Conquering Camelback

[trip style = active & adventure] {more pics below}

{Editor’s Note :: In case you haven't already noticed, this month we've been prescribing a healthy dose of Greater Phoenix's desert sun covering girls’ getaways, a stay at the Arizona Biltmore and The Saguaro, and a Spring Training baseball game. More to come.}

When you see a helipad at the base of a trail, you're likely to logically deduce: a} this is going to be the hike of a lifetime, or b} I need to put in a few more hours of beauty sleep. On the occasion of a crisp and sunny 8am on March 4th, 2012, I chose "a" and lived to tell the tale.

First things first: have you heard of the famed Camelback Mountain? Affectionately named after the silhouette of a sleeping camel, at 2704 ft high and 1.5-billion years old, its mere sight---visible from most Phoenix and Scottsdale vistas---b-e-g-s to be conquered {or adored with a glass of blended Arizona red at sundown if you're activity averse}. Not for the physically and emotionally faint of heart, from start to summit the hike gains 1200+ ft over 2 km by way of stairs, double black diamond-steep ascents and bouldering.

The upward journey is stunning; take a moment to appreciate how the sun floods the landscape, how the cacti spring short, tall and scraggly arms---or none at all---and how the yellow brittlebush flowers flourish in surprising nooks. Once at the top, the peak is breezy and easy to navigate with enough flatish terrain you could conceivably park yourself and indulge in a mountaintop picnic with multi-million dollar views. The downward descent is as physical as the hike up, requiring an extra dose of tunnel vision focus.

PS - for those of you from Vancouver, Canada measuring this hike with a Grouse Grind paradigm {famous hike in North Vancouver known as "nature's stairmaster"}, the desert terrain makes Camelback a touch trickier, and there's no skyride tram, so you have to hike down.

The Skinny - Camelback is busy, arrive really early, like 7am. - Park at Echo Valley Park {limited spaces}. - Bring lots of water---more than you think you'll need---and wear sunscreen. - For a less strenuous and crowded hike, try Tom's Thumb in Scottsdale's McDowell Mountain Sonoran Preserve {near the Four Seasons}. Depending on which route you choose, a steady climb will cover 6 - 10 km with great views from every step.

The first few steps. Gooooooooooood morning!

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” - John Burroughs

Reaching the top.

At elevation overlooking Greater Phoenix and Piestewa Peak {formerly “Squaw Peak,” but renamed in 2003 to honor Lori Piestewa, the first Native American woman to die in combat, and the first female soldier to be killed in action in the Iraq War}.

Trish {editor} and Leah {travel health} at the summit. -left to right-

More IMG_FRI Arizona Spring Training Tipping Etiquette Infographic Harrison’s Secrets Bora Bora Portlandia Honolulu Urbanesque Coffee Shop in Bellevue, WA

[Photos by @tripstyler]