Echo Canyon Trail at Camelback Mountain is scheduled to re-open to the public on January 15 with a new trailhead, restroom facilities, and expanded parking lot.
This looks like a firm date (following an "oops" moment in September). Expected temperatures in the low 70s should help make it a great day for a hike.
But leave the pooch at home, at least for the next six months.
The city plans to enforce a "no dogs" policy for the first half of the year because of the anticipated large crowds.
Gates will open 30 minutes before sunrise on Wednesday, with the trail officially open at sunrise, the city says. The park's located off McDonald Drive, just east of Tatum Boulevard.
The $4.3 million renovation project that's closed Echo Canyon Recreation Area since January 28, 2013, finally gives the famous hiking spot the respect it deserves: real restrooms, a bigger parking area, more bike racks, and paths to keep pedestrians off the road as they're walking up to the trailhead.
Nearby homeowners get their own access road instead of having to share Echo Canyon Parkway with park users. Paradise Valley is kicking in $450,000 for the roundabout at the park entrance.
The beginning of the old 1.2-mile trail summit trail has been lengthened to avoid erosion, making the trail's new length about 1.45 miles. With its 1,300-foot elevation gain, it'll still be a lung-burner and useful as a basic unit of mountain measurement -- as in, "that mountain [or canyon trail] requires about two-and-a-half camelbacks worth of effort."
HIkers of the summit-reaching Cholla Trail on Camelback's east side were able to continue on down about three-quarters of Echo Canyon Trail to a chain link fence, not that many did so. The Echo Canyon area also provides access to several popular, local climbing routes like the east face of the Praying Monk formation.
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Text of city's news release follows:
PHOENIX TO REOPEN CAMELBACK'S ECHO CANYON AREA JAN. 15
Camelback Mountain's improved and expanded Echo Canyon Recreation Area, 4925 E. McDonald Dr., and Summit Trail will reopen to hikers at sunrise on Jan. 15 (gates to open 30 minutes prior to official sunrise). Hours year-round are sunrise to sunset.
"Echo Canyon hiking is back and better than ever for valley residents and visitors who love to hike through and view our beautiful desert and mountain landscape," Mayor Greg Stanton said. "Attractions like this make our city a great place to live, visit and a great example of the value of preserving heritage and nature."
Over the past year, crews have expanded the lot, almost doubling its size from 68 to 135 spaces; improved and rerouted the lower part of the popular summit trail to eliminate badly worn sections, make it more resistant to erosion and better able to withstand heavy foot traffic; and made other changes that will increase vehicle and hiker safety and ease traffic congestion.
"The city invested over $4 million on improvements and renovations for the park," Councilman Sal DiCiccio said. "These renovations were critical for the preservation of Camelback Mountain. We've pushed this for a very long time and it's great we were able to get it done."
The improvement project:
• Increased the size of the parking area to 135 vehicle spaces from 68 prior to construction and added 15 bicycle racks.
• Improved pedestrian safety through the addition of walkways throughout the parking area. Previously, hikers approaching the area on foot had to use the roadway to get to the trails.
• Renovated, rerouted and rebuilt the lower section of the popular summit trail to eliminate erosion-prone areas, improve footing, revegetate eroded sections and increase long-term sustainability for the mountain.
• Added a permanent restroom, shade ramada and chilled drinking fountain at the trailhead.
• Improved traffic flow and reduced potential for backups through the creation of separate entrances for the trailhead and the neighboring residential area.
• Improved vehicle and pedestrian safety at the park entrance through the addition of a roundabout at the park entrance. The roundabout will control vehicle speeds at the park entrance, making it safer for hikers and vehicles entering the recreation area lot.
For the first six months after Echo Canyon reopens on Jan. 15, the Echo Canyon area, including the summit trail, will be "hiker only." Given the pent-up demand and extremely large crowds expected after reopening on Echo Canyon's tight, strenuous trails, reserving them for hikers only will ensure the safety of users. Though they're not allowed on Echo Canyon trails for the first six months after reopening, Camelback's Cholla Trail will remain open to dogs. Hikers also will still be able to hike with their dogs on all other City of Phoenix trails designated for pets and multiple uses, totaling more than 175 miles. The summit trail on Piestewa Peak is the only other Phoenix trail on which dogs are not permitted.
Approximately 700,000 hikers use Camelback's two summit trails each year. As was the practice prior to start of construction, vehicle queuing prior to sunrise opening or during the day will not be permitted. When the park reopens, rangers will open the entry gates at one-half hour prior to official sunrise.
The trail and parking area expansion and improvements and roadway roundabout cost $4.34 million to date, funded through the Phoenix Parks and Preserve Initiative. This total cost will be offset by reimbursements by the Town of Paradise Valley, which is contributing $450,000 towards costs of constructing the roundabout at the park entrance on McDonald Drive, of which $150,000 already has been contributed.