Phoenix has the best urban hiking in the nation. It has quite a few parks and preserves that can be hiked through, all containing summits from an elevation gain of a few hundred feet to 1,400 feet. South Mountain, Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak) are the only summits that rise more than 1,000 feet in Phoenix's city limits. Around Phoenix there are the Estrella Mountains, McDowell Mountains, South Mountains, Superstition Mountains, White Tank Mountains and others. All of these areas have trails and mountains that can be climbed. Camelback Mountian is the highest mountain in the Phoenix Mountains and a prominent landmark. The trails are very busy, many people hike this mountain every day. The trail is short, only about 1.25 miles to the top, but very steep and there are handrails to help you pull yourself up the mountain. If you don't use the handrails then using the rocks work just as good and makes for a funner climb in my opinion. The Camels Head and Bobby's Rock area can be used to rock climb.
Echo Canyon Trail head: Distance: 1.50 miles
Elevation Gain:1,300 feet Take Camelback Road east then turn north on 44 St. 44th turns east on to McDonald Drive. Then turn south on Echo Canyon Parkway. This route is the more difficult one and goes straight up the mountain. It's also the main way up and is very busy. Cholla Trailhead: 2.5 miles Elevation Gain: 1,275 feet Take Camelback east then turn north onto Invergordon, The Parking is on the west side of the street. This route is a little easier and is less busy then Echo Canyon. The first half of this hike is a good easy trail up to a saddle. The last half is a bit expose as it continues up the ridge and is a fun climb to the top.
Echo Canyon trail is closed for renovations. It will be open in the fall The parking has been limited with only 68 spots, however the new parking will have 132 spots. There is often a line waiting to get a parking spot. The trail heads close at sunset.
The Cholla trail is street side parking with limited parking as well and this trail is still open to the public.
Summer temps are very hot, 110+ degrees . October through April is the best time. Bring a lot of water. The highs are often in the 60's and 70's. If you do hike Camelback in the summer, the best time to start is about 4:00am-5:00am. You won't beat the heat, but will beat the scorching heat. The summer time lows are usually about 80-90 degrees. The earth soaks in the heat during the day and you can feel the heat rising from the mountain. Once the sun comes up, you are baked between the earth and the rising scorching sun. another reason to start early is to beat the crowds. Once the sun comes up everybody hits the mountain. Parking also gets bad, as you might have to wait for a parking spot to open up.
The closest thing to camping you'll get is hotels. Camelback is surrounded by the city of Phoenix. Camelback is not a mountain you go to phoenix to hike, but rather you hike it because you are in the area.