If you are looking for some lakes near Phoenix, sceptically like a city nicknamed the Valley of the Sun and located in the middle of a desert, it is possible, but you will be surprised. Because despite its Desert Metropolis status, there’s actually a ton of water around — if you know where to look.

There are many fantastic lakes near Phoenix perfect for spending your day with your kids cooling off in the waters, fishing, boating, or tubing nearby and still making it back in time for dinner. 

Since summers can get very hot, with many days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the Arizona capital, a day on one of the lakes in Phoenix is the perfect way to escape from the valley heat and cool off. 

Lakes near Phoenix also have many outdoor activities if water sports are not your thing, including hiking, picnicking, mountain biking, and camping. 

I was sceptical about waterbodies in the capital city, leave alone imagining lakes near Phoenix when 

I first came here a few years ago, but since I have discovered these beautiful Phoenix Lakes, these are my favourite places for relaxing and escaping the sun that can get too hot.

In this post, I share all about the beautiful lakes near Phoenix for you to plan a fabulous trip.

For knowing all about the beautiful lakes in the Grand Canyon State, check this guide to 35 Prettiest Arizona Lakes For Swimming, Boating, Fishing and Picnics.


Unlike many lakes near Flagstaff AZ and the best William AZ lakes rely heavily on rains and melting snow in the higher elevations, and are ideal for visiting almost throughout the year, the lakes near Phoenix are a different story.

Summer is the most popular month for visiting lakes as temperatures in Phoenix become unbearable, but note that some of these lakes may dry up, so check before you go.

Spring is the second most popular month if you want to enjoy all water activities.

The landscapes around the lakes near Phoenix also transform into a magical paradise thanks to the sudden blooms of Arizona wildflowers, making this season ideal for hiking and camping.

Fall is my favourite month, though, as the burst of golden, orange, and yellow and colder temperatures before the snow are incredibly beautiful. 

Plus, you can avoid crowds to a great extent and also secure good deals on hotels and tours.

Winter is also a great time for snow recreation, family tubing, and snow-skiing, although not all are open to visitors. 

Check before you plan a trip to any of these lakes near Phoenix no matter the time of the year for permitted activities, camping availabilities, weather, and road closures.

Recommended – 15 Beautiful Places To Watch Stunning Sunset in Phoenix



  • Distance from Phoenix – 44 miles
  • Driving Duration – 50 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Canoeing, SUP, Picnics, Kayaking, Hiking, Swimming, and Boating
  • Fees – a $7 entrance fee per vehicle

Among the most popular lakes near Phoenix is Lake Pleasant, located in the northwest, and it is no surprise.

Apart from being close to the central city, Lake Pleasant is a popular getaway among locals and tourists as they frequent it here for picnics and a weekend trip, thanks to loads of fun activities with something in store for everyone.

Lakes near Phoenix AZ

You can enjoy water skiing, boating, jet skiing, scuba diving, camping, fishing, shoreline hiking and more across its massive 116 miles of shoreline and 10,5000 acres area, with a depth of 70 feet and the deepest point going to over 170 feet.

Although it is an artificial reservoir, Lake Pleasant Regional Park is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lakes in Arizona on a mountain, surrounded by stunning views of desert canyons all around.

This lake, open 365 days a year, has two marinas – Pleasant Harbor Marina on the southeast side and Scorpion Bay Marina on the west side, and two separate boat launching ramps, Scorpion Bay and Pleasant Harbour.

You can enjoy fishing channel catfish, bluegill, white crappie, and striped bass. The lake is also home to bobcats, herons, and bald eagles.

Lake Pleasant also has some pretty hiking trails with the popular one being the 3-mile out-and-back Yavupai Point Trail, rewarding you with incredible views of Lake Pleasant. 

Lakes near Phoenix AZ

Especially if you are here in the spring, try adding this hike for splendid views of colourful wildflowers and beautiful views of the lake.

You can rent boats, paddle boards and kayaks at the marinas, but I highly recommend you reserve them online as the lake is pretty crowded during holidays and the weekends.


  • Distance from Phoenix – 58 miles
  • Driving Duration – 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Paddle boarding, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water skiing, Swimming, Sailing, Tubing, and Boating

Bartlett Lake is a Verde River Reservoir Lake in the heart of the Tonto National Forest, and one of the most popular lakes near Phoenix known for the spectacular views of the rocky desert mountains and the Sonoran arid vegetation.

Running for 12 miles with a surface area of 2,815 acres, the average depth of Bartlett Lake is 100 feet, while the maximum depth is 174 feet. 

Due to its excellent location, people from Scottsdale, Glendale, and Mesa flock to the lake as well. You have 33 miles of shore for swimming and fishing in shallow water. 

Bartlett Lake attracts thousands of outdoor and water adventure lovers for fishing, camping, and hiking, the top attractions near the lake.

