Cordes Junction, Arizona: Mystery Christmas Tree

An anonymous Santa decorated a lone juniper tree every Christmas season in the median of Interstate 17.

I-17, Cordes Junction, AZ
In the median of I-17, one mile north of the Sunset Point rest area, about 30 miles north of Phoenix city limits. Visible from north and southbound lanes.
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Visitor Tips and News About Mystery Christmas Tree

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Mystery Christmas Tree

The tree is burned down.

[Anna Weaver, 08/30/2021]

The tree, in a tinder-dry highway median, has survived several fires caused by the cigarette butts of passing motorists. In recent years it's been nearly leafless, but was still decorated at Christmastime.

Mystery Christmas Tree.

Mile 254 - Mystery Christmas Tree

The Mystery Christmas Tree is easy to spot near mile marker 254! Especially visible for awhile when heading southbound.

[SonicedUp, 12/16/2016]
Mystery Christmas Tree

The Mystery Christmas tree has not burned down. It is standing in the median just north of Sunset Point. Since the early to mid-1980s it has been decorated every year for Christmas. Around the time of Operation Desert Storm [1991] it began being decorated year-round with American flags and yellow ribbons. Purple ribbons were added to the flags and yellow ribbons (That could have been after the 19 "Hot Shots" firefighters lost their lives in Yarnell). These decorations remain year-long; new ones are added periodically as the harsh Arizona sun fades them and the winds blow them away.

No matter what time of year you travel I-17, it is worth seeing! I get chills every time I pass it.

[Kim, 08/29/2015]
Mystery Christmas Tree - Burned Down

This particular tree burned down in a brush fire a few years ago. Sometimes a similar bush a little bit south of the original gets decorated, but it's much smaller and less frequently decorated.

[Scott Jones, 08/01/2015]

Mystery Christmas Tree.

Mystery Christmas Tree

Each year in late November, person or persons unknown put Christmas decorations on a large Juniper tree, which is located in the median of Interstate 17, about 30 miles North of Phoenix. This has been going on for about 20 years, with the tree being decorated in late November and then cleaned up shortly after Christmas. This tree is literally in the middle of nowhere. No towns, no other roads, no power. It is easily visible from both north and southbound lanes.

Although the Phoenix newspaper has written several articles about the tree, no one has ever been publicly identified as the decorator.

I was a law enforcement officer in Phoenix for 28 years and have heard stories that Highway Patrol officers and Yavapai County Sheriff's Deputies have seen the tree being decorated, but drove on by in order to preserve the tradition. Given that the tree is located in the median of a busy freeway and the decorating has been done for so many years, I suspect some truth to the rumors.

[Roy Holt, 12/07/2007]

Nearby Offbeat Places

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In the region:
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