Find Your Perfect Summer Vacation Destination!
Summer temperatures in Arizona can reach uncomfortable levels as the clouds flee from the sun’s glare. The desert state is known for its beautiful, dry landscape and it can be a challenge to find a refreshing oasis among the astonishing rock formations. Thankfully, there are many secluded watering holes around the state where you can go to cool off if you know where to look.
Arizona’s greatest lakes are vast and picturesque, perfect for a revitalizing swimming vacation or that weekend fishing trip you keep pushing back. So don’t miss out on an unforgettable campervan lake trip this summer. Read on to discover the best lakes for swimming and fishing in Arizona.
The Best Fishing Lakes In Arizona
Don’t miss out on the best catch of the day!
1. Roosevelt Lake
This expansive reservoir to the east of Phoenix has 128 miles of peaceful shoreline, perfect for an uninterrupted day of fishing. Relax on the water’s edge or jump in a boat to try your luck in the lake’s depths. You can hire a boat or bring your own and use a public boat ramp.
The main species are bass (largemouth, smallmouth, and yellow) and catfish (channel and flathead). You also have a chance of snagging a carp or bigmouth buffalo. Smaller swimmers include tilapia, bluegill, and sunfish. When you’ve finished fishing for the day, head to the rocky shore for a refreshing swim in the cool 70°F water.
Nearby Campground: Sleepy Hollow RV Park, 85553
The rustic Sleepy Hollow RV Park is a 20-minute drive from Roosevelt Lake. Full hook-up pitches cost $40 per night or $125 (plus electricity) for a week.
2. Big Lake
Big Lake is a large reservoir on the very eastern edge of Arizona. A quieter spot than some of the more central lakes, Big Lake displays a breathtaking scene, with pine trees and wildflower meadows bordering the water. The best of the fish can be found in deeper waters, accessible by motorboat or kayak.
Big Lake is primarily a trout lake. You can find rainbow, brown, brook, cutthroat, and tiger trout swimming around the depths. Not a fan of trout? Then you may be lucky enough to snag a flathead catfish, a redear sunfish, or a bluegill.
Nearby Campground: Apache Trout Campground, 85927
As the name suggests, the Apache Trout Campground is a clean and friendly site that caters to the region’s fishing enthusiasts. Full hook-up pitches are available in the summer for $42 per night.
3. Woods Canyon Lake
Woods Canyon Lake is a breathtaking fishing lake tucked away in the Tonto National Forest. Surrounded on all sides by tall pine trees and gentle rocky slopes, the lake is one the best places for a summer fishing getaway, if you want some peace and quiet.
You can find a variety of species lurking in the deceptively deep Woods Canyon Lake. The water is full of largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and common carp. Trout fishers will enjoy reeling in rainbow, brown, and tiger trout. Green and redear sunfish, black crappie, and bluegill can also be tempted to bite your hook.
Nearby Campground: Mogollon Campground, 85541
Nestled among the pines, a 7-minute drive from the lake, Mogollon is the perfect natural campsite. There are no hook-ups available but at $18 per night, it’s a bargain for any passionate fisher.
The Best Swimming Lakes in Arizona
Relax in the gentle waves of these incredible lakes!
1. Lake Powell
Lake Powell is the second largest U.S. reservoir, located primarily in Utah. A sizeable section on the southwestern edge of the lake dips into Arizona, and the locals take advantage of the blue water. Swimming is easy from one of Lake Powell’s beaches, such as the sandy Lone Rock beach. Fishing is also possible, by land or boat, with bass, pike, and more, in the depths.
Watersports get exciting on Lake Powell, with plenty of room for boats, paddle boards, and water skiis. If you’re seeking a pure adrenaline rush, try out the flyboards and water jetpacks that let you soar high above the surface of the lake. You can even rent a seabreacher, which is a submarine-like boat that speeds in and over the water.
Nearby Campground: Wahweap RV & Campground, 86040
Wahweap is a lakeside campsite, perfect for easy access to the best fishing spots. The campground has paid shower and laundry facilities and free WiFi. Full hook-up pitches go for $88 per night.
2. San Carlos Lake
San Carlos Lake is a reservoir and, at its fullest, it is one of Arizona’s biggest lakes. It is a popular spot for swimmers, with refreshing 70°F water. It’s also a beautiful place for gentle pre-swimming hikes in the rocky foothills of the Gil and Mescal mountain ranges.
Splashing around in the shallows is not the only fun to be had here. San Carlos is particularly famous for its jet skiers. If you don’t like the loud revving of a jet ski, then water skiing may be your best bet. You can also take lessons in wakeboarding and wakesurfing. Or simply rent a boat and fish or float on the water.
Nearby Campground: Apache Gold RV Park, 85550
Apache Gold is a paved site in a desert plain, with an accompanying convenience store and gas station. The RV park is a 50-minute drive form the lake, so you’ll want to spend all day at the waterfront. Full hook-up pitches are available for $45 per night.
3. Bull Pen
Although this in not a lake, the Bull Pen is a perfect example of Arizona’s many famous watering holes. These are creeks or ponds, mainly around a waterfall, where locals and visitors can come to splash around and escape the sweltering summer heat.
The Bull Pen can be reached by following a shaded 1-mile trail. The walk is easy and builds up anticipation for the cool flowing water, but this small distance means that the Bull Pen is rarely crowded. Most visitors enjoy their time swimming and sunbathing by this watering hole, but the adventurous few take to the short cliffs to leap into the deepest sections of Bull Pen.
Nearby Campground: Clear Creek Campground, 86322
Clear Creek is a peaceful woodland site based 5 miles from the beginning of the Bull Pen trail. You can also use the campsite as a base to explore Coconino National Forest. None of the pitches have electric hook-ups, but they are a great deal at just $18 per night.
Enjoy Your Lakeside Summer!
Summer is always better on a beach, but who said you had to be by the seaside? Spend an unforgettable summer vacation at one of the incredible Arizona lakes on an amazing campervan adventure!
Don’t own a campervan? Renting an RV is easier than ever through TB Outdoor Rentals. Come back later this week to read the coolest summer vacation packing guide.