7 Serene Arizona Lakes for Water-related Activities

These Arizona lakes boast outdoor activities for the boater, fisherman, hiker, camper, and nature lover

When it’s been this hot for this long, the one thing you need is water. Not the stuff that comes in bottles or out of the tap. Nor the water that’s been slowly heating in concrete enclosures since May. You need an expanse of naturally occurring water, the kind that runs freely or accumulates in quantities so vast it can support all sorts of users.

It’s true that Arizona is best known for its dramatic desert landscapes but these arid regions also have hundreds of miles of lakeshore where you can sun yourself on sandy beaches or water ski past stately saguaros. 

Here are my seven favorite lakes in Arizona for water-related activities.

Granite Dells © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Granite Dells

For water with a view, it’s hard to beat the rocky sentinels standing guard along Watson Lake. A little over 4 miles north of Historic Prescott, the Dells offer unique granite rock formations, two small lakes, and miles upon miles of trails. From easy mountain bike rides, leisurely hikes, to tough and technical terrain, the Dells offer something truly unique when it comes to outdoor recreation.

Granite Dells © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Granite Dells, worn smooth by the elements, provide a scenic backdrop as you kayak or canoe along the placid surface of the lake. And when the light is right and the surface is glassy, photos of the reflection will light up your Instagram and Facebook feeds.

The two main areas to visit are the city parks located in the Granite Dells—Watson Lake Park and Willow Lake Park. Both parks are open year-round allowing visitors to see the changing scenery through the four mild seasons. The summers are cooler than Southern Arizona. And the winters are mild too, offering occasional snow that melts off pretty quickly.

Lynx Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lynx Lake

If you’re looking for a cool, calm, and relaxing day, Lynx Lake offers some of the best fishing in the area. At 55-acres, Lynx Lake is the largest and busiest lake in the Prescott National Forest. Nestled amid ponderosa pines and claiming temperatures 10 to 15 degrees below those in the desert, Lynx Lake holds rainbow trout, largemouth bass, crappie, and more. Even better, its waters are limited to electronic- or people-powered watercraft, perfect for fishing or napping. The only thing separating the two is luck.

Lynx Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A popular lakeside picnic and fishing area, South Shore has ample parking for cars and vehicles towing trailers or boats on all but the busiest days of the year when it fills up. Lynx Lake North Shore’s day-use area provides lake-side recreation, fishing, picnic tables and grills, a wildlife viewing scope, and interpretive signs. Lynx Lake Marina provides restaurant dining, fishing/camping supplies, bait, boat rentals, and firewood. Located atop a bluff on the north shore of Lynx Lake, Lynx Lake Café is a full-service restaurant.

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro Lake

Giant cactuses with arms outstretched toward shimmering water might seem to be out of sync but Arizona is all about emerging scenic landscapes. Like the aptly named Saguaro Lake located about 45 miles from Phoenix in Tonto National Forest which emerges from the Sonoran Desert that sprawls across most of the southern half of Arizona. One of the Salt River’s four reservoirs, Saguaro Lake was shaped after the Stewart Mountain Dam was completed in 1930.

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Launch your boat from one of the two marinas to water ski the 10-mile-long lake or stake out swimming spots at Captain’s Cove, Sadie Beach, or at Pebble Beach on the Lower Salt River. Tour-boat trips are available on the Desert Belle. Try the upper reaches of the lake (east-end) for more seclusion. An idyllic way to see the stars among the saguaros is to camp overnight at Bagley Flat with grills and tables provided. It’s free for up to 14 days but the site’s 10 spots are only accessible by boat.

Over 2,200 fish-habitat structures were installed to enhance fishing on the lake. According to Bass Master Magazine, the best time for trophy bass is October to December and February to mid-April. There is large bass in the lake; fish census shows that 12+ pound bass and 30-pound Carp exist in the depths. Bluegill comes in a variety of sizes. Occasional species caught include Walleye, Black Crappie, Small-mouth Bass, Bigmouth Buffalo, and Yellow Bass.

