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7 Best Lakes in Arizona (and Awesome Nearby Campsites)

7 Best Lakes in Arizona (and Awesome Nearby Campsites)

Just because Arizona is known for it’s desert landscapes, don’t forget there are beautiful lakes in Arizona, too!

The variety of lakes in Arizona run the gamut from desert watering holes (big ones, mind you!) to high mountain fishing lakes.  There are no limits as to the outdoor activities, scenic backdrops, and peaceful destinations you will find scattered throughout the Grand Canyon State. 

And, if you’re anything like me, you think one of the best lake front activities is camping! That’s why we’re including awesome nearby campgrounds for each Arizona lake we feature today.

Here’s our list of the 7 best lakes in Arizona:

#1 Canyon Lake

Created by the damming of the Salt River in 1925, Canyon Lake is one of six reservoirs on the river.  It is framed by steep canyon walls, forming a desert oasis. 

Today’s visitors can make use of two boat launches, a marina with a restaurant, and a beach.  And most come for the amazing water sport opportunities like scuba diving, jet-skiing, and fishing.  In fact, it is the perfect location for Phoenix residents to cool off, lying only 45 miles from the city. 

Location:  Located 15 miles northeast of Apache Junction, Canyon Lake lies along the old Apache Trail.

GPS coordinates:  33°32’34.1″N 111°26’11.6″W

Great Nearby Campsite: For waterfront camping, you can’t beat Canyon Lake Marina and Campground.  It’s a bit pricey for just electric and water hookups, but having access to a marina with a full-service restaurant out your front door is a nice perk!  There are 28 sites available and the campground has clean showers and restrooms.

Arizona Lake Vibes Score:  9.5/10

#2 Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu began life when the Parker Dam was built across the Colorado River in 1938, feeding two irrigation aqueducts.  The area had been inhabited by the Mohave Tribe of Native Americans, and the lake got its name from the Mohave word for “blue.” 

Today this desolate desert is inundated with winter residents who have come to bask in the warm temperatures and play in the cool waters of the lake.  At 26 miles in length, there is plenty of shoreline available for beach activities, and water enthusiasts revel in jet skiing, fishing, and wakeboarding, along with scuba diving and paddleboarding.

Here’s our list of the 9 Best Things to Do in Lake Havasu!

Location:  Situated on the west central border of Arizona, Lake Havasu is perfectly placed for desert fun. 

GPS coordinates:  34°26’59.5″N 114°22’16.2″W

Great Nearby Campsite: Lake Havasu State Park has 47 full hookup campsites, many of which are on the waterfront.  With new shower houses and restrooms, a fish cleaning station, boat launches, and pull-through sites, it’s easily one of the best places to enjoy lake life!

Here’s a complete guide of all the best Lake Havasu Campgrounds.

Arizona Lake Vibes Score:  9/10

#3 Theodore Roosevelt Lake

The largest of six reservoirs on the Salt River, Theodore Roosevelt Lake was created in 1911 and today retains the record as the largest lake located totally within Arizona’s borders.  It is a boating mecca, with fishing boats, sailboats and houseboats equally at home on the lake.  And with 128 miles of shoreline, hikers, campers and bicyclists will also have endless places to explore. 

The local marina ups the ante on amenities, with a bar, restaurant, boat storage, convenience store, docks and live entertainment available!  Roosevelt Lake is definitely an all-encompassing destination.

Location:  Roosevelt Lake is located 80 miles northeast of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

GPS coordinates:  33°40’26.7″N 111°07’47.7″W

Great Nearby CampsiteWindy Hill Campground is a typical US Forest Service campground, with no hookups but great views and peace and quiet.  There are 347 sites and clean restrooms overlooking Theodore Roosevelt Lake, but some sites are not suited for larger rigs, because they are close together.  With so many campsites from which to chose, however, you should be able to find an acceptable spot.

Arizona Lake Vibes Score:  9/10

#4 Lynx Lake

Established in 1952 with the damming of Lynx Creek, the lake is a stunning location for all forms of outdoor exercise.  Because of its proximity to Prescott, this little gem has become a sought-out destination for fishing, boating, horseback riding, and hiking. 

