Controversial Camelback Mountain Christmas Tree Returns

"Camelback Santa" hands out candy canes near the Camelback Mountain Christmas tree in Phoenix. | Courtesy of Ray Stern, Phoenix New Times

Some call it a holiday tradition. Others say it befouls a city landmark. Yes, that's right: A Christmas tree is back atop Camelback Mountain in Phoenix.

Last year, we told you about the controversy that erupted after hikers hauled a tree to the 2,704-foot summit of Camelback. Shortly thereafter, someone chopped off the top of the tree, sparking a fight between the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, which said it wouldn't allow Christmas trees to be put there, and a group led by the mysterious "Camelback Santa," who urged the city to reconsider.

Eventually, the city permitted a single, undecorated tree to be placed atop Camelback during the holiday season. But that apparently was a one-time permission, and for Camelback Santa and his supporters, a permanent solution has proved elusive, as Ray Stern of the Phoenix New Times reported last week.

The parks department confirmed to Stern that the city's policy of not allowing a Christmas tree remains in effect. But the tree returned to the mountain this year, as Stern found when he climbed Camelback earlier this month. In a combative Facebook Live video, Stern, Camelback Santa and other Camelback climbers argue about the tree. (The language in the video is not safe for most workplaces. Or for children.)

As we did last year, we're going to reserve judgment on the Camelback Mountain Christmas tree — which, as of this writing, is still atop the peak. But what do you think about this practice? Let us know in the comments.


I'm floored that people want to fight over things so petty!! It's a tree for crying out loud! "It's a symbol and what it stands for." Oh so what!! Learn to live and let live! Ignore the dang thing if you don't carry those the rest of us!!! gheez

They have so much more important subjects to worry about, just let it go!! It is not an eye sore and can be removed by the folks who put it there or by the crew that cleans up the broken bottles, empty cans and latex "sleeves" that accumulate. No one seems to be fighting about all that being up there......

Wow! What a way to spoil some good hearted fun! I love hiking up the there and seeing the tree and camelback Santa! A hike I thought most Phoenicians wouldn’t even attempt, I’m surprised so many people are so upset.

Merry Christmas!

Really Folks! Have all the seasons traditions been taken down?! Enjoy the tree while it's there, or don't look if you don't like it. It's not like there's a bunch of trees up there it has to contend with!

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