15 Best Lakes in Arizona

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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A state in the southwest region of the USA, Arizona is an outdoor lovers’ haven, what with its mountains, flatlands, deserts and rivers. It is extremely diverse in terms of terrain, boasting some spectacular scenery.

Arizona is home to large cities, Indian reservations, forests and towering peaks, as well as being home to the famous Grand Canyon National Park and Petrified Forest National Park. There is no coastline in the state, though it is home to some great lakes.

Here are the 15 best lakes in Arizona:

1. Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Theodore Roosevelt LakeSource: flickr
Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Named after the former President, Theodore Roosevelt Lake is a large reservoir that is located in central Arizona. It is the state’s largest lake, with a surface area of over 8,600 hectares and a 205 kilometre shoreline.

Theodore Roosevelt Lake is known for its great fishing, with a variety of game fish living in the water. These include carp, crappie, sunfish, smallmouth bass and channel catfish. The lake is also home to the endangered Neotropical migrant bird the willow flycatcher.

Surrounding the lake is the Arizona National Scenic Trail, making it quite spectacular. There is also a marina on the shores of the lake that offers boat rentals and moorage, as well as having camping facilities.

2. Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Lake Pleasant Regional ParkSource: flickr
Lake Pleasant Regional Park

The largest lake in the Phoenix area, Lake Pleasant Regional Park is a boaters dream, boasting a surface area of just under 12 square miles and a shoreline that stretches for over 180 kilometres.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park is a major recreational centre, known for its great boating and fishing. Fish species found in the lake include white bass, crappie, sunfish, tilapia and more.

The lake boasts some fantastic scenery, with its surrounding area being great for hiking, picnicking, mountain biking and camping. There are two marinas on lake’s shoreline that offer boat rentals, storage and mooring, as well as having a shop and a restaurant.

3. Canyon Lake

Canyon LakeSource: flickr
Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake was created in 1925 with the damming of the Salt River. The 380 hectare lake is the smallest lake along the river and sits along the Superstition Mountains.

The lake sits 24 kilometres away from the Apache Trail and 82 kilometres east of the city of Phoenix. It is a popular spot for recreational activities like hiking, camping and boating.

Game fishing is big in Canyon Lake, with species like rainbow trout, largemouth bass, yellow bass, carp and walleye swimming in the water. The scenery at the lake is phenomenal, what with the surrounding Superstition Wilderness Area.

4. Apache Lake

Apache LakeSource: flickr
Apache Lake

Sitting 104 kilometres northeast of Phoenix, Apache Lake is one of four reservoirs that sit along the Salt River. The lake also happens to sit along the Apache Trail in the Tonto National Forest.

Apache Lake is a popular destination for recreational activities, many of which are offered at the lake’s marina. Fishing is one of the more desirable things to do here, with largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, walleye and sunfish often being caught.

Also on the shoreline of the lake are a 3 motels, an RV park and a restaurant. In addition to the Apache Trail, there are also a number of other trails surrounding the lake.

5. Saguaro Lake

Saguaro LakeSource: flickr
Saguaro Lake

One of the reservoirs along the Salt River, Saguaro Lake sits within the Tonto National Forest in Maricopa County, Arizona. It is a picturesque lake that is surrounding by stunning natural landscapes, sitting at an elevation of 459 metres above sea level.

Saguaro Lake is known for its great fishing, with rainbow trout, largemouth bass, yellow bass, crappie, channel catfish, tilapia and a plethora of other fish calling the lake home. Kayaking, water skiing, sailing and jet skiing are also enjoyed within the lake.

Along the lake’s 35 kilometres of shoreline is a marina that houses a restaurant, boat ramps, restrooms and picnic tables. There is also a beach (Butcher Jones Beach) that offers swimming and picnicking.

6. Woods Canyon Lake

Woods Canyon LakeSource: flickr
Woods Canyon Lake

This small lake is located in northern Arizona in the Mogollon Rim, around 48 kilometres from the city of Payson. Woods Canyon Lake is a small, but deep lake, having an average depth of 7.6 metres.

The lake was created predominately for recreational use, with fishing being one of the most popular things to do here. Camping is also favoured in the area, as is hiking and biking.

Woods Canyon Lake is open throughout the entire year, though access can be restricted in the winter months. Still, the summer months are the most favourable time to visit the lake, which is particularly popular amongst families.

7. Bartlett Lake

Bartlett LakeSource: flickr
Bartlett Lake

Bartlett Lake is a reservoir that is best known for its sport fishing. Numerous fish species inhabit the lake, including smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, crayfish and flathead catfish.

The 815 hectare lake is also great for swimming, water skiing and sailing, with its shoreline offering picnicking and barbequing. There are also a number of places to enjoy camping in the area, though the marina does have rooms for rent.

Bartlett Lake was formed by the damming of the Verde River in 1939. It sits around 77kms from Phoenix, within the Tonto National Forest. The lake is quite beautiful, being surrounding by wildflowers, cactus and hills.

8. Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town LakeSource: flickr
Tempe Town Lake

As its name suggests, Tempe Town Lake is located in the city of Tempe in central Arizona. The lake was created in 1997 and opened to the public in 1999.

Tempe Town Lake is home to the Tempe Beach Park, which features paths for cycling, jogging and in-line skating. Boating and fishing are enjoyed within the lake, with rainbow trout being stocked every year. Several regattas also occur here throughout the year.

Visitors will find a massive marketplace along the lake’s southern shores that boasts a mall, restaurants, fire pits, a concert venue and a pedestrian walkway. There are also office towers and condominiums around the lake.

