Camelback Mountain And Hole-in-the-Rock

Kicking off our two-week vacation in southern Arizona, Zosia Zgolak and I traversed Camelback Mountain on 2 April 2018.  Located on the border between the cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale, Camelback Mountain is easily accessed via a well-developed trail which runs over the summit between two separate trailheads.  Originally, we had planned to rendezvous with a work colleague of Zosia’s and set up a car shuttle, but when those plans did not materialize, we decided to do the traverse anyway and simply hike back to our starting point along the adjacent city streets.

To take advantage of the morning light, we started our hike from the Cholla Trailhead at the east end of the mountain.  There is currently no parking available at this trailhead which is located on the south side of Cholla Lane about 480 metres west of Invergordon Road.  Instead, we parked along the west side of Invergordon Road where free parking starts about 160 metres south of Cholla Lane.  There were already lots of cars here when we arrived shortly after sunrise, and we felt fortunate to find a spot fairly close to the start of the free parking.  After walking to the Cholla Trailhead, we started up the well-marked trail winding up the east ridge of Camelback Mountain.  The only difficulty of the ascent was trying to find some privacy for pee breaks since the trail is extremely busy.

Not surprisingly, the summit was crowded with people, many of whom were carrying nothing more than a water bottle in one hand and a cel phone in the other.  Zosia and I managed to find a slightly quieter spot just below the summit to take a short break before beginning our descent to the Echo Canyon Trailhead at the west end of the mountain.  The trail to this trailhead is shorter but also steeper, and people seemed to be labouring more coming up this way.

Temperatures were soaring by the time we reached the Echo Canyon Trailhead (washrooms, water and limited parking available), and we took advantage of a shelter here to get out of the sun for a bit.  When we resumed hiking, we walked through the full parking lot to a traffic circle and then headed east on McDonald Drive.  With our backpacks and trekking poles, Zosia and I probably looked a little odd walking along the residential sidewalks.  In retrospect, we probably looked odd even on Camelback Mountain amongst all the other hikers with minimal gear.  In any case, nobody gave us grief as we walked to Invergordon Road before turning south and returning to our car.
Where do people go to pee before they start hiking here?? Zosia walks past numerous parked cars on Invergordon Road.
It must suck to live on this street! Camelback Mountain is more clearly seen as Zosia turns up Cholla Lane.
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign; Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind; Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign? Sonny arrives at the Cholla Trailhead.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

This is what we came to see in southern Arizona! Zosia stands next to a typical saguaro cactus.
That is one nasty plant! A hummingbird consumes nectar from the flower of an ocotillo plant.
Zosia is going strong! The well-maintained trail cuts across a rocky section.
Can you spot the long line of humanity going up the ridge? Zosia continues to climb up the busy trail.
And yet, people still get into trouble going off-route on this mountain! Signs and paint marks help to point hikers in the right direction.
Looks like a convention up there! Zosia braces for the hordes of people she will encounter on the summit.

Success! High five!

Zosia and Sonny stand not far from the summit of Camelback Mountain (818 metres).


Lotsa "Instagramming" going on here! The summit is very crowded, probably always!
See you in another 12 days... To the northwest, Piestewa Peak is another popular mountain to climb in the Phoenix area.
We will have to save Mummy Mountain for another trip... Mummy Mountain sits a couple of blocks to the north while McDonald Drive is the closest road running left to right in the foreground.
Oh great, more people! Zosia begins descending the trail to Echo Canyon Trailhead.
Oh, the humanity! Hordes of people continue to come up the trail that Zosia is descending.
For the record, I did not touch any of the handrails! Sonny descends a very steep section of the trail.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Feels like we're at the Mexican border! Here is a more comprehensive view of the very steep section of trail.
Finding parking at this trailhead is insanely difficult! Zosia leaves Echo Canyon Trailhead.  The pinnacle of rock sticking up to the left is known as The Praying Monk.
They look like grape lollipops. Care to lick one? Zosia is impressed by some purple prickly pear cacti.
The owner of the tree did not mind us plucking the oranges, but she warned us that they would be very sour. Zosia and Sonny hold up a couple of oranges that they plucked from a tree near the sidewalk along McDonald Drive.  The oranges are very sour and barely edible.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Or are the plants just happy to see me? Sonny marvels at the stalks of a couple of century plants (Agave americana).

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Quite possibly the most visited mountain in Arizona! Total Distance:  10.1 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  5 hours
Net Elevation Gain:  408 metres

GPX Data

Zosia and I next drove to Papago Park to have a picnic lunch by one of the ponds.  Temperatures were very warm, and we were thankful to find shade under a convenient ramada (picnic shelter).  After lunch, we visited nearby Hole-in-the-Rock, a natural rock formation which is popular with tourists.  Hordes of people congregating near the hole made it tough to get a decent photograph, and we did not linger there for long.

We subsequently drove to Tempe Beach Park on the south bank of Salt River and went for another short stroll before rounding out the day with dinner at the quaint Organ Stop Pizza restaurant in Mesa.
Mmmm...California rolls! Zosia prepares to eat lunch in the shade of a ramada at Papago Park.  Note the mallard under the picnic table.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Another great place to watch stupid people almost kill themselves! Zosia visits Hole-in-the-Rock after lunch.
It's a good thing this hike is short 'cause that sun is cookin'! Access to Hole-in-the-Rock is via a good trail on the back side of the formation.  The visible hole is not the same as the one seen from the front side.
I didn't have the guts to tell the lady beside us to move out of the way for the photograph. Sonny and Zosia huddle together inside Hole-in-the-Rock.
Second summit of the day? Sonny finds a little solitude by scrambling to the top of Hole-in-the-Rock.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Unfortunately, I didn't have the smart phone app which is required to rent the bicycles. Sonny checks out one of the rental bicycles at Tempe Beach Park.  Behind him is the Salt River.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Meow... At Organ Stop Pizza restaurant, the organist is accompanied by a chorus of "cats" as he plays Alley Cat by Danish composer Brent Fabric.