Camelback Mountain – Phoenix, Arizona - Atlas Obscura
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Camelback Mountain

A geological mystery on Camelback Mountain. 


Rising out of the Arizona desert, the Camelback Mountain has long been an icon in the Phoenix valley. The mountain is named for its signature two humps and the head of a camel. It is the “head” of this “camel” that has geologists stumped.

The granite that makes up part of the head of the mountain, dates from the Pre-Cambrain era of 1.5 billion years ago. The puzzle to geologists, though, is that most of the mountain, including the hump, is made up of red sandstone from a measly 30 million years ago. As pictured here, there are spots on the mountain where the billion and a half years older and much, much heavier granite lies right on top of its younger, lighter neighbor. How exactly it got there, though, nobody yet knows.

Hiking trails gain an elevation of 1,280 ft to reach the 2,704 foot high summit. Echo Canyon Recreation Area occupies the head of the mountain and has many hiking trails. Caves on the north side of the mountain signify that it was likely used by Native Americans before European colonization. A warning to hikers: there are rattlesnakes on the mountain.

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