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"Ever hike the backside of Camelback?" - this was the famous question for years when Cholla was closed. Veteran trailblazers babbled on about how great it used to be. Lucky for you, Cholla re-opened spring of 1999. The catch being you have to walk from outside the neighborhood to gain access to the trailhead. Cholla being the closest trail to my home for decades, I hesitated to share this jewel of a trail. Please respect the neighborhood as you walk through because nothing is forever.
Cholla, like Echo Canyon to the summit, is a strenuous hike for such a short distance. From the trailhead, you go around the resort golf course(2020--gone) and immediately start a gentle ascent. Then switchbacks up the back of the mountain. Hiking the sloping desert meadow of cacti with the resort below gives you a southern California feel on cool breeze days. Be careful hiking along the steep sections as loose gravel might give way. Trail markers lead you up the trail, keeping you headed in the right direction. The trail crosses over to the south side as you approach marker 14. Standing near marker 14, the resort spreads out below. The trail heads back to the north side as it will, back and forth, several times before reaching the summit. When the markers give way, the trail is a bit more challenging to follow. This is the best part. You will be hiking the ridgeline with views of both sides on sections to the summit.
Area closed signs, keep you from wandering too far off-trail. Huge jagged boulders must be negotiated along the way. Personally, I don't recommend bringing children on this trail as you will be on the edge in several areas. Nearing the summit, one false summit is passed before making the final ascent. First-timers may be a bit slower finding the way, but this is not a terribly difficult trail. If you feel like you've lost the trail, backtrack a ways and look it over again. Once on the summit, all that hard work up now pays off. Views of the valley and surrounding mountains can be seen in all directions.
On the return trip, be careful on the rocks and steep slopes going down. You could head down to Echo Canyon, but be in shape before even thinking about it. From Camelback, head north on 64th (also called Invergordon) up to Cholla Lane. You will have to park on 64th below Cholla Lane. Most park on the west side of the road hugging the resort fence line. Then walk up to Cholla Lane and follow west to the trailhead located on the side of Cholla Lane. It's a minimum walk of 0.4 miles to the trailhead but usually not over half a mile, depending on how far away you park.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.