Canyon Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyon Lake

The most scenic of the Salt River-fed lakes, Canyon abounds with the steep walls and cliffs its name suggests. Canyon Lake is known for its wonderful shorelines along the red rock cliffs. Tuck into a secluded cove and fish for bass, trout, and many other kinds of fish, or take a leisurely cruise and marvel at the scenery. Boaters wanting scenery and seclusion should try the east end of the lake where it winds through steep canyon walls. There are occasional sightings of Big Horn sheep as well as other wildlife.

Canyon Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boat-access camping is at The Point. November-March, Arizona Game and Fish stock the lake monthly with rainbow trout. Largemouth Bass are caught in Canyon Lake every year. A 15-pound state record Largemouth Bass was taken from the shoreline of Canyon Lake. A world record 1 pound 11 ounce Yellow Bass was caught in 1985.

Idyllic year-round weather makes Canyon Lake a great destination for all watersports and camping enthusiasts. When ready for a break, pick a spot along the 28 miles of shoreline and enjoy a picnic or stop at the Lakeside Restaurant and Cantina for a casual meal.

Bartlett Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bartlett Lake

Located in the mountains northeast of Phoenix, Bartlett Lake was formed by the damming of the Verde (Spanish for “green”) River. The pristine waters of the Verde were spoken of descriptively in legends of the Indians of the valley who called the water “sweet waters”. The lake is framed by Sonoran desert scenery with gently sloping beaches on the west side and the rugged Mazatzal Mountains on the east side, studded with saguaro, cholla cacti, mesquite, and ocotillo.

Bartlett Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A fair portion of the west side of the reservoir is devoted to camping and picnicking. Bartlett has been a favorite with anglers since Bartlett Dam was constructed in 1939. Several state-record fish have been caught there. The 1977 Small-mouth Bass state record tipped the scales at seven pounds. The carp state record still stands at 37 pounds 5 ounces. Flathead Catfish lurk in the depths. “Fish City” near Bartlett Flat is a fish-habitat improvement project.

Patagonia Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Patagonia Lake

Patagonia Lake is one of those high-desert sanctuaries that seem to pop up out of nowhere. Situated 75 miles south of Tucson (and 16 miles northeast of Nogales, the entry point into Mexico), the park is framed by 3,750-foot hills.

With boat ramps, camping sites, and a nearby Lakeside Market, Patagonia State Park is a great base to while away the day waterskiing, picnicking, fishing for bluegill, and watching for wildlife. The park offers a campground, beach, picnic area with ramadas, tables and grills, a creek trail, boat ramps, and a marina. The campground overlooks the lake where anglers catch crappie, bass, bluegill, catfish, and trout.

Patagonia Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is popular for water skiing, fishing, camping, picnicking, and hiking. And the train tracks from the New Mexico and Arizona Railroad which served the mines and military forts lie beneath the water. Remnants of the old historic line may be found at the Patagonia-Sonoita Nature Conservancy in Patagonia. Hikers can stroll along the creek trail and see birds such as the canyon towhee, Inca dove, vermilion flycatcher, black vulture, and several species of hummingbirds. 

Parker Canyon Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Parker Canyon Lake

This medium-sized 132-acre lake is nestled in the gentle Canelo Hills east of the Huachuca Mountains. Just seven miles north of Mexico, Parker Canyon Lake was created in 1966 by the Coronado National Forest and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Ringed with cottonwoods, juniper, piñon pine, scrub oak, and manzanita, Parker Canyon Lake offers a number of recreational possibilities for those willing to drive the dirt roads that lead to it. The temperature in the area which lies about 5,400 feet above sea level generally runs about 10 degrees cooler than Tucson.

For those who like to fish, Parker Canyon Lake offers both cold and warm water species including stocked rainbow trout and resident bass, sunfish, and catfish. There is a fishing pier and a paved boat ramp at the lake as well as a lakeside paved area and a graveled path along some of the best catfishing shorelines.

Parker Canyon Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is also a concessionaire-operated country store at the lakeshore where you can pick up some last-minute supplies, buy a fishing license, camping gear, tackle, and worms, or rent a boat.

