Piestewa vs Camelback? Which Should you Hike?

When thinking about what to hike Labor Day Weekend 2020, I thought Piestewa vs Camelback? We have lived in Phoenix for a year but have not hiked Piestewa or Camelback. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to hike both, see what all the fuss is about, check them off my list, and pick my favorite.

This is a comparison post to help you decide which you should hike if you are forced to choose between the two. Piestewa was a clear winner for me. But preferences for hiking and all things outdoors are personal and your preferences might not be the same as mine. Ideally, you should hike both to see which you like better and then come talk to me about it so we can compare notes 😀.

Hiking Stats: Piestewa vs CamelBack

Piestewa

2.6 Miles

1202 Feet

Extremely Difficult

A++++ Views

Camelback

3.5 Miles

1315 Feet

Extremely Difficult

A++++ Views

Map & Elevation Profile

Both hikes are about 1100 feet elevation in just over a mile. My GPX tracks for Piestewa are slightly off because I didn’t start at the trailhead. Oops! Wikipedia reports that Piestewa is 1208 feet in 1.2 miles. I added the small little Bobby’s Rock loop while at Camelback. For Camelback, Wiki states it is 1280 feet elevation in 1.14 miles via the Echo Canyon Trail

Piestewa

Total distance: 2.63 mi
Max elevation: 2597 ft
Min elevation: 1395 ft
Total time: 01:30:27

Camelback

Total distance: 3.47 mi
Max elevation: 2716 ft
Min elevation: 1401 ft
Total time: 01:49:39

Views

Winner: Piestewa 

Views are a top priority for me on hikes. I want big expansive mountain views because that’s what I like. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in alpine meadows or a pine forest as much as the next gal, but expansive views are what matter to me.

Piestewa

Great views of downtown Phoenix happen right away 

The mountain views just get better and better as you continue to climb

There are several excellent rest stops with great views

The views from the summit are holy cow a bunga awesome 🤯

Camelback

Fairly quickly you get views to the west and east towards the Superstitions

There a few excellent rest stops with views

The views from the summit are holy cow a bunga awesome 🤯

The climb is on the north side of the mountain facing Mummy Mountain and views do not feel as expansive

High fences in some areas that obstruct the views

Difficulty

Tie: Both equally hard in their own ways

Both hikes kicked my butt and caused me to have jelly legs on the way down.

Piestewa

Think StairMaster – basically giant steps all the way up

Will make you sweaty and get your heart rate high

Excellent workout

Trail is very exposed and sometimes the giant steps are a little scary (like when descending from the summit, I thought don’t look down)

Camelback

If a StairMaster and rock scramble had kids, this would be it

Will make you very sweaty and breath very hard

Excellent workout

Very steep in places with railings installed – railings get hot after being in the sun

The last half mile to the summit is a rock scramble and a KILLA

Solitude

Tie: No solitude on either

These are both very busy hikes. They are in the middle of a huge sprawling metropolis so expect people to be everywhere. 

Piestewa

People galore

Can sneak off on other trails to escape the crowds

Camelback

People everywhere 

Wider trail many places so you have more space – especially during rock scramble

Parking

Winner: Piestewa

Both lots are free but there is more parking available at Piestewa.

Piestewa

Big parking lot with more facilities under construction

More parking means more people

Camelback

Good size lot 

Fills up fast

Trail

Winner: Piestewa

Piestewa has my favorite type of hiking trail: rocky, not too wide, just feels like a real hiking trail. It’s kind of like the Gateway Loop or Sunrise Trail in the McDowells. Camelback is less defined. It’s not a bad thing, just not my preference. 

Piestewa

Rocky and not too wide

Feel likes a real hiking trail

Camelback

Trail undefined in many areas

Beginning is a wide gravel path 

Very steep in places! 

The Summit

Winner: Camelback

When you do a big climb, it’s nice to have a cool area to hang out, rest for a while, and enjoy the views. Camelback is a clear winner on this.

Piestewa

Small area at summit

Cliff edges close by

AMAZING views

Camelback

Large area at summit

Plenty of space to relax and rest without crowding up on people or being too close to a cliff edge

AMAZING views

Conclusion: Piestewa vs Camelback?

Both are challenging hikes with spectacular views. For me, Piestewa was better because the scenery was more expansive and it felt more like a real hiking trail. After completing both hikes, I thought I would take my BF or out of town friends on Piestewa in a heartbeat but would hesitate with Camelback. I definitely would consider trying taking it slow up Camelback or approaching from the Cholla Trail side.

Which is your favorite and why? Please share in the comments! Everyone has different hiking/trail preferences and it’s good to hear all opinions. Plus on either one, you will get to enjoy mountain views, get a good workout in, and feel a great sense of accomplishment. 

Map for Piestewa and Camelback Hikes

You won’t regret having this map. There are a lot of signs but you should always have a map. This Green Trails Map is awesome!

Photo Gallery To make you want to Visit

 

Can’t you just see yourself hiking here and enjoying these views!

Get more inspired to get outside:

Hike to the Lookout, McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Why hike to Tom’s Thumb with you can hike to the Lookout? The views are even better, the trail is fantasic and there are less people!

Dispersed Camping Fire Control Road (NF-64), Payson, AZ

The dispersed camping along Fire Control Road (NF-64) in Payson, AZ, is great! There are quiet sites with great views. Read more here!

Natural Tunnel Via Dirt Road Trail Hike, South Mountain Preserve

Hiking to the Natural Tunnel via the Dirt Road Trail starts out lame (you’re on a dirt road) but quickly turns into a sweet hike. Learn more!

Latigo Chuckwagon Loop Hike, McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The Latigo Chuckwagon Loop Hike is the best hike starting from the Brown’s Mountain trailhead. It is not as busy and has great views!

Sunrise Trail Hike, McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The Sunrise Trail Hike has a lot to offer: some elevation but not too much, SUPERB views, and not too far outside the city! Read more here.

Forest Road 2076 Hike, Tonto National Forest

The Forest Road 2076 hike starts out pretty lame but then opens up to huge views as you hike out of the wash. Plus you most likely won’t see another soul!

136th St Express Trail Hike, McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The 136th St Express Trail Hike is easy, high on the solitude scale and has mountain views in all directions. Great for those more chill days!

136th St Express/Cow Poke Loop Hike, McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Create a scenic 4 mile loop with the 136th St Express/Cow Poke Loop Hike. It’s beautiful over here and there are fewer people too!

15 Practical Ways to Motivate Yourself to get Outside

It happens to everyone! Sometimes our motivation to get out and enjoy nature is low. That’s ok, here are 15 practical ways to motivate yourself to get outside!

Forest Road 44 Off-Road Drive, Tonto National Forest

Forest Road 44 off-road drive is a small, not very traveled side loop off of Bloody Basin Road. It has great views and one treacherous part. Read more here.