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The Ultimate Canyon Lake Camping Guide

The Ultimate Canyon Lake Camping Guide

Arizona’s Canyon Lake isn’t to be overlooked despite its smaller size.

Today we want to share how Canyon Lake offers all the same amenities of larger lakes and then some. So keep reading to find out why we love it, and think you will too.

Let’s dive in!

What is Canyon Lake (and Its History)

Canyon Lake is the smallest of the four reservoirs along the Salt River. It was initially created after the Mormon Flat Dam was finished in 1925. The lake’s proximity to Phoenix (about 50 miles east) makes it a popular day trip for Phoenix residents.

Water activities such as boating, swimming, fishing, and even scuba diving are popular at Canyon Lake. Though the area offers more than just water sports, hiking is another popular activity around the lake. 

The Best Way to Get There

If traveling from Mesa, take U.S. 60 to exit #196. Next, follow State Highway 88 north for approximately 15 miles. Then the park will be located on your left.

Know Before You Go: Each vehicle and watercraft will require the Tonto National Forest Pass for entry.

If watersports aren’t your thing, you’re in luck. Canyon Lake also offers generous views and hiking adventures.

Boulder Canyon Trail

With just under 2000 feet in elevation gain, Boulder Canyon Trail is not for novice hikers. This 8.7-mile out-and-back trail is considered hard by many hikers. Although the climb is challenging, the views are rewarding. The wide and well-marked trail will certainly help you connect with nature in its purest form. But, bring plenty of water. Be on the lookout for desert wildlife, and you’ll surely have a great time! 

Pro Tip: Boulder Canyon Trail continues and connects with multiple additional trails. So you can extend your hike or potentially get lost. Make sure you have a map!

People having fun on boat and water skis on Canyon Lake in Apache Junction, Arizona USA on a hot summer day

Canyon Lake Trail

Canyon Lake Trail is a great option if you’re looking for a moderate but long out-and-back trail. At 14.5 miles and almost 2700 feet in elevation gain, you’ll get a great workout. On the other hand, if you’re not comfortable covering this distance on foot, the Forest Service permits horse use on the trail. This is a popular trail that’s moderately trafficked and should be done from September to May for optimal conditions.

Know Before You Go: Bring plenty of water for the weather conditions as there is no fresh water supply on Canyon Lake Trail.

The Best Campsite

Not only does Canyon Lake offer a plethora of watersports and hiking, but camping is available as well. Being close to the lake is important to make the best use of your time, and there is a great option.

Canyon Lake Marina and Campground

Address: 16802 NE Highway 88, Tortilla Flat, AZ 85219

About the Campground: With nine tent sites and 36 RV sites, this campground will surely meet your camping needs. Each campsite includes a fire ring, grill, and picnic table. RVers should be aware and plan accordingly since there is no dump station on site. What’s more, the marina permits camping on the lake in your boat.

Price: Prices vary depending on the camping situation. Back-in RV sites with 30 amp are $60/night. Pull-through RV sites with 30/50 amp are $65/night. Site “C” special pricing is $65, hillside tent sites are $35, and waterfront tent sites are $40 per night.

Canyon Lake Camping Adventure

Whether you’re looking to spend a day hiking or an entire weekend camping on the water, consider Canyon Lake. With plenty of adventure to be found, your family will certainly ask to return and explore again.

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! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

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  1. Bob says:

    Much cheaper to do the forest service campsites along the Apache Trail road. Burnt Correll is especially nice. $7 for old geezers like me!