Parking and Traffic Alert for Echo Canyon:
During Winter / Spring months, Echo Canyon experiences EXTREMELY high visitation. The parking lot will typically fill up from late morning through early afternoon and remain full throughout the day on weekends. When the park reaches capacity the entry gate will be closed. Hikers cannot idle or park vehicles on McDonald Drive and Tatum Boulevard to wait for the gates to reopen. Police will ticket hikers who idle their cars on McDonald and will tow vehicles parked illegally on the street.
Here's what you can do to avoid traffic backups and entry gate closures:
- Bike to the trailhead. If you can, consider bringing a bike in your vehicle, parking in a public parking area within a few miles of the park and biking to the trailhead. There are 17 bike lock racks that can accommodate at least 34 bikes at one time.
- Consider another hiking location, especially on weekends and during peak hiking season through April. We have many great summit climbs that offer a solid workout without the crushing crowds of Camelback. North Mountain, South Mountain, Lookout Mountain and the Sonoran Preserve offer challenging hikes and summit climbs.
- Avoid the area on weekends. During winter and spring months, weekend traffic is heavy throughout the day and traffic and gate closures are possible at all times.
- Carpool whenever possible. When meeting friends to hike at Echo Canyon, always meet off site and travel to the trailhead in a single vehicle.
- Try a less busy time on weekdays. Early afternoons tend to be the least busy times during weekdays.
- Try returning 15-20 minutes later. You can NOT idle in nearby neighborhoods or circle on nearby streets.
The summit of Camelback Mountain is at 2,704 feet above sea level. The mountain's two summit trails gain approximately 1,200 feet in elevation.
During the late 1800s, the federal government reserved Camelback Mountain for an Indian reservation. By the 1940s, however, almost the entire mountain fell into private hands and remained so for most of the next two decades. Efforts on the county, state and federal level to restrict development above the 1,600-feet level largely were unsuccessful, including failed efforts in 1963-64 in the state Legislature to arrange land exchanges.
In 1965, the Preservation of Camelback Mountain Foundation led by Barry Goldwater, spearheaded community efforts to save as much of the summit as possible. This effort ultimately succeeded and was capped of by a ceremony in 1968 marking a land exchange that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall attended.
Geology, flora and fauna
The “head” of Camelback Mountain, which comprises the area of Echo Canyon Recreation Area, is made up of layered sandstone. The hump primarily is composed of granite that, in geologic terms, is much older than the sedimentary rock that makes up the head section of the mountain. Because it's surrounded by residential development, large mammals are not normally found in the park. Smaller animals typical of the Sonoran Desert populate the park including cottontail rabbits, snakes, lizards, Harris antelope squirrels as well as a variety of birds. Rattlesnakes are common on the trail. If you see one, allow it space and time to escape. Plant species are typical of those found in the lower Sonoran Desert and include saguaro, barrel, hedgehog, pincushion, jumping cholla, christmas, staghorn, cholla and prickly pear cacti. Tree species include palo verde, mesquite and ironwood, along with the ocotillo plant.