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13 Stunning Recreational Lakes Near Phoenix

13 Stunning Recreational Lakes Near Phoenix

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we love Phoenix. It’s a city that offers so much more than its hot reputation as an urban desert oasis.

Its strategic location makes the valley super accessible to many activities and major tourist sites. 

You can go for a quick morning hike, meet up with friends for lunch downtown, and go for a scenic drive come sunset – all in a day’s work. 

And on those extremely hot summer days, there are a bunch of places nearby that offer a cool respite. Apart from several water parks, the valley is also surrounded by beautiful lakes that would make for a perfect outing.

Beautiful and Recreational Lakes Near Phoenix

Here are some of the best lakes near Phoenix worth visiting:

  • Lake Pleasant
  • Saguaro Lake
  • Canyon Lake
  • Apache Lake
  • Roosevelt Lake
  •  Bartlett Lake
  • Tempe Town Lake
  • Horseshoe Reservoir
  • Alamo Lake
  • Chaparral Lake
  • Pioneer Lake
  • Watson Lake
  • Lake Powerll

Whether you’re looking to swim, fish, go boating, or do some water activities, you can take your pick among these stunning lakes in and around the city. Below, we’ve laid down a quick guide for your convenience. 

Lake PleasantLake Pleasant Regional Park, 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd. Morristown, AZ 85342YesYesYes
Saguaro LakeTonto National Forest, 2324 E. McDowell Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85006YesYesYes
Canyon LakeTonto National Forest, 2324 E. McDowell Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85006YesYesYes
Apache LakeTonto National Forest, 2324 E. McDowell Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85006YesYesYes
Roosevelt Lake28085 AZ-188, Roosevelt, AZ 85545YesYesYes
Bartlett Lake20808 E Bartlett Dam Rd, Tonto National Forest, Carefree, AZ 85377YesYesYes
Tempe Town LakeMill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway Tempe, AZ 85280NoYesYes
Horseshoe ReservoirTonto National Forest, 2324 E. McDowell Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85006YesYesYes
Alamo LakeAlamo Lake State Park, PO Box 38, Wenden, AZ 85357YesYesYes
Chaparral LakeChaparral Park, 5401 N Hayden Rd Scottsdale, AZ 85250NoYesYes
Pioneer LakePioneer Community Park 8755 N. 83rd Ave. Peoria, AZ 85345NoYesNo
Watson Lake3101 Watson Lake Drive, Prescott, AZ 86301NoYesYes
Lake PowellLake Shore Drive 100, Page, AZ 86040YesYesYes

Let’s dive (pun intended!) into the specifics. We’ll take you through a narrative tour of all of these lakes to help you get the most out of your trip.

1. Lake Pleasant

Lake Pleasant
Image Source: Republic Foils via

Admission Fee: $7 per vehicle; $2 per individual or bicycle; $4 per motorized vessel

Address: Lake Pleasant Regional Park, 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd. Morristown, AZ 85342

Contact Number: (602) 506-2930

Hours Open: (April to October) Monday and Friday to Sunday, 10AM–4PM; (October to March) Monday to Sunday, 10AM–4PM

Lake Pleasant gives justice to its namesake by being a near and pleasant escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. It’s a mere 45-minute drive northwest from downtown which makes it a favorite day trip among locals.

Here, you’ll find a 10,000-acre lake with over 114 miles of shoreline decked with fun activities for your friends or entire family. You can fish, go boating, wind surf, go biking, camping, and try out water sports.

If you want to stay overnight, there are 165 campsites available from primitive ones to more improved sites with full hookups. It’s also a lovely place to have picnics, so go ahead and take your pick among its 450 picnic areas.

The full-service marina can accommodate up to 1,000 boats. A 10-lane boat ramp is also available and there’s enough parking for 200 vehicles.

Suffice it to say, despite the lake’s popularity, it rarely ever gets crowded or rowdy. 

