Best Scramble Hike - 2012
Cholla Trail, Camelback Mountain
Usually, we're with those Echo Canyon snobs who sneer at the wimps coming up the easier Cholla side. But this year, we've rediscovered the pleasures of Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain — especially the killer scramble up the last fifth of the 1.75-mile hike to the summit. If you enjoy a hands-on hike like we do, this trail will make you smile in between grunts of effort. On Camelback, both the main trails offer terrific vistas, good people-watching, and a heart-pounding workout with a climb of more than 1,000 feet. Most of the Cholla Trail has lesser grades than the Echo Canyon Trail, but that changes near the top. Suddenly, the options for rock-crawling open up, allowing hikers to spread out and choose their own paths. Spray-painted blue dots on the boulders help guide the way, but you don't have to follow them. When a bottleneck of hikers slows your momentum, look for another semi-vertical surface to jump on. A committed scrambler can find numerous, alternate paths up that require the use of handholds, yet aren't exposed enough to necessitate breaking out a climbing rope. Since the mountain is centrally located, you'll still have plenty of day left after all that monkeying around.