On March 14, 2020, Phoenix firefighters rescued a man trapped under a 300-pound boulder that fell while he was hiking on Camelback Mountain’s Cholla Trail. After he was airlifted to a hospital and treated for extreme injuries to the lower half of his body, the trail was deemed unsafe and temporarily closed.
The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department staff examined the trail for other loose boulders and did remediation work as needed. Several days of heavy rain earlier this year may have loosened rocks and boulders along the path, making it hazardous for hikers.
Once it was determined to be safe for public use, the trail was scheduled to reopen, but in late March 2020, restrictions were put in place to try to reduce the number of hikers climbing Camelback. The Cholla Trail remains closed.
The Echo Canyon Trail is still open, with parking reduced by 50 percent to encourage more physical distancing and limiting how many hikers are on the trail at any given time. Similar measures have been taken at the Phoenix Mountains Preserve Piestewa Peak trailhead, with park rangers monitoring how many cars go in and out of the park.
Gov. Doug Ducey issued a state-wide “stay-at-home” order at the end of March, calling for residents to remain in their homes except for essential needs. However, the order permitted outdoor activities such as hiking, walking, running, or golfing, as long as proper physical distancing was practiced.
The Parks Department and the City Council have already been in conversation with Host Properties, owner of The Phoenician golf course property, about an agreement which would divert the Cholla Trail access point.
Phoenix Parks and Recreation Supervisor Scott Covey said that a few minor points still need to be worked out. Nevertheless, an opportunity exists to relocate access of the trailhead from Cholla Lane to a new trail corridor alignment south of the residential subdivisions of Phoenician Estates and Casa Cholla.
Covey said they are hoping to use a 100-foot wide “cattle chute” that runs next to Host Properties’ proposed single-family home development and redesign it, so it’s not only functional but quiet. “We need to be able to address the noise from hikers,” he said, “by using natural swells, trees and other vegetation, rather than solid walls.”
Phoenix landscape architect Dig Studio explored and presented construction options for the trail corridor, which included a drainage swale, a 10-foot natural surface trail, an earthen berm and natural landscaping to screen the adjacent residents.
“Parking won’t change,” Covey said, so cars will still park along Invergordon Road. However, a restroom that was built for the golf course many years ago will be completely renovated, with an added water fountain.
Since hiking drops off in the summer months, the Parks and Recreation Department hopes to begin construction of a new trail access point from Invergordon and 64th Street away from the current Cholla Lane. Construction will start this summer, and possibly as early as May 2020, so it will be ready for the peak fall hiking season in October or November.
For more: Phoenix.gov/Parks/Trails.