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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.


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