Can you swim in Lake Pleasant AZ?

You can swim in Lake Pleasant. In fact, it is a popular spot to swim at as it has some of the clearest waters in Arizona. 

In certain months, park visitors can even rent rafts and floating tubes.

How deep is Lake Pleasant AZ?

It’s said that the water at Lake Pleasant has a maximum depth of 21 meters.

2. Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake
Image Source: LoBommer via

Admission Fee: $8 per Tonto Daily Pass

Address: Tonto National Forest, 2324 E. McDowell Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85006

Contact Number: (602) 225-5200

Hours Open: Monday to Sunday, 6AM–8PM

Saguaro Lake is among the last of the reservoirs built on Salt River back in 1930. It’s located within the Sonoran Desert and is rimmed with stunning canyon walls. 

It’s also part of the Tonto National Forest and is a short 20-minute drive from Mesa.

It got its name mainly from the many iconic Saguaro cacti which can be found along the surrounding desert. Even its shorelines are lined with these majestic fauna, which is quite a sight!

The lake spans over 22-miles of lakeside shore, which allows for several activities. These include boating, kayaking, jet skiing, fishing, camping, and sailing.

We highly-suggest riding the Desert Belle, which is a riverboat that’ll take you through a 90-minute narrated cruise across the lake. It’s one of the best ways to enjoy the rugged desert beauty, see birds and wildlife, and the pristine water, of course.

If fishing is more up your alley, the Arizona Fish and Game Department stocks rainbow trout in the water. Other fish that you might be able to catch are largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, walleye, and more.

And if you’d like to stay overnight, there’s a 30-site campground that’s only accessible via boats. The Bagley Flat Campground has picnic tables and toilet facilities, but note that water fountains aren’t available so it’s best to bring your own jugs.

A good alternative would be to stay at the Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch. No boats needed, and it has complete amenities to make your stay comfortable.

Can you swim in Saguaro Lake?

It’s safe to swim at Saguaro Lake. Regular water quality testing is usually done here to ensure the safety of those visiting.

Can I bring my own kayak to Saguaro Lake?

You can bring your own kayak to Saguaro Lake. But, note that you’d need a personal flotation device, too, according to Arizona law. 

Just be careful not to run into speed boats as lots of visitors opt to bring or rent those.

3. Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake
Image Source: Wikipedia

Admission Fee: $8 per Tonto Daily Pass

Address: Tonto National Forest, 2324 E. McDowell Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85006

Contact Number: (480) 610-3300

Hours Open: Monday to Sunday, 8:30AM–6PM

Canyon Lake is another scenic spot within the Tonto National Forest that offers gorgeous views of the glimmering water and red rock cliffs.

The 900-acre lake is a prime spot for boating, water skiing, and fishing. Hiking can also be done along the surrounding red-rock canyon. 

If you’d like to rent watercraft and equipment, head over to Canyon Lake and Campground. They carry nearly every fun water activity such as canoes, kayaks, pontoons, and water skis.

Those who’d rather fish will commonly find an assortment of channel catfish, bluegill, and crappie within the lake. Fun fact: a world record of 1-pound, 11-ounce yellow bass was caught in the lake back in 1985!

Towards the east side of the lake, visitors can enjoy a bit more privacy as they wind through steep canyon walls. If you’re lucky, you may even see some Big Horn sheep, javelina, and other wildlife living in the area.

This is great for those who like to enjoy nature’s quiet. It’s far enough from all the action that you can just relax and bask in the beauty of where you are.

Can you swim in Canyon Lake Arizona?

You can swim in Canyon Lake. There are even multiple access points for it. 

You can opt to park within designed parking lots, or you can leave your car along the side of the highway.

Does Canyon Lake have snakes?

Canyon Lake has snakes, but there’s a very low chance to encounter a venomous one. In fact, they only mostly surface during floods.

