Camelback Mountain view at night with Milky Way and a shooting star in the background

Can you drive up Camelback Mountain?

Published by Pat Dorri on March 8 2024

Located just a short drive from downtown Phoenix, Camelback Mountain is a popular destination with great hiking trails and a stunning view from the top. It is home to one of the best hikes in Arizona and its far-reaching vistas across the red rock landscape, it's easy to see why it is so famous.

Even though the best views can be seen from the summit of Camelback Mountain, you cannot drive all the way up. The only way to reach the top of the peak is to follow one of the challenging hiking trails that wind up the Arizona mountainside.

It's not easy to hike to the top of Camelback Mountain, but the views across the stunning Sonoran desert and the Phoenix skyline are worth it if you do. Read on to find out about how far up the mountain you can drive and what to expect from the hike to the top.

Can you drive up Camelback Mountain?

Camelback Mountain is car-free, so it's not possible to drive all the way up to the summit. The climb to the summit is steep, with heavy rock obstructing the way, so it wouldn't be suitable for building a road.

Expansive Arizona view from the top of the mountain on a sunny day
You might not be able to drive to the top of Camelback Mountain but you can enjoy a challenging but rewarding hike to the summit to enjoy this stunning panoramic view.

This means that hiking is the only way to the top of Camelback Mountain. There are places to park at the foot of the mountain, and two trails will take you to the summit.

Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail are both around a 30-minute drive from downtown Phoenix. They're challenging hikes, which take 2 to 3 hours to complete, so don't arrive at Camelback Mountain expecting a gentle walk to the summit.

Traveling to Camelback Mountain from Phoenix city center

Both the Echo Canyon Trailhead and Cholla Trailhead sit northeast of downtown Phoenix. The Echo Canyon Trailhead is at the west foot of the mountain, while the Cholla Trailhead is at the east foot of the mountain.

If you're heading to Echo Canyon Trailhead, then make your way to AZ-202 from your starting point in Phoenix. Next, turn onto N 4th Street, which leads you all the way to McDonald Drive and the trailhead parking lot.

There are a few different options to reach Cholla Trailhead, which is at the east foot of the mountain. Depending on where you're starting from, you'll take one of the main roads north through the outskirts of the city until you reach E Camelback Road. Invergordon Road begins at the intersection with N 64th St and takes you to the trailhead.

How to reach the top of Camelback Mountain

As we've mentioned, two trails lead to the top of Camelback Mountain: Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail. Both hikes are a 2 to 3-hour round trip depending on your fitness, speed, and time spent admiring the views at the top.

This is a natural environment, so take advantage of the facilities at the trailheads. At Echo Canyon Trailhead, there are restrooms, a drinking water fountain, trail information, and map displays. In addition to these facilities, Cholla Trailhead also has bike racks.

Echo Canyon Trail leading to the top of the mountain on a sunny day
Before you set off on the scenic Echo Canyon Trail, make sure to take advantage of the facilities near the parking lot.

Where to park near Camelback Mountain

You'll find free parking lots near both of the Camelback Mountain trailheads. However, as these are popular hikes, parking spaces fill early. It's on a first-come, first-served basis, so it's important to plan ahead and make an early start if possible.

For Echo Canyon Trailhead, the parking lot is located off East McDonald Drive.

If you're taking the Cholla Trail, head to N Invergordon Road and look for the designated parking spaces. It's a half-mile walk from the parking area to Cholla Trailhead itself. Note that parking isn't allowed here between sunset and sunrise; don't get caught out.

Hiking to the top of Camelback Mountain

The first mile of the Cholla Trail is only moderately challenging, but you'll have to navigate heavy rocks in the later stages of the hike. As it ascends more gradually towards the summit, it's considered the easier of the two hikes.

In contrast, Echo Canyon Trail is the steeper and more difficult hike, and requires the use of handrails in places. For this reason, take your group's fitness capabilities into consideration before deciding which trail to follow: the Echo Canyon Trail is deemed slightly more tricky because of the steeper incline.

Sun setting over Phoenix, view from the top of the mountain onto the night lights of the city
Take in the beautiful views of Phoenix from the top of Camelback Mountain.
Kenyon Gerbrandt/

How long does it take to reach Camelback Mountain?

Many visitors head to Camelback Mountain from Phoenix or the surrounding area, but if you're traveling further afield, we've put together the expected travel time and distance from other cities in the west and southwest.

In the summer months, it's best to hike the trails around Camelback Mountain in the early morning or late afternoon, so make sure you time your departure to suit.

Comparison of travel times and distances to Camelback Mountain's trailheads
OriginClosest trailheadDistanceTime
TucsonEcho Canyon Trailhead110 miles1 hour 50 minutes
Las VegasEcho Canyon Trailhead300 miles5 hours
Los AngelesEcho Canyon Trailhead380 miles6 hours 10 minutes
AlbuquerqueCholla Trailhead410 miles6 hours 30 minutes
Salt Lake CityEcho Canyon Trailhead660 miles10 hours 30 minutes
San FranciscoEcho Canyon Trailhead760 miles12 hours
DenverCholla Trailhead860 miles13 hours
San AntonioCholla Trailhead980 miles14 hours 30 minutes

Things you need to know about driving to Camelback Mountain

Although it's an easy day trip out of Phoenix, there are still a few things you need to keep in mind to make sure your drive to Camelback Mountain goes as smoothly as possible.

  • If you're staying somewhere local, make use of the bike racks at Cholla Trailhead and ride there to save the stress of parking.
  • Similarly, if you're starting out in Scottsdale or Phoenix, use a taxi or an Uber since the trailheads aren't too far out of town.
  • If parking is unavailable, consider hiking alternative trails in the area. There are many on offer.
  • Due to extreme heat, summer is a quieter time to visit Camelback Mountain, but you'll need to be well-prepared for your trip.
  • Always bring water and the means to refill.
  • Also, bring sun protection and wear hats and sunglasses.
  • In excessive heat, Camelback Mountain closes from 11am to 5pm, so if you're hiking there in summer, aim for an early morning or late afternoon start.
  • Watch your step. The trails have rocky and uneven surfaces, and wildlife, such as snakes, inhabit them.
  • Know your limits and consider your fitness capabilities. If necessary, look for easier hikes or complete a smaller section.
Cactus standing tall amid the rocks at Camelback Mountain, Arizona, with vivid blue sky
Phoenix and the surrounding area get quite a bit of sunshine, and this applies to the Camelback Mountain. So don't forget to pack your sunscreen and bring a hat!
Robert Marxen/

Things to see once you reach Camelback Mountain

As it's such a short drive from the urban vibes of Phoenix, Camelback Mountain is the perfect place to escape into the great outdoors. Some of the highlights of your visit will include:

  1. 360-Degree Views - Reap the rewards of your hike with sweeping vistas of the Sonoran Desert. Iconic saguaro cacti and the rugged terrain stretch out as far as the eye can see.
  2. Phoenix Skyline -The distinctive skyline of downtown Phoenix is just a few miles away, and the contrast between the skyscrapers and the desert landscape makes for an unusual outlook.
  3. Echo Canyon -If you're hiking the Echo Canyon Trail, you'll see the canyon of the same name with its towering rock formations and rugged cliffs.
  4. Wildlife - Look for desert wildlife while hiking in the area. You may encounter birds of prey, snakes, lizards, and small mammals.

If you're an experienced hiker looking for an unforgettable view, a trip to Camelback Mountain makes an unforgettable half-day hikeā€”or longer if you want to spend more time enjoying the scenery!