Updated: Oct 31, 2018
From Fountain Hills, AZ head west on Shea Blvd for 8 miles, exiting onto 101 south for 4 miles. Exit McDonald oad heading west (left) driving 4 miles turning left onto N. Invergordon Rd. Then drive an additional 3 miles and park along N. Invergordon road at the 1st available parking space. It does get quite crowded on the weekends so you may have to park up to 1 mile away from the trail head. The day my friend Celia and I hiked we park exactly 1 mile away adding an additional 2 miles to the hike.
Cholla is a 2.4 mile in and out trail with an elevation gain of 1158 feet. This trail is rated as hard and recommended only for the most adventurous hikers. The best time to hike this trail is from the end of October through May.
This hike is something else to hike and the adventure begins as soon as you arrive on Invergordon Road and begin trying to locate a parking spot. It's recommended to arrive early as parking fills up quickly. I arrived at 6:30 am and the parking was already 1 mile from the trail head. As you can see the parking was running all the way down on the right side of the road and beginning back up on the left side.
Once you arrive at the trail head you immediately begin your climb up a beautiful rock staircase that runs along the base of the mountain gently ascending upward.
In approximately 100 yards or so the trail evens out allowing time to catch your breath and take in beautiful views of the golf course and Paradise Valley.
Now it's time again to continue your climb up the staircase twisting through your first group of switchbacks winding upward. Continuing upward you come to an flat area which is a popular stop to rest and take in the views overlooking the Phoenician resort.
Off in the distance behind the Phoenician rises Papago Park. With binoculars you can capture the beauty of those mountains.
It's climbing time again as you make your way up the limestone wash running up down the mountain side.
The trail switches back and forth heading to the next landing to take in the views. The dry winter has resulted in a flowerless spring except for the occasional bloom here and there. Luckily we were greeted by a blooming Ocotillo Cactus at the top the switchback.
Continuing up the north face of the mountain towards the helicopter pad you get more beautiful views. This morning the sky was hazy but you could still see the hot air balloon flying over Lake Pleasant.
As you get closer to the helicopter pad landing the trail begins to get a bit more grueling and you start to do more scrambling and less hiking along the trail.
After scrambling for a bit you arrive to the second great place to take a break, the helicopter pad landing area. From here you get your 1st good view of downtown with South Mountain in the backdrop.
Now, the fun begins! From this point to the top of Camelback Mountain you are doing a combination of scrambling and hiking with more emphasis on the scrambling. After a seven year hiatus from doing this hike I returned to be very surprised at how popular this hike has become and with it large crowds. You need to be prepared for the crowds because in some places you could wait up to 2 - 3 minutes to let others pass before you could continue up the trail.
After scrambling up this side of the mountain the trail levels off for a bit before you start bouldering through the next passage. From this vantage point you get your first glimpse of the people on top.
Right before the last switchback you can get a nice view of where you've travel since scrambling up the side of the mountain earlier.
Arriving at the top of camelback you can get a panoramic view of Phoenix and the surrounding areas with all the other hikers.
You did it, and you've earned well deserved time to relax and have a snack maybe even meet some new friends all while soaking up the panoramic view of Phoenix Metro.