It gets very crowded during spring, summer, weekends and holidays and you can see large groups and families launching boats, kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, SUP, and even sailing.

The lake is categorized into different sections for each of these activities, so check at the entrance to follow the signs. Small and medium-sized motorboats are allowed.

Jojoba and the Marina are the top spots for boating and fishing, while the SB cove area is the best for camping, swimming, kayaking, and canoeing.

Lakes near Phoenix

Enjoy fishing Large and Smallmouth Bass; Crappie; Sunfish; Channel and Flathead Catfish, Carp, Bluegill, and Green Sunfish regularly stocked between spring and fall.

There are plenty of places for picnics apart from the large campground itself.

Bartlett Lake Marina is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily. You can rent water sports equipment, including kayaks, wakeboards, jet skis and boats at the marina

Reservations are recommended as these get rented quickly every day.

You will need to display the Discovery Pass and America the Beautiful Passes are only accepted at the Picnicking Sites.

The campground fees at various sites around Bartlett Reservoir are in addition to these passes, and I recommend checking for availability and reserving your spot online if you wish to camp overnight.


  • Distance from Phoenix – 43 miles
  • Driving Duration – 50 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Paddle boarding, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water skiing, Swimming, Sailing, and Boating

Another in the group of Salt River Lakes formed by the damming of the river, Saguaro Lake, is one of the most popular fishing lakes near Phoenix.

Located within an hour of Phoenix, you can easily plan a day trip to this beautiful turquoise-clear lake created in 1930 by the Stewart Mountain Dam. 

The surface area of 1,264 acres makes it smaller than Lake Pleasant or Bartlett Lake. Still, thanks to being a complete recreational area without prohibitions, you can have a fantastic time with your family.

This deep canyon lake nestles in the beautiful Tonto National Forest. It is surrounded by rows and rows of tall Saguaro Cacti along the shores and towering canyon walls and Four Peaks in the distance.

Saguaro Del Norte Recreation Area is the most popular area, and I recommend heading here first as you can rent a pontoon, fishing boats, and fishing equipment in the marina located in this area.

If you are with young children, I highly recommend the educative cruise that begins here, Desert Belle, a 90-minute narrated boat tour, to learn about the history, wildlife, and geography of the region taking in the blissful views of the post-card perfect lake.

Regularly stocked with Walleye, Largemouth and Yellow Bass, Rainbow and Brown Trout, Catfish, Tilapia and Crappie, it attracts anglers in large groups looking to picnic. You can enjoy fishing for hours in this beautiful lake.

Wakeboarding, sailing, and water skiing are other fun activities if you are looking for adventure.

Butcher Jones Recreational Area home to Butcher Jones Beach, is another popular spot for kayaking and picnics. From here, many trails around the lake lead to stunning landmarks and views.

One of the top hikes is the Butcher Jones Trail, a 5-mile out-and-back moderate trail with only slight elevation gain along the lake offering incredible views the entire way.

For camping, the nearest is Bagley Flat Campground, home to only 10 sites, which can only be accessed via a boat and offers splendid views from the canyon. It is a great spot for kayakers and paddlers for a quick stop.

Tonto Discovery Passes, annual passes to Tonto National Forest, are accepted. 

America the Beautiful annual passes are only accepted at the picnic sites. 

You can purchase a Tonto Daily Pass for $12 at a kiosk in the parking lot of the recreation area.


  • Distance from Williams – 0.5 miles
  • Driving Duration – 2 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Paddle boarding, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water skiing, Swimming, Sailing, and Boating

Canyon Lake is one of the four artificial lakes on the Salt River and the smallest among the Salt River reservoir lakes. But I feel Canyon Lake is the most gorgeous of all and hence, one of my favourite lakes near Phoenix.

Located in the Superstition Wilderness of Tonto National Forest, Canyon Lake offers beautiful views of mountainous landscapes, especially its gorgeous deep blue waters, reflecting the surrounding red rock mountains, and desert cliffs, forming spectacular panoramas.

The windy drive to Canyon Lake through the hills in Tonto National Forest is one of the most beautiful journeys, another reason why Canyon Lake remains my favourite. You can pull over to capture magnificent views at several points.

The 950-acre lake is open year-round and one of the best spots for picnics, fishing and boating, three top activities loved by families and youngsters and the young-at-heart.

This lake is also perfect for cruising, water skiing, kayaking the canyon coves, paddleboarding, wakeboarding, and sailing.

There are three recreation sites at the lake, Acacia Picnic Site, the Palo Verde Recreation Site and the Boulder Creek Recreation Site, all are open year-round and free to enter.

You can rent boats, fishing and all water-sports equipment in these areas, which also house many large grass areas with shady ramadas and picnic tables overlooking the beautiful lake views.

Walleye, largemouth bass, yellow bass, rainbow trout, bluegill, channel catfish and crappie are the catch for those wanting to fish.