4. Apache Lake

Apache Lake
Image Source: WIBYRIC via

Admission Fee: $8 per Tonto Daily Pass

Address: Tonto National Forest, 2324 E. McDowell Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85006

Contact Number: (928) 923-6690

Hours Open: Monday to Sunday, 9AM–6PM

Staying within Tonto National Forest, Apache Lake is another popular destination in the area. It was formed when the Horse Mesa Dam was completed back in 1927.

It’s known to be a prime spot for warm water fishing. You’ll often catch some trout, catfish, yellow bass, carp, and more.

And, there are several fishing habitats all throughout the lake protected and managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. You may choose among coves, shallows, and channels for a bit more privacy while you fish.

The lake is surrounded by sun-drenched canyon walls which are quite a sight to behold. During spring, the place is extra pretty as wildflowers and desert flora bloom.

Water activity rentals are also available at the Marina and Resort. There are jet skis, paddleboards, kayaks, and more. 

If you’d like a comfortable staycation, the Apache Lake and Marina offers motel rooms that are just a stone’s throw away from all the action. Most rooms are pet-friendly, too, so go ahead and bring your furry friends with you!

The place also has an RV park and camping grounds. Don’t worry – many of the spots they have available come equipped with water, electrical, and sewer hookups.

Is there cell service at Apache Lake?

Cell service is available on Apache Lake, but it’s sporadic on the dirt road section leading to it. Some canyons you might pass by are also dead zones.

How deep is Apache Lake?

The maximum depth at Apache Lake is approximately 73 meters.

5. Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake
Image Source: Kathy G. via

Admission Fee: Free

Address: 28085 AZ-188, Roosevelt, AZ 85545

Contact Number: (602) 977-7170

Hours Open: Open 24/7

Set amidst stunning red rocks in the desert, Roosevelt Lake is the largest lake in central Arizona. It boasts 128 miles of shoreline and over 21,500 acres of surface area!

It’s only an hour and a half away from Phoenix, but it may as well be a world of its own. The scenery is stunning, the ambience is peaceful, and it offers much to do for visitors.

What’s unique about this place is that there are several isolated islands and coves that you can camp and relax at. During the fall and winter seasons, migratory waterfowls and raptors flock to the lake and add to its natural charm.

The lake’s state-of-the-art marina houses pretty much any boat you might have or need – fishing boats, sailboats, houseboats, and more. They offer full executive services as well, where they maintain your boat and keep it in optimum shape.

Ski and pontoon boat rentals are available at the marina, too. And, there’s a fuel dock (with both covered and uncovered storage options).

Many people come here to fish as well. That’s because a variety of game fish live in the lake such as crappie, carp, Sunfish, bass, and more.

How deep is Roosevelt Lake AZ?

Roosevelt Lake is estimated to be 106 meters deep.

Does Roosevelt Lake have golden algae?

Roosevelt Lake contains golden algae, but there isn’t enough concentration of it to kill the fish. This is largely due to fresh water flowing into the lake via Tonto Creek and Salt River.

6. Bartlett Lake

Bartlett Lake
Image Source: Outdoor Project

Admission Fee: $6 per vehicle; $4 per watercraft

Address: 20808 E Bartlett Dam Rd, Tonto National Forest, Carefree, AZ 85377

Contact Number: (602) 316-3378

Hours Open: Monday to Sunday, 9AM–5PM

Bartlett Lake has over 2,800-acres of water surface and is approximately 12-miles long. It offers visitors a scenic view of desert mountains and Saguaro-dotted foothills.

Because of its expansive water surface, recreation enthusiasts love coming here and letting loose on speed boats, water skis, and jet skis. All of which are available for rent on the nearby marina. 

If you plan on fishing, the lake is a haven for bass and panfish. It’s known to be one of the most reliable fishing lakes, and is also among the best spots in the state to catch giant flathead catfish.