Rainbow trout are abundant in Lake Lynx. Many birdwatchers find Lynx Lake a great spot to view some unique species.  And with a designated “Gold Pan Day Use Area,” you might try your luck finding some nuggets!

Location:  Situated just 5 miles east of Prescott, Lynx Lake is a small but beautiful reservoir in the Bradshaw Mountains of central Arizona.

GPS coordinates:  34°31’09.3″N 112°23’06.8″W

Great Nearby Campsite: A short hike from the lake is Lynx US Forest Service Campground, with 35 sites from which to choose.  There are no hookups. However, paved roads create easy access. Picnic table and fire rings accompany each site.  Restrooms are available and a store and restaurant are within walking distance.

Arizona Lake Vibes Score:  9/10

#5 Tempe Town Lake

At two miles long, Tempe Town Lake is an artificial reservoir in the Salt River, created in 1999 in an effort to control and conserve water.  A recreation area lies along the river in the middle of Tempe. 

These days, visitors paddleboard, kayak, and maneuver pedal boats in the midst of a metropolis.  The surrounding shores are host to a water park, baseball diamond, and amphitheater, and crew teams use the lake to ply their craft, as well.

Location:  The town lake, in reality, is actually part of the Salt River as it meanders through downtown Tempe.

GPS coordinates:  33°25’54.4″N 111°55’39.6″W

Great Nearby Campsite:  With a location just 3 miles from Tempe Town Lake, the Apache Palms RV Park is a good staging area for day trips in and around the metropolitan area.  Campsites are a little tight, but campers will find clean restrooms and showers, as well as a pool to cool off in.

Arizona Lake Vibes Score:  7.5/10

#6 Saguaro Lake

Created in 1930 with the building of the Stewart Mountain Dam, Saguaro Lake is one of six reservoirs built on the Salt River to control water in its desert location.  Smaller in size than some of its neighbors, it makes up for its foot acreage with a great number of fishing opportunities.  Cast your reel for crappie, bass, rainbow trout, sunfish, catfish, tilapia, and carp. 

Hit the water on a jet ski or sailboat, or languish in the sun on Butcher Jones Beach.  The marina at the lake has a restaurant on-site, and for those who want someone else to take the ship’s wheel, enjoy a boat tour on the Desert Belle.

Location:  20 miles north of Apache Junction.

GPS coordinates:  33°34’23.2″N 111°31’30.2″W

Great Nearby Campsite:  For a nicely maintained, back-in site the Tortilla Flat Campground is the place to stay.  The sites are level and big-rig friendly, with water hookups.  No electricity, but a dump station is on-site and there are numerous hiking trails in the area to enjoy.

Arizona Lake Vibes Score:  8.8/10

#7 Big Lake

A natural, spring-fed lake in the White Mountains, Big Lake is renowned for its selection of trout.  From brook to brown to cutthroat to rainbow, trout fisherman can have it all at this high altitude mountain lake.  There’s a marina on-site that provides groceries, tackle, and kayak rentals. 

At 9,000 feet above sea level, Big Lake is a cool place to chill out if you’re coming from the desert, but beware!  Road closures happen regularly during winter months.

Location:  Located 27 miles southwest of Springerville, Big Lake is just that…BIG!

GPS coordinates:  33°52’42.6″N 109°25’22.6″W

Great Nearby Campsite: Apache Trout Campground is one of several National Forest campgrounds at Big Lake, but it is the only one able to handle RVs up to 45 feet in length.  Offering full hookups and hot showers, the campground is centrally located on the lake to take advantage of the tranquility and scenery of this stunning destination.

Arizona Lake Vibes Score:  9.5/10

Plan Your Next Trip to One of These Lakes in Arizona

Exploring Arizona’s lakes can become an all-consuming task for those who love the water.  This list should give you a head start on locating that perfect fishing, camping, sailing or scuba diving location from which to launch your next adventure. 

We use RV Trip Wizard to route our cross country trips.

It allows us to avoid steep passes, tolls, and tunnels – making travel day way less stressful! Try RV Trip Wizard Free for 7 Days.

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

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  1. Dan Hartley says:

    Tortilla Campground is 2 miles from Canyon Lake. It is not at all convenient to Saguaro Lake.