The Ultimate Saguaro Lake Camping Guide

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The Ultimate Saguaro Lake Camping Guide

Saguaro Lake is a perfect weekend adventure. Don’t miss exploring this gorgeous lake that’s only a short drive from Phoenix.

The lake offers activities such as hikes with great views, quiet camping, and water sports.

Let’s take a look at what you can expect to find at Saguaro Lake!

What is Saguaro Lake (and Its History)

Engineers completed Stewart Mountain Dam, the last one built on the Salt River, in 1930. The dam created Saguaro Lake, which is named after the Saguaro cactus. Part of the Salt Lake Project, and with over 22 miles of shoreline, the lake can hold almost seventy thousand acre-feet of water.

The Best Way to Get to Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake is an easy drive from Phoenix. When heading East on AZ-202, you will take exit 23A and follow North Bush Highway for 14 miles to Saguaro Del Norte Main. Alternatively, you can take AZ-87 headed east, taking exit 199, and follow North Bush Highway for 4 miles to Saguaro Del Norte Main.

Can you swim in Saguaro Lake?

Swimming is allowed at Saguaro Lake. Additionally, you can enjoy the refreshing water at the many beaches by boating, kayaking, jet-skiing, and more. One of the more popular beaches is Butcher Jones Beach.

Know Before You Go: Do you have an America the Beautiful pass? If so, you may not need to buy a day pass at Butcher Jones Beach.

With so many camping and hiking opportunities, Saguaro Lake is a perfect weekend adventure
With so many camping and hiking opportunities, Saguaro Lake is a perfect weekend adventure

How much does it cost to get into Saguaro Lake?

Each vehicle will need a Tonto daily pass priced at $8.00 or a Tonto Annual Pass priced at $80.00. Additionally, if you bring a watercraft, they will require a $4 watercraft sticker. 

If you’re not interested in water, there’s a generous amount of hiking available. Without doubt, you’ll appreciate the beauty of Saguaro Lake from the many different views on these trails.

Butcher Jones Trail

The Butcher Jones Trail is a moderate 4.9-mile out-and-back hike. Leashed dogs are permitted on the trail. Hikers will begin their trek just north of Butcher Jones Beach, accessing the trailhead at the parking lot’s southwest corner.

The trail’s distance may appear challenging, but the prize is worth the effort. Hikers, your rewards are beautiful views of the lake as well as fantastic natural scenery. Approximately ¼ of a mile from the turnaround point, the trail will split, leaving you to choose the Burro Cove or Shoreline Access points before turning back.

Butcher Jones Trail

Camping, hiking, fishing, water fun - Saguaro Lake has it all!
Camping, hiking, fishing, water fun – Saguaro Lake has it all!

Boulder Canyon Trail

Those looking for a lengthier hike will be pleased with Boulder Canyon Trail. This trek is an 8.7-mile out-and-back and is considered difficult. So hikers should be sure of their abilities before beginning.

Leashed dogs are also allowed on this trail. But, be aware, the terrain can be rocky at times, with boulder climbing being part of the trail. You can find parking for the Boulder Canyon trailhead at the marina.

Boulder Canyon Trail

The Best Campsites Near Saguaro Lake

There’s no better way to end a day of hiking and playing in the water than relaxing by a fire. Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered.

Coon Bluff Campground

Address: Coon Bluff Rd, Mesa, AZ 85215

About the Campground: Coon Bluff Campground is available for overnight camping on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday nights before a Monday holiday. The Forest Services permits overnight camping from October 1st-March 31st. Yes, you read that right. It’s currently not open for camping during the summers.

There’s no water or electricity provided, but there is a bathroom building available for use. RVs will find themselves dry camping in a parking lot, while tents have dedicated sites. Additionally, some tent sites have fire rings. Campers will enjoy hikes and beautiful desert landscapes.

Price: Included in the Tonto National Forest $8 daily pass.

Coon Bluff Campground

Heading to Saguaro NP? Here are the best options for free camping near Saguaro National Park!

Visit Saguaro Lake

When looking to get away from the city’s hustle and bustle, Saguaro Lake fits the bill. Power through a magnificent desert hike, and end your day cooling off in the lake.

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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