This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

What the Praying Monk on Camelback Mountain is, and how to see it


If you've heard of the Praying Monk on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, but haven't seen it yet, don't worry, you will.


To find it, look for the camel's nose. And if you don't know what I'm talking about here, step back. The mountain gets its name simply because it looks like a camel lying down. The nose faces west. Someone once explained to me that the hump and the nose are two different types of rocks, but I wasn't paying close attention, so to me it's just a camel.

The Praying Monk is an outcropping of rock on the camel's nose. It's best viewed from the north side of the mountain, like the photo in the postcard at the top of this post, but you can also see it very clearly if you're traveling east on Camelback Road approaching the mountain.

Since I collect old photos, having a landmark like that gives me very clear idea where the photo was taken. Look over Hugh O'Brian's right shoulder in the photo below and you can clearly see that he and his friends were in Paradise Valley.

Hugh O’Brian (on the right) and friends at John Gardiner's Tennis Ranch in the 1950s, now the Sanctuary Resort, at 56th Street and McDonald, Paradise Valley, Arizona

Looking east at the Praying Monk on Camelback Mountain over the Arizona Canal by the Bitmore.

My favorite view of the Praying Monk is from the Arizona Biltmore, which is on 24th Street between Lincoln Drive and Camelback Road. There are a lot of old photos that show Camelback Mountain in the background, and the Praying Monk is always clearly visible there. It's best seen from the Arizona Canal, which hasn't changed since it was built in 1885, like in the photo above from the 1940s.

Yes, there are a lot of new buildings nowadays, but Camelback Mountain is still quite prominent, and the Praying Monk is still very visible. I never get tired of looking at it, and all of the mountains of Phoenix, which are the faces of friends to me.


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