The lakes in Arizona are a much needed reprieve for locals and visitors when dealing with the scorching desert heat.
Water is good, but lots of water in Arizona is fantastic. That's why the lakes in Arizona are so popular and kept up so well. They've often been created by dams to help conserve the precious resources that water is. So, when you’re searching out the best lakes in Arizona, make sure to pick the best one for you. With over thirty major lakes, there is a myriad to choose from. Some are better for fishing, others for camping, and others for boating. Planning a lakeside party for twenty of your closest friends? There are phenomenal lakes to rent a boathouse for the week, cruise around, and occasionally break out the jet-ski. If you’re ready to beat the heat for a day, pick one of these lakes in Arizona for a relaxing and cooling time. You might even catch some record Rainbow Trout or see the London Bridge!
1. Lynx Lake
A large reservoir located in Prescott National Forest, Lynx Lake is a beautiful destination for fishing and hiking. Made in 1952 by damming Lynx Creek, Lynx Lake has been stocked with rainbow trout. However, there is also a great selection of sunfish, Largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish to catch. Other wildlife around includes mule deer, bald eagles, bull frogs, osprey, ducks, geese, and javelinas. In addition, your nature viewing won’t be disturbed by loud motors. This is because only Non-motorized and electric-powered boats are allowed on the lake. So, enjoy a lazy day in your man-powered boat, or take the two mile Lakeshore Trail around the reservoir. After your day, grab a campsite at one of the two national campgrounds nearby. They offer a combined thirty six campsite options, so you should be able to snag a good one.
Being just seven miles away from Prescott, Lynx Lake in the Bradshaw Mountains is quite popular with the locals. Take note, though, if you’re looking for a place to swim, this is not it. Instead, you’ll have to settle by staring at the ponderosa pines and alligator juniper surrounding you. If you’re feeling lucky, you can also try panning for gold here. It has been successful in the past! So, for an easily accessible lake for fishing and hiking, check out Lynx Lake. It is definitely one of the favorite lakes in Arizona by the locals.
2. Watson Lake
Whenever a dam is built, a new lake is formed. This is how Watson Lake came to be in the Granite Dells near Prescott. The beautiful rock outcroppings surrounding the lake are a popular local climbing crag for top roping and lead climbing. While you’re not allowed to swim at this lake, there is still plenty to do. White dotted trails will lead you meandering around the lake through and on top of the beautiful granite rocks. Feel free to stop every now and then to top out on one of the rocks and take in the 360 degree view. If you’d like to take on the water, grab a kayak from Prescott Outdoors Adventure Rentals at the south end of the lake. You can spend the day enjoying the water while you get your workout in. Remember, this is one of the lakes in Arizona; it will be hot! So, make sure to bring plenty of water with you.
If you’re more persuaded to go to a lake if there’s fish, don’t fret. There is an ample selection of largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, carp, and catfish. You’ll enjoy exploring all seventy acres of this lake. Just watch out if the rowing team is in practice! Watson Lake is home to northern Arizona’s only rowing team. So, whether you’re going to climb on some rocks or paddle around, don’t forget your camera. This is truly one of the most picturesque lakes in Arizona.
3. Bartlett Lake
In the heart of the stunning Tonto national forest is Bartlett Lake. Being less than an hour from Phoenix, it may just be one of the best lakes in Arizona to escape to. This is the lake to come to for that true lake vacation experience. Whether you want to swim, boat, or tube around, you’ll have plenty of space on all 2,815 acres of water. If you’re wondering the best time to come, the lake is most beautiful in the spring when the cacti are in bloom and wildflowers abound. Just know that as it heats up to the balmly 110 degrees in the summer, Bartlett Lake will be packed with people.
If you’re looking for one of the best lakes in Arizona to bring your best friends and throw a party, this is it. At the Bartlett Lake Marina, you can rent large pontoons and houseboats to spend a few days cruising around. Rent some jet-skis or water-skis to shred the waves and you’re all set for the perfect few days. There’s plenty of space around for camping and picnics as well. So, if you’re looking for a sizable recreational lake, Bartlett Lake is the one for you!
4. Canyon Lake
Another fantastic option on our favorite lakes of Arizona list is Canyon Lake. The most beautiful lake of the four created by the Salt River Dam, it sits between stunning rock formations and scenic red rock canyon walls. Hidden coves are tucked all around the perimeter of the lake, making it ones of the best lakes in Arizona for exploring. Whether by motorboat or kayak, you’ll be able to enjoy all the desert fauna views.
Canyon Lake is also the beginning of the Apache Trail. This trial covers forty-seven miles, stretching all the way to Roosevelt Lake. The road is a mixture of pavement and dirt, but it will keep you looking out the window at the stunning desert scenery and glimpses of the glistening lake. You will get views of the Superstition Mountains where the Lost Dutchman's Mine is still hidden. So, while you’re meandering around with a canoe on Canyon Lake or a dirt bike on the Apache Trail, keep your eyes out for deer, javelina, coyotes, and even Big Horn Sheep. With the lake is truly replete with nature and gorgeous views. Don’t forget your camera when you head out for one of the most breathtaking lakes in Arizona.