From just about any point along the shore, Parker Canyon Lake doesn’t look very big. Take off on the trail around the lake, though, and you’ll find it’s a heck of a lot bigger than you thought.

Worth Pondering…

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.

—John Muir

14 of the Most Beautiful Lakes for RV Travel

Hot summer days + refreshing water = endless fun!

There are few things more relaxing than a lake vacation. The US and Canada are chock-full of scenic lakes from Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire and Lake George in New York to Lake Powell and Lake Mead in the Southwest to Okanagan Lake and Lake Osoyoos in southern Canada. And we specifically wanted to hone in on the best lakes as a way to help travelers pinpoint exactly where to aim their RV for their next lake vacation. 

Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some lakes offer wide sandy beaches and others expansive mountain views and hiking trails. You can visit these lakes all year round but the spring, summer, and fall are the best times to go for outdoor sports like boating, fishing, and swimming. Winter can also provide some beautiful views especially if you’re a snowbird in the Sunbelt states.

Head out to your nearest lake to enjoy any of these outdoor activities or opt for one of these suggested best lakes from coast to coast.

Lake George © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake George, New York

The place to be in the Lake George region is on the 32-mile long lake, considered by some to be the most beautiful in the U.S. Lake George checks off all the boxes of what you’d look for in a typical lake retreat—hiking, boating, camping, shopping, dining, and lodging options set the lake apart not to mention those one-of-a-kind views. And, the many water-based activities in the area are one of the best ways to enjoy it. From water skiing and jet skiing to rafting and kayaking, you’ll find it all on Lake George.

Lake Pleasant © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Pleasant, Arizona

One of the most scenic water recreation areas in the Valley of the Sun, this northwest Valley regional park is a recreationist’s dream. This 23,362-acre park offers many activities including camping, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Lake Pleasant is a water reservoir and is part of the Central Arizona Project waterway system bringing water from the Lower Colorado River into central and southern Arizona. Lake Pleasant Regional Park offers 145 sites for camping. Each “Developed Site” has water, electricity, a dump station, a covered ramada, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, and fire ring. Each “Semi-developed Site” and tent site has a covered ramada, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, and a fire ring.

Lake Wawasee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Wawasee, Indiana

There are seven lakes in and around the town of Syracuse with more than 3,500 acres of water making it a water lover’s paradise. Lake Wawasee, the largest of these lakes, is the largest natural lake in Indiana. Lake Wawasee hosts the state-owned Wawasee Family Fishing Site. Located on the southeast shores, opportunities to fish, picnic, and relax in the outdoors await you. Several local marinas are also available; you can rent a fishing boat, pontoon boat, or jet skis at several locations on the lake.

Sand Hollow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sand Hollow, Utah

Located just 15 miles east of St. George, Sand Hollow State Park offers a wide range of recreation opportunities. With its warm, blue waters and red sandstone landscape, it is one of the most popular parks because it has so much to offer. Boat and fish on Sand Hollow Reservoir, explore and ride the dunes of Sand Mountain Recreation Area on an off-highway vehicle, RV or tent camp in the modern campground.

Quail Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quail Lake, Utah

Just minutes away from Sand Hollow, Quail Creek State Park offers another reservoir for swimming but in a completely different landscape. The picturesque mountain background with rocky landscape and blue water gives this reservoir a breathtaking view. Quail Lake, a sprawling 600-acre lake in the Quail Creek State Park, fills a valley northeast of St. George. This park has some of the warmest waters in the state and is a popular area for fishing as well.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okanagan Lake, British Columbia

Stunning Okanagan Lake spans 84 miles from north (Vernon) to the south (Penticton). Kelowna sits just about halfway and the east and west sides of the lake are connected by the five-lane William R. Bennett Bridge. Okanagan Lake is known for its beaches with over 30 throughout the region. Many beaches are equipped with playgrounds, concessions, and bathrooms. Enjoy the lake from a stand-up paddleboard (SUP), wake boat, sailboat, pedal boat, charter boat, flyboard, kayak, or canoe. Okanagan Lake’s water temperature in July averages 69-71 degrees F.

