell.  The sounds echo off the sedimentary rock. Huggins said that’s where the Echo Canyon Trail got its name. He cautions me as we walk in.

"I’m gonna give you a hint, buzzzzz." 

The giant beehive makes me want to leve. We scurry off and make our way to a structure known as the praying monk. It’s a 100-foot rock formation on the north side of the mountain that — from a distance — resembles someone praying. 

“You can’t just walk up to the praying monk. That would require, it’s a technical climb. It requires rope and gear," Huggins said.

But you can get close enough to see how big it is —and the view around it. Looking out to the east and west in the distance there are at least 11 other mountains in sight.

When Phoenix began growing in the early 1900s, efforts to preserve the land around the mountain failed, and by the early 1960s houses dotted the landscape. By 1968 the mountainous higher elevations were protected from development when Camelback Mountain became a Phoenix city park.