If you want to enjoy sightseeing or dinner, cruise around the lake with your family, and get on the Dolly Steamboat, a popular cruise.

The east end of the lake offers beautiful views and is usually quiet since water activities are not permitted in that area through desert canyons.

You may spot big horned sheep, raccoons, deer, bald eagles, and many desert animals.

Among the popular hiking trails near Canyon Lake is beautiful Boulder Canyon Trail, an 8.5-mile out-and-back trail that starts across from the Canyon Lake Marina and offers incredible views of the lake, Superstition Mountains and a view of Weavers Needle.

You need a Tonto National Forest Pass for all parking lots at Canyon Lake, except for the Canyon Lake Marina. America the Beautiful annual passes are only accepted at picnicking sites as in other Phoenix Lakes.

It is one of the busiest lakes, and rentals get booked quickly during summer and weekends. It is best to arrive early and make reservations wherever possible.


  • Distance from Phoenix – 68 miles
  • Driving Duration – 2 hours
  • Activities – Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Paddle boarding, Camping, Water skiing, Swimming, Sailing, and Boating

If you are looking for a quick day trip from the capital city, head to Apache Lake, about 2 hours away east.

One of the famous lakes near Phoenix, Apache Lake, is created by the Horse Mesa dam.

Apache Lake is one among the series of lakes located in the Tonto National Forest and is known for its stunning landscapes including the canyon walls at an elevation of 1,900 feet, spanning 2,568 acres and 40 feet deep. 

It is one of the largest lakes in the Salt River, providing a vast expanse for visitors for boating, canoeing, paddling, kayaking, SUP, and hiking trails leading to gorgeous overlooks.

You can also enjoy swimming, bass fishing, and water skiing. Unlike the other lakes near Phoenix, getting to Apache Lake is a challenging drive best tackled with a high-clearance vehicle as most of the stretch is unpaved, making it a longer journey than it is supposed to be.

If you start early from Phoenix, it will be undoubtedly worth the drive as you will enjoy a day packed with lots of water sports and beautiful views.


  • Distance from Phoenix – 14 miles
  • Driving Duration – 20 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking and Boating

One of the most crowded lakes near Phoenix is Tempe Town Lake, one of the largest urban lakes spanning 224 acres. Tempe Town Lake is a popular local spot for walking, jogging, and biking.

Tempe Town Lake has more than a 2-mile-long lake where you can enjoy boating(including electric motors)

Although you cannot swim, jet ski or waterski, fishing and kayaking are popular in Tempe Town Lake. 

Head to the northern end of the lake, which has boat ramps and spaces for fishing, playing, and sunbathing.

There is a marina with boat rentals, picnic ramadas, multi-use trails, a playground and splash pads.

You can fish Walleye, largemouth bass, yellow bass, rainbow trout, bluegill, channel catfish and crappie regularly stocked. 


  • Distance from Phoenix – 59 miles
  • Driving Duration – 1.5 hours
  • Activities – SwimmingFishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking and Boating

Located north of the city, Horseshoe Reservoir, spanning 2800 acres, is one of the most remote lakes near Phoenix, known for its fantastic landscapes and almost no people.

Getting there is a hassle as it is a long drive on unpaved roads best handled with only a high-clearance vehicle. 

If you are up for the driving adventure, you will be treated to stunning landscapes and plenty of fishing opportunities, as it is one of the best fish nurseries in Arizona, with the refilling of the reservoir.

Like other lakes in Phoenix, the water levels in the Horseshoe Reservoir depends on the rainfall and seasons, so it is best to check the water levels online before planning this trip.

You can enjoy swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding apart from fishing. There is a primitive campground with basic amenities. 

Also, since it is a secluded location, it is best to carry sufficient water and food.



  • Distance from Phoenix – 14 miles
  • Driving Duration – 20 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing and Boating

One of the urban lakes near Phoenix is Chaparral Lake, the top attraction of Chaparral Lake in Scottsdale.

Although you cannot expect the massive sizes or views in the rugged Saltwater River Lakes, you can expect plenty of excellent amenities and many fun activities, making it a great spot for a relaxing afternoon. 

Lakes in Phoenix

Small boats with electric motors are allowed between sunrise and sunset. Swimming is prohibited, but you can kayak and canoe. You can fish channel catfish, bluegill, white crappie, and striped bass.

The park has plenty of space for the kids to play, picnic tables and designated trails.


  • Distance from Phoenix – 9 miles
  • Driving Duration – 20 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking and Boating

Alvord Lake is an urban fishing lake and one of the famous fishing lakes near Phoenix. If you want a short drive to enjoy fishing, this 25-acre lake, which is a part of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Community Fishing Program.

Lakes near Phoenix AZ

Small boats without motors are allowed from sunrise to sunset. Swimