Camelback Mountain's reformed Echo Canyon Trail, trailhead, and parking area will re-open to the public on November 30, officials say.
When the short, popular summit trail closed on January 28th for a $3 million renovation, hikers were told only that they could come back sometime in the fall. Now, says David Urbinato, Phoenix parks and recreation department spokesman, a "firm" re-opening date has been set for the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
The revamped mountain-park entrance near McDonald Drive and Tatum Boulevard will feature a separate access road for nearby homes, 68 new parking spots (double the previous number), real restrooms, and a slightly longer, rerouted start to Echo Canyon Trail.
The old trail ran up to the first saddle in just a quarter-mile, while the new section covers that ground in a more leisurely half-mile. The overall elevation gain to the summit from the trailhead remains about 1,200 feet, with the total length extended to about 1.45 miles, by our calculation. Purists and others resistant to change may grouse at the lack of railroad ties and tamed grade that will mean a slightly less burly beginning, but city planners say the change was needed to reduce water erosion.
Cholla Trail, on the mountain's eastern flank, has remained open during the Echo closure. And, as anyone knows who's been to the summit and seen the signs in recent months, the top three-quarters of Echo Canyon trail has, in fact, been open during the closure. That's right -- if you've been itching to hike Echo Canyon Trail but thought it was closed, you can go do it today. But to access it, you have to first hike Cholla Trail to the summit, so bring some extra water.
A chain-link fence stops hikers from descending into the construction area just above the super-steep part with the long handrail. On many days in recent months, we've had Echo Canyon Trail -- normally bustling with hundreds of hikers of various fitness levels -- all to ourselves. Without all that traffic, the handrails now sport a fine coat of powdered dust and weeds grow in places where they'd normally be trampled.
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The city plans to give the news media a sneak peek of the new parking lot and trailhead just before the November 30 grand re-opening so the public can see what it's getting, Urbinato says.
We can't wait.
But we don't expect to find a parking spot that day.