Hiking Camelback in Arizona at Sunrise
No matter what time of year you’re planning to hike up the most prominent landmark in central Phoenix — Camelback Mountain — you’ll want to get an early start. Summer temperatures soar beyond 100 degrees shortly after sunrise, and those hiking up and down the mountain in a steady stream make sure that parking is packed throughout the day.
The mountain’s summit is an ideal place to watch the sunrise, providing 360-degree views over the shimmering city.
Is There an Echo Here?
Get glimpses of sunrise from vantage points along the Echo Canyon Trail as it ascends the western slopes of Camelback Mountain. The trail was completely remodeled in the latter half of 2013 and reopened in 2014.
The improved trailhead facilities include 135 parking spaces, bike racks, pedestrian walkways and a direct entrance from Tatum Road. Newly built restrooms with flush toilets and chilled drinking fountains outside provide an area to gear up for your climb or refresh yourself afterward.
Up the Camel’s Nose
Echo Canyon’s trail remodel rerouted the first quarter-mile from a steep ascent up a decaying railroad tie staircase to a natural pathway along the mountain’s contours. The wide path easily accommodates the busy two-way foot traffic normal during early morning hours on the mountain as locals set out on their daily fitness climbs.
This new route adds an eighth of a mile to reach the Echo Canyon Saddle, where you’ll get a panoramic view of the sunrise over Paradise Valley. Extremely rugged past this point, the narrow, uneven trail is flanked by handrails and safety fences and requires bouldering across slippery granite en route to the mountain’s summit.
The East End of a West-Bound Camel
If you want to catch the first rays of sunshine on your shoulders, head up the eastern slope on the Cholla Trail. Park street-side along Invergordon Road between Camelback Road and Cholla, and walk to the trailhead a quarter-mile west on Cholla.
There are plenty of vistas where you can turn around and view the sunrise as you ascend the steep but less-treacherous trail. The last quarter-mile of the 1.75-mile hike involves bouldering over surprisingly slippery granite with the suggested route marked by strips of blue paint.
Timing is Everything
To catch the sunrise on Camelback Mountain, get to the trailhead at first light to start up the mountain. The sun peeps above the horizon at a lazy 7:30 a.m. in the winter months, and you’ll have to watch for icy spots on the Echo Canyon Trail in mid- to late January when Phoenix receives most of its winter moisture.
Be ready for temps in the upper 90s to the low 100s before the sun comes up during the hottest months of July and August, and have plenty of water along on your hike. Be on the trail before 5:15 a.m. in June to catch the sunrise.