The lake has two distinct sides – one, with gently-sloped beaches, and the other, gradual mountain inclines. During spring, the latter side is a thing of beauty as wildflowers sprout and offer even more stunning views.

Here, you may set up camp directly on the shoreline. You might even spot some bald eagles, mule deers, coyotes, javelinas, and more.

The lake is also located within the Tonto National Forest and is about 48 miles northeast from Phoenix. No need to worry about offroading – they’ve built a newly-paved road connected to the freeway that makes it easily-accessible from the entire valley.

Can you swim in Bartlett Lake AZ?

You can go swimming in Bartlett Lake. In fact, it is a common summer activity for most Arizona locals. 

Does Bartlett Lake have a beach?

Bartlett Beach has several sandy beaches and an onsite playground. It’s an ideal place to swim and fish at, especially during summer.

7. Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake
Image Source: Tempe Town Lake via

Admission Fee: Free

Address: Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway Tempe, AZ 85280

Contact Number: (480) 350-4311

Hours Open: Monday to Sunday, 5AM–10PM

Tempe Town Lake is a desert oasis smack in the middle of the Phoenix Metropolitan area. It’s a common destination for locals when the blazing heat is a bit too much because it offers many recreational water activities.

Here, you can go kayaking, paddleboarding, rowing, and fishing. Swimming or wading of any sort is not allowed on the lake.

However, there is the Tempe Beach Park that’s great for picnics and some outdoor fun. You’ll find many people doing workouts in this area and enjoying the fresh air as they go on the exercise trails.

The beach park is also where several festivals and events are held. These include the Tempe Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade and the Aloha Festival.

If you want to go boating, you can rent out a boat from Boat Rentals of America at the southend portion of the park. You may take your pick among donut boats, kayaks, pontoon boats, electric boats, and more.

If you find yourself up north, Northshore Watersport Rentals offers nearly the same watercraft options. 

And if fishing is more up your alley, you’ll need an Arizona Fishing License. The lake is predominantly-stocked with catfish, bass, trout, and good amounts of Sunfish.

How deep is Tempe Town Lake?

Tempe Town Lake is only about 15 feet deep, relatively more shallow than other nearby lakes in the state.

Where does the water in Tempe Town Lake come from?

The water in Tempe Town Lake mostly comes from the Upper Salt River, being part of the Salt River channel.

8. Horseshoe Reservoir

Horseshoe Reservoir
Image Source: Ian James via

Admission Fee: $8 per Tonto Daily Pass

Address: Tonto National Forest, 2324 E. McDowell Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85006

Contact Number: (602) 236-8888

Hours Open: Monday to Sunday, 9AM–6:30PM

For those looking for a quiet escape, Horseshoe Reservoir would be one of your best bets. See, it’s probably the most remote lake in this list.

It can be a bit tricky to get to, but that’s also what makes it ideal for nature immersion. All you’ll hear is the gentle stream of water, birds, and leaves rustling against the wind.

The reservoir is actually a dam named after its horseshoe-shaped bend in the Verde River. It was built from 1944 to 1946 as a way to access more water during World War II.

Today, it offers quiet recreational activities such as camping, boating, fishing, canoeing, and paddleboarding.

There are 12 campsites around the area which are already equipped with fire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets. Only day camping is allowed, unfortunately.

If you plan on fishing, you’ll most likely catch large and smallmouth bass, crappie, and flathead catfish. It’s one of the best fishing nurseries in the state.

You’ll need to check the water level before you come here. This is because the dam often gets drained and it’s sometimes dry for long periods of time.

How deep is the Horseshoe Reservoir?

The Horseshoe Reservoir averages 30 feet-deep and has a maximum depth of 77 feet.

How high is the cliff at Horseshoe Lake?

The cliff at Horseshoe Lake is estimated to be around 80-feet high.

9. Alamo Lake

Alamo Lake
Image Source: Only In Your State

Admission Fee: $7 per vehicle; $3 per individual or bicycle

Address: Alamo Lake State Park, PO Box 38, Wenden, AZ 85357

Contact Number: (928) 669-2088

Hours Open: Monday to Sunday, 8AM–5PM

Alamo Lake is a top destination for bass fishing. It’s located inside Alamo Lake State Park and is relatively quieter than most similar places.

The beauty of the place is in the crystal-clear lake waters. It’s even more enticing with shorelines pebbled by desert flora including wildflowers and cacti.

You might even spot a bald eagle or a golden eagle amongst one of the trees nearby. In the spring, some wild burros, pelicans, and Great Blue Herons find their way here, too.

And at sunset? The view is just spectacular.

We love this place simply because it’s far from the city and makes you feel as though you’re in a real nature retreat. The nearest city lights are 40 miles away, which makes the lake ideal for stargazing as well.

Camping here is a dream, especially if you enjoy the quiet outdoors. But if you’d rather stay at a lodge, there are many options you can choose from near the vicinity.

Though, we will say that they have some well-maintained facilities. The park rangers are known to be friendly and super helpful, too.

Since it’s quite desolate, we suggest bringing everything you need before coming here. Otherwise, you’d be driving to the nearest city which takes at least half an hour to get to.

It also has a fascinating (and borderline eerie) history to it. 

Apparently, a town was established where the lake is now back in the 1890s. It was abandoned in 1918 and sat in ruins for nearly 50 years, before the lake was created on top of it.

So, a scuba trip down to its depths would allow one to see what’s left of the flooded town at the bottom. Talk about diving to the past.

Can you swim in Alamo Lake?

You can technically swim in Alamo Lake. However, the lake doesn’t have designated swimming areas, so we advise wade or swim in shallow waters near the shore. 

Also, it’s a given, but avoid coming too close to boat ramps or the dam.

Where does the water in Alamo Lake come from?

The primary inflows and outflows of the water in Alamo Lake are from Bill Williams River.

10. Chaparral Lake

Chaparral Lake
Image Source:

Admission Fee: Free

Address: Chaparral Park, 5401 N Hayden Rd Scottsdale, AZ 85250

Contact Number: (480) 312-2353

Hours Open: Monday to Sunday, Sunrise–10:30PM

Chaparral Lake is located at the heart of Chaparral Park in Scottsdale. It’s another easy day trip to make if you’re coming from Downtown Phoenix.

The lake is an urban haven for those who love to fish. It’s kept stocked multiple times a year with channel catfish, carp, largemouth bass, and in the winter, a few rainbow trout.

Although the list of catches is relatively shorter, it still attracts a great deal of anglers across the valley. It’s a convenient, reliable, and easy fishing spot to get to, anyway.

We do suggest that you check the stocking schedule prior to your visit, just to help you make the most out of it. Also note the daily bag limit below:

  • 4 catfish
  • 4 trout
  • 2 bass (13 inch minimum)
  • 10 sunfish
  • 1 white amur (30 inch minimum)

Other water activities are also available on the lake. You may enjoy a nice kayak or boat ride on the water by renting or bringing your own watercraft.

Unfortunately, swimming and wading are strictly prohibited on the lake. But there is a nearby pool if you’d like to take a quick dip.

There are also several ramadas available if you’d like to go on a nice picnic. Exercise fields, walking paths, and a dog park is within the vicinity as well.

Is Chaparral Lake man-made?

Chaparral Lake is an artificial, man-made lake. It was established when the park opened in 1995. 

Its maximum depth is approximately 15 feet.

What fish are in Chaparral Lake?

You can find tilapia, carp, sunfish, catfish, largemouth bass, and rainbow trout in Chaparral Lake.

11. Pioneer Lake

Pioneer Lake
Image Source: Outdoorsman Fishing Guide

Admission Fee: Free

Address: Pioneer Community Park 8755 N. 83rd Ave. Peoria, AZ 85345

Contact Number: (623) 773-7137

Hours Open: Monday to Sunday, 6AM–10:30PM

Pioneer Lake may be relatively small (it’s only 5-acres in surface area), but it does give locals a nice view of the sunset and is a nice spot to fish.