Elephant Butte Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico

Enjoy camping, fishing, and boating at Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico’s largest state park. The lake can accommodate watercraft of many styles and sizes including kayaks, jet skis, pontoons, sailboats, ski boats, cruisers, and houseboats. Besides sandy beaches, the park offers 173 developed camping sites with electric and water hook-ups for RVs.

Utah Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah Lake, Utah

Known as Utah’s largest freshwater lake at roughly 148 square miles, Utah Lake provides a variety of recreation activities. Utah Lake State Park offers fishing access for channel catfish, walleye, white bass, black bass, and several species of panfish. With an average water temperature of 75 degrees, Utah Lake provides an excellent outlet for swimming, boating, and paddleboarding. The RV campground consists of 31 sites complete with water and power hookups.

Alamo Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alamo Lake, Arizona

Alamo Lake State Park is one of the best places to fish for bass in Arizona. The crystal clear lake is surrounded by mountainous terrain speckled with brush, wildflowers, and cacti making for a visually pleasing experience. The area has good wildlife viewing opportunities and you may spot a bald or golden eagle. Nestled in the Bill Williams River Valley away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Alamo Lake State Park offers outdoor fun, premier bass fishing, rest, and relaxation. For nature lovers, spring rains bring an abundance of wildflowers and the lake environment attracts a variety of wildlife year-round including waterfowl, foxes, coyotes, mule deer, and wild burros. The campgrounds offer a variety of amenities including 15 full-hookup sites. Stargazers are sure to enjoy the amazing views of the night sky with the nearest city lights some 40 miles away.

Lake Mead © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Mead, Nevada

Swim, boat, hike, cycle, camp, and fish at America’s first and largest national recreation area. With striking landscapes and brilliant blue waters, this year-round playground spreads across 1.5 million acres of mountains, canyons, valleys, and two vast lakes. See the Hoover Dam from the waters of Lake Mead or Lake Mohave or find solitude in one of the park’s nine wilderness areas. This national recreation area, just minutes from Las Vegas offers Joshua trees, slot canyons, and night skies illuminated by the Milky Way. A national park where the rocks are as red as fire and the mountains are purple majesties!

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Powell, Arizona and Utah

It’s not often that man creates something of such extraordinary natural beauty but that’s Lake Powell. This man-made lake’s warm blue waters wind through red sandstone cliffs filling more than 90 side canyons. Lake Powell is located in northern Arizona and stretches up into southern Utah. It’s part of the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. With nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline, endless sunshine, warm water, and some of the most spectacular scenery in the west, Lake Powell is the ultimate playground. Rent a houseboat, stay at a campground, or enjoy lodging. Nearby, take the view of one such canyon with the sandstone Rainbow Bridge, regarded as the world’s longest natural arch.

Patagonia Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Patagonia Lake, Arizona

A true Arizona gem, Patagonia Lake State Park lies in the gently rolling hills of southern Arizona and is renowned as a great spot to fish for bass or catfish. This beautiful destination offers RV and tent camping, overnight cabins, and boat-in campsites. Plus, the surrounding trails connect to Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. If you’re looking for a day trip or weekend adventure, this park will take your breath away.

Osoyoos Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Osoyoos Lake, Washington and British Columbia

14-mile-long Osoyoos Lake is the southern-most chain of lakes along the Okanogan River. Osoyoos Lake is known as the warmest lake in Canada averaging approximately 75 degrees F in July and August. Derived from the word sẁiẁs meaning “narrowing of the waters” in the local Okanagan language (Syilx’tsn), Osoyoos Lake is surrounded by desert landscape, vineyards, orchards, hills, and mountains. Osoyoos Lake can be accessed in Washington State at Lake Osoyoos State Park, a 47-acre camping park.

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro Lake, Arizona

Saguaro Lake was formed by the Stewart Mountain Dam which was completed in 1930. It was the last of the reservoirs to be built on the Salt River. The lake is named for the Saguaro Cactus which stands majestically in the surrounding desert landscape. Saguaro Lake has more than 22 miles of shoreline creating a great environment for boating, kayaking, sailing, skiing, jet skiing, fishing, and camping. There are a variety of activities and businesses at Saguaro Lake. Rent a boat from Precision Marine, have a meal at the ShipRock Restaurant, and take a delightful tour on the Desert Belle. Saguaro Lake is a jewel in the middle of the Arizona desert.

