- Where to Go
- The Best of the Valley of the Sun
- Wild West Adventure
- Let Scottsdale Rock Your World
- Finding Water in the Sonoran Desert
- Spring Training
- Arizona Family Road Trip
- Phoenix Points of Pride
- Southwestern Culture and Heritage
- Nocturnal Scottsdale
- Exploring Phoenix’s Architecture
- Unexpected Arizona
- Desert Chic
- Chilly Drinks and Cool Eats in Scottsdale
It doesn’t require a great deal of imagination to make out the “kneeling camel” profile. Camelback Mountain, the Valley’s most iconic landmark, straddles the communities of Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Paradise Valley, luring some 300,000 hikers to its red sandstone and granite cliffs every year.
The park preserves a 76-acre piece of the Sonoran Desert in the heart of the city, where bighorn sheep once scaled the dramatic rock formations and the ancient Hohokam civilization practiced religious rituals.
The federal government set aside Camelback as an Indian reservation until the late 1800s, and it slipped into private hands in the 1940s. Finally, in 1968 private citizens, led by Sen. Barry Goldwater, arranged a land exchange that protected the mountain from future development. The event was marked by President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson, who walked the mountain in high heels.
Today, a good portion of Camelback has been protected for recreation, though multimillion dollar homes and posh resorts climb its base. For visitors not heading out to the desert, it’s an excellent opportunity to see Sonoran critters like spiny lizards, roadrunners, rabbits, and, yes, the possible rattlesnake, in their native environment.
To get an up-close view of Camelback, explore the Echo Canyon Recreation Area (5700 N. Echo Canyon Pkwy., 602/256-3220, www.phoenix.gov/parks/hikecmlb.html) at the “camel’s head,” where you’ll find Praying Monk rock. The freestanding, 80-foot-high rock tower, which looks like the camel’s eyelashes from a distance, is a popular spot for rock climbers.
Taking one of the two trails to the 2,704-foot summit is not recommended for beginning hikers, but more confident climbers will be rewarded with 360-degree views of the Valley and the surrounding mountain ranges. The always-busy trailheads are open daily from sunrise to sunset, but parking is limited. See the Hiking and Rock Climbing page for more information about hiking Camelback Mountain.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition