This may be the last year we can claim Black Mountain as our personal refuge. Development is creeping to the very edges of Carefree and Cave Creek; there's even a Target going in nearby. But for now, the mountain remains virtually deserted, and we often see only a pair of fellow hikers as we ascend the trail, 3,396 feet to the summit. Part of the challenge is finding the trailhead, but turn south on School House Road off Cave Creek Road, and you're there. It's a rugged hike, but we feel no pain: The terrain's breathtakingly beautiful, scattered with black slate and lush with natural greenery, and as we plant our flag at the top, we're treated to stunning views of the Valley below.
Sure, it may not be too long before some entrepreneur tries to plant a Starbucks at the summit, but for now, we claim this mountain as our own.