9. Lynx Lake

Lynx LakeSource: flickr
Lynx Lake

Sitting within the within Prescott National Forest, Lynx Lake is beautiful lake that is surrounded by trees and greenery. The lake sits 1,690 metres above sea level, around eight kilometres east of the city of Prescott.

Lynx Lake is one of central Arizona’s most popular recreational sites, offering plenty of activities, including boating, fishing, hiking and camping. It is also a haven for animal lovers, with mule deer, bald eagles, bull frogs, geese and osprey often being spotted, amongst other animals.

Over 125,000 visitors come to the lake each year, many of which are locals looking to escape the hot desert heat. It is easily accessible by road, as well as being accessible to the physically challenged.

10. Alamo Lake

Alamo LakeSource: flickr
Alamo Lake

Surrounded by the Alamo Lake State Park, Alamo Lake was formed by the Alamo Dam in 1968 for flood control purposes. Today, it is also a popular recreational sight and happens to be one of Arizona’s top fishing spots.

Numerous crappie, largemouth bass, channel catfish, sunfish and tilapia can be found in Alamo Lake, making it a hot spot for fishing tournaments. In fact, at least one of the state’s fishing records each year takes place at this lake.

In the surrounding park, camping and hiking is offered, though there are also cabins for visitors that want a little bit more comfort. Swimming, boating biking and picnicking can also be enjoyed at Alamo Lake.

11. Blue Ridge Reservoir

Blue Ridge ReservoirSource: flickr
Blue Ridge Reservoir

Blue Ridge Reservoir sits in the Mogollon Rim area and is maintained by the Coconino National Forest division. It is one of Arizona’s most picturesque reservoirs, as it is surrounded by beautiful, colourful trees that go right down to the water line.

The reservoir has a surface area of 28 hectares and sits at an elevation of over 2,000 metres above sea level. It is quite remote, making it less crowded than many other lakes in the state.

Blue Ridge Reservoir is a great place to go fishing, with the Arizona Game and Fish Department keeping it stocked with numerous kinds of trout. Boats are limited to 10hp, making the lake a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the breath-taking scenery.

12. Big Lake

Big LakeSource: flickr
Big Lake

One of the best fishing lakes in the White Mountains, Big Lake has an average depth of around nine metres, with the majority of fish species being predominately trout. Fishing is best in April and May, though the lake is open from April to December.

There are over 200 camping sites surrounding the lake, as well as picnic tables, showers and restrooms. Boats are accessible via one of the lake’s two ramps, though motors are restricted to 10hp.

Big Lake sits within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, around 42 kilometres south of the towns of Springerville and Eagar. It should be noted that there is no access to the lake during the winter time.

13. Willow Springs Lake

Willow Springs LakeSource: flickr
Willow Springs Lake

Willow Springs Lake sits on the top of the Mogollon Rim, around 37 kilometres east of the city of Payson. It is a cold water lake that is part of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and is surrounded by canyons, making it truly spectacular.

The lake was created in 1967 by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to provide recreational activities for the communities and visitors of the area. Fishing is the most popular activity enjoyed at Willow Springs Lake, which is stocked with various trout, bass and sunfish.

There are 26 campsites surrounding the lake, as well as picnic shelters, public toilets and boat ramps. The lake is open year-round, with ice fishing being offered in the winter months.

14. Lake Mary

Upper Lake Mary
Upper Lake Mary

Lake Mary is a pair of lakes southeast of the city of Flagstaff in northern Arizona. Both the upper and lower lakes offer recreational activities and are maintained by the Coconino National Forest. The lakes were named after Mary Riordan; the daughter of a wealthy lumber baron that built the two lakes in 1905.

Upper Lake Mary is a long narrow, lake that is regularly stocked with sunfish, rainbow trout and channel catfish, as well as often having some northern pike in it. Lower Lake Mary is the smaller of the two lakes and often dries up in the hot months.

Both lakes are home to a variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, bald eagles and green blue heron. In the summer months, the Lake Mary area is popular amongst birdwatchers.

15. Goldwater Lake

Goldwater LakeSource: flickr
Goldwater Lake

Goldwater Lake was formed by the damming on Bannon Creek. It is located south of the city of Prescott in North Central Arizona and is maintained by the City of Prescott Parks and Recreation.

The lake is a popular place for fishing, with the Arizona Game and Fish Department keeping it stocked with rainbow trout. Swimming is not allowed in Goldwater Lake, but kayaking and canoeing is offered, with rentals being available.

Sitting around the lake’s shoreline are picnic tables, grills, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits and a children’s playground. There is also a hiking trail that encircles the 10 hectare lake.

16. Rose Canyon Lake

Rose Canyon LakeSource: flickr
Rose Canyon Lake

Located around 48 kilometres from Arizona’s city of Tuscan, Rose Canyon Lake is a 2.8 hectare lake that sits in the Santa Catalina Mountains. It is the only lake in the area that offers recreational fishing, being regularly stocked with brown trout and rainbow trout.

Access to the lake is done via Rose Canyon Campground, which is a pleasant area surrounded by forest. There are numerous campsites here, as well as hiking trails, campfire pits, picnic areas and plenty of parking.

Rose Canyon Lake is a beautiful and peaceful place, home to birds, tall trees and rocky slopes. It is a great place to meditate, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the natural scenery.

15 Best Lakes in Arizona:

  • Theodore Roosevelt Lake
  • Lake Pleasant Regional Park
  • Canyon Lake
  • Apache Lake
  • Saguaro Lake
  • Woods Canyon Lake
  • Bartlett Lake
  • Tempe Town Lake
  • Lynx Lake
  • Alamo Lake
  • Blue Ridge Reservoir
  • Big Lake
  • Willow Springs Lake
  • Lake Mary
  • Goldwater Lake
  • Rose Canyon Lake