We'll miss Oak Flat Campground and its nearby thousands of bouldering routes when they're gone. Great places to boulder — a term for rock climbing that focuses on short routes where a fall isn't deadly — are not that common in or near the Valley. Oak Flat is a uniquely scenic part of the Sonoran Desert, populated by ancient lava formations frozen and twisted into spectral forms that just happen to contain great hand- and footholds for climbers. Located about 30 miles east of Phoenix, just east of Superior off U.S. 60, Oak Flat is a peaceful land of creek beds, bushy mesquite, and a lifetime's worth of exhilarating bouldering routes concentrated in one convenient place.

And the area will be gone, it appears, unless a political miracle occurs. In December, Arizona's U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, shepherded a dead mining bill onto a must-pass defense-spending bill, achieving what Congress could not: the giveaway of Oak Flat and hundreds of surrounding acres near Devil's Canyon — land that some Native Americans claim has been held sacred for centuries — to a foreign mining company. Resolution Copper plans to dig into the rich ore under the land, destroying the surface in the process. Climbers will miss the former home of the world's largest outdoor bouldering contest, so get out there as much as possible in the next few years.

Four miles east of Superior off U.S. 60
602-225-5200
www.fs.usda.gov/tonto

Readers Choice: Camelback Mountain

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