Here, you can catch some carp, largemouth bass, bluegills, channel catfish, and trout. It’s regularly-stocked several times a year and is part of the local Community Fishing Program.

Though, that’s pretty much all you can do at this lake. Boating, swimming, kayaking, or even wading of any sort isn’t allowed.

What you can find here, however, are playgrounds, ramadas, a dog park, and a splash pad. So it’s still a great place to come to for some recreation.

12. Watson Lake

Watson Lake
Image Source:

Admission Fee: Free

Address: 3101 Watson Lake Drive, Prescott, AZ 86301

Contact Number: (928) 777-1122

Hours Open: (April to October) Monday to Sunday, 6AM–10PM; (November to March) Monday to Sunday, 7AM–8PM

Up north of Phoenix is the small city of Prescott where you’ll find Watson Lake. It’s another small but charming reservoir surrounded by granite rocks and trailheads for those who’d like to hike.

Although swimming isn’t permitted, you may go kayaking, boating, canoeing, and fishing on this lake. The scenic park allows for some quiet recreation, as it never gets too crowded or rowdy.

Camping is also allowed, but overnight stays are only available during summer. What’s great is that showers are available, too, and not just the regular toilet amenities.

Apart from those, horseshoe pits, fish cleaning stations, and playgrounds are also within the vicinity of the lake. And, pets are welcome so feel free to bring your furry pals along!

Why is there no swimming in Watson Lake?

Swimming isn’t allowed in Watson lake because the water isn’t deemed safe for the activity. The lake is downstream from what used to be a strip mine of mercury.

How deep is Watson Lake in Arizona?

The maximum depth of Watson Lake is 50 feet.

13. Lake Powell

Lake Powell
Image Source: Valeria K. via

Admission Fee: $30 per vehicle

Address: Lake Shore Drive 100, Page, AZ 86040

Contact Number: (888) 896-3829

Hours Open: Monday to Friday, 8AM–6PM; Saturday to Sunday, 9AM–5:30PM

While it’s not exactly near Phoenix, we think Lake Powell is still worthy of a mention and the relatively long (almost 10-hour) drive. 

The lake is the second largest artificial reservoir in the country. Its beautiful rock formations came to be from the flooding of the Glen Canyon Dam and has almost 2,000 total miles of shoreline.

An abundance of water activities can be done here. These include boating, kayaking, wakeboarding, water skiing, and fishing – to name a few.

Of course, rentals are available or you can bring your own watercraft. And if you plan on staying overnight, houseboat rentals would be a fun choice.

Horseback riding is also a must-try, where you can go on an excursion to the Rainbow Bridge National Monument. We highly-suggest trying this out to see one of the largest natural bridges worldwide (it stands at 290-feet tall and is 275-feet wide!).

What’s more is that the bridge is a great spot for stargazing. It’s even a designated Dark Sky Sanctuary.

Camping is also available lakeside and there’s an RV park with complete amenities. South of the lake, you’ll find the Lake Powell Resort which has two restaurants, swimming pools, fire pits, marina and lake access, and more.

So if you’re up for a nice weekend trip, Lake Powell would be one of your best bets. It’s a great place to unwind that offers many activities for you and your friends or family.

What is the best month to go to Lake Powell?

According to locals, the best months to go to Lake Powell are anytime from May to August. This is when the weather is much nicer and the sunsets are absolutely at their best.

How many days do you need at Lake Powell?

The lake keepers recommend spending at least three days on Lake Powell. This would allow you to explore the many sights and activities available within the vicinity.

But if you’d rather not squeeze everything in, we suggest staying for a good five days. 

Ready for a lake getaway? Let us know down below which one you plan on visiting first!

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