5. Lake Mead
Lake Mead is a marvelous day trip from Las Vegas. Created by the Hoover Dam, this expansive lake is great for boating, fishing, and sightseeing. It is the second largest man-made reservoir, only second to Lake Powell in Northern Arizona. Lake Mead stretches all the way from the Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon. So, if you want a lake in Arizona to make you feel small, this is a solid choice. I mentioned that there is great history here, and that starts long before the Hoover Dam being built in 1935. There is a cave here that archeologists have found notched bones from ancient people. They believe this was some of the first signs of civilization in this part of Arizona.
It’s no surprise that Lake Mead would be a marvelous place to live, as there is ample fishing. The best catches here are Striped Bass, Largemouth Bass, Crappie, and Catfish. If fishing isn’t your things, don’t worry. This lake is huge on recreation as well. Whether you consider yourself a houseboater, power boater, jet-skier, water-skiers, sunbather, or swimmer, you’re all welcome. There’s plenty of hiking around the shore, as well. Just make sure to watch out for the rattlesnakes and Gila monsters! For another of our favorite recreational lakes in Arizona, take a trip out to Lake Mead.
6. Lake Havasu
No list of lakes in Arizona would be complete without Lake Havasu. The most popular of Arizona Lakes, it is by over two and a half million people every year. This incredibly long lake was formed by the Parker Dam on the Colorado River. As a great destination for those in both Arizona and Southern California, this is the lake for those who still want to be near civilization. The true landmark of this lake, however, is the London Bridge. Yes, this is the same bridge that we’ve all sung about it falling down. While it was built over the River Thames beginning in 1825, it was auctioned off to the founder of Lake Havasu City, Robert McCullock in 1968 when it was known to be falling apart.
If you’re ready to drive over the no longer falling down London Bridge, you’ll make your way across Lake Havasu. You will arrive on an island in the lake, which is built to give you an air of London. With that old world charm, you can enjoy the boutique shops, resort, and Tudor-style shops along the lakeside. While this lake has been dubbed the Personal Watercraft Capital of the World, there’s more to do. You can hike the Mojave Sunset Trail to bird watch or go exploring in a slot canyon. So, whether you’re heading here for spring break or a few days of camping and jet-skiing, you’ll enjoy the vast space that Lake Havasu has to offer.
7. Chevelon Canyon Lake
We’ve put a few massive lakes in Arizona on this list, so we figured it’s time for a little seclusion. This is when Chevelon Canyon Lake steps in. Located at 6,300 feet and about 60 miles east of Payson, it will take a little bit of work to get here. But, that also means you’re highly likely to be the only one here. Or, if you are sharing it, you will have plenty of space to yourself. Chevelon Canyon Lake is a fisherman’s dream. If you make the three-quarter mile uphill hike to the lake with your fishing gear, trophy sized Rainbow and Brown Trout await. The lake itself is stocked with fingerling rainbow trout in the spring and fall. While the boat is allowed to be electric or under ten horsepower gas motors, remember that you have to carry it up and down the long hill. So, we would recommend a light inflatable boat if that’s how you want to fish.
If you’re hoping for a few days away from civilization, the camping is free up here. There are two primitive campgrounds with five and six sites each. Each has a picnic table and restrooms. So, if you’re ready for a few days off the grid and are prepared for some backcountry excursions, head for Chevelon Canyon Lake. That being said, please don’t come here if you’re not physically fit and prepared to be in nature alone for a while.
8. Lake Powell
Many of us have heard of Lake Powell, and that is of no surprise to me. It is the second largest man-made lake in America. If you stretched the coastline of the lake starting in San Diego and heading north, you would keep going past Seattle. This is because of the over ninety side coves that jut off the lake, creating such a vast lake. In case you still don’t think this lake is enormous, just know that it took the Colorado River seventeen years to fill the lake up after the Glen Canyon Dam was put in. Yes, you read that right: seventeen years. So, as you’re taking in the glories of this lake, you’ll be staring at the beautiful red rock spires, buttes, and mesas that arise both out of the middle and around the shoreline of the lake. Lake Powell is truly one of the most beautiful lakes in Arizona.
If you’re hoping to bring a few friends to cool off with you this summer, feel free to rent a houseboat from the largest collection of houseboats in America. Tuck your houseboat into one of the many coves around the lake and fire up the grill for the night. You’ll experience a clear sky as you sip your wine and let all your worries float away. If this hasn’t convinced you so far why Lake Powell is the foremost lake vacation destination in Arizona, I’m not sure what else to say. If you need to hike around while you’re here, visit the famous Antelope Canyon or Horseshoe Bend for a day away from the lake. Either way, Lake Powell is a great choice of destination if you’re looking for one of our favorite lakes in Arizona.
From the vast party lakes to the deeply secluded lakes in Arizona, it can be a tough decision choosing where to cool off this summer.
We hope that we’ve shown you some of the best places to escape for a lakeside vacation. Whether it’s your college spring break or a family reunion, one of these lakes will fit the bill perfectly. If you’re looking for one to take dad fishing for the weekend, you found that in Chevelon Canyon Lake. Looking for a day of rest after your bachelorette party in Vegas? Lake Mead is waiting for you. Whatever lake calls to you, pack up your houseboat, jetski, or camping gear and hit the road. It’s only going to be summer for so much longer!
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