Multi-million dollar project closes Camelback Mountain trail

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PHOENIX -- It's not only one of the most popular hikes in the Valley, it's also a major tourist attraction.

But in a few days, the Echo Canyon trail on Camelback Mountain will close. 3TV has all the details behind the multi-million dollar transformation.

"It's a hard workout, it's not easy," said avid hiker Laura Culp.

Kingsley White feels the same.

"It's awesome. It's a complete body workout. Mind, body, everything," stated White.

"It's peaceful up here. Good view. The air seems to be a little fresher, relaxing workout," Ross Murphy explained.

There is no doubt about it. Camelback Mountain is prominent, extremely popular and has some of the most picturesque views of the Valley.

But hiking up from Echo Canyon, David Urbinato with Phoenix Parks and Recreation said there's work that needs to be done.

"It's a bad situation. Anyone who comes here regularly knows that," said Urbinato.

So starting on Jan. 28, a massive $3 million renovation begins. Several signs already in place alert hikers of the upcoming nine month project.

"The first quarter mile of the trail is where it's the worst," said Jarod Rogers, a trails coordinator with Phoenix Parks and Recreation.

Among the changes, removing the eroding stairs. 

"People have stepped on this wooden step for so long that over time the wood has just chipped off and you have the exposed rebar that anchored it to the ground," Rogers pointed out.

The trail will not only be rerouted, it will also be extended, making the first leg of the hike a half mile.

The idea is to create a more sustainable and safer trail.

"There are areas where it can be dangerous as you hike through if you're not really, really careful there's a chance where you'll slip and fall, we have a lot of injuries up here," Rogers said.

Just getting to the mountain is a headache. Hikers have been known to wait 30 minutes to park.

"Now we have to have two rangers here full time to prevent vehicles from backing up," Urbinato stated.

So the parking lot will be transformed, going from 68 spaces to 132, which thrilled White.

"More parking so it's going to be bigger. Excitement! I love it!" she proclaimed.

Not only that, Urbinato said the area will also be safer for hikers.

"We're going to add pathways so that if people are approaching the trailhead, either running up or walking up, they won't have to walk down the middle of the street to get to the trail," said Urbinato.

The facilities at the trailhead are also getting a facelift.

"A nicely designed restroom building in good natural colors, natural hues, is going to be much more welcome than the lovely blue port-a-johns," stated Urbinato.

But why now? A time of year that's perfect for hiking?

"You're going to have that hot summer months where work is happening but either side of that you're going to cut into some prime hiking. It's just the nature of the work," Rogers explained.

While an inconvenience, hikers say it will be worth the wait.

"I'm a regular so I'll be out here as soon as it opens up," Ross said.

Hikers will still be able to summit Camelback on the Cholla Trail. To keep tabs on the progress, check out Phoenix Parks and Recreation.