Where will your summer adventures take you?

Worth Pondering…

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye, looking into which, the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

—Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

6 Lakes to Explore This Summer

Check out our list of lakes to explore this summer and plan your next road trip

There’s no better way to cool down on a warm summer day than hanging out at your local body of water. Fortunately, the US and Canada are packed with incredible, pristine lakes that offer plenty of opportunities to watch the sunset over alpine peaks, paddle along calm, glassy waters, or kick off your flip flops and go for a dip.

So, if you’re looking to kick-start your summer adventure, look no further. We’ve put together a list of six stunning lakes worthy of at least a weekend away.

Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Powell, set dramatically against a backdrop of eroded red rock canyons and mesas, is the largest man-made lake in North America and is widely recognized by boating enthusiasts as one of the premier water-based recreation destinations in the world.

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Powell, formed by the impounded waters of the Colorado River above the Glen Canyon Dam, is the best known and most visited feature at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The vast landscape of Glen Canyon contains rugged water- and wind-carved canyons, buttes, mesas, rivers, seeps, springs, and hanging gardens.

Saguaro Lake, Arizona

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro Lake is located about 40 miles northeast of downtown Phoenix. The lake is named for its surrounding stands of Saguaro cactus. It has more than 22 miles of shoreline and is 118 feet deep at its deepest point when full and is about 10 miles long.

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The lake is perfect for power boating, sailing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, kayaking, and fishing. The lake is divided into two sections connected by narrows between canyon walls. The lower main portion has the greater water surface, while the more narrow east end has boat access camping.

Okanagan Lake, British Columbia

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okanagan Lake, home of the legendary lake monster Ogopogo, is the largest lake in the region and located close to the center of the beautiful Okanagan Valley. Highway 97 takes you along the shoreline from Penticton to Kelowna, traveling through many communities.

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the way there are numerous access spots leading to beautiful sandy beaches, resorts, and campsites. Penticton, Naramata, Summerland, Peachland, and Kelowna are all located on the shores of Okanagan Lake hosting thousands of visitors to the area.

Lackawanna Lake, Pennsylvania

Lackawanna Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 1,445-acre Lackawanna State Park is in northeastern Pennsylvania, ten miles north of Scranton. The centerpiece of the park, the 198-acre Lackawanna Lake, is surrounded by picnic areas and multi-use trails winding through forest.

Lackawanna Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boating, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and swimming are popular recreation activities. The campground is within walking distance of the lake and swimming pool, and features forested sites with electric hook-ups.

Lake George, New York

Lake George © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake George, nicknamed the “Queen of American Lakes”, is a long, narrow lake located at the southeast base of the Adirondack Mountains, in the northeastern portion of New York State. It lies within the upper region of the Great Appalachian Valley and drains northward into Lake Champlain.

Lake George © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of Lake George and the Southern Adirondacks. There’s a little something for everyone, whether you are hiking with your family, playing a round of golf with friends, or heading out for an extreme adventure.

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest and most popular lake in New Hampshire and certainly one of the most scenic. Located at the foothills of the White Mountains and surrounded by mountain ranges, Lake Winnipesaukee contains more than 300 islands and covers 44,000 acres of crystal clear water.

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The M/S Mount Washington visits five different ports on alternating days throughout the week. Weirs Beach is the Mount Washington’s home port and offers cruises every day. All cruises are 2½ hours roundtrip.

Ready to Go?

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The time has come for you to get your boat on, swim on, hike on, or float on. Whether you love to hike, bike, camp, backpack, paddle, surf, houseboat, or sail—one of these beautiful bodies of water will certainly fit the bill.

Worth Pondering…

Once in a lifetime, if one is lucky, one so emerges with sunshine and air and running water that whole eons might pass in a single afternoon without notice.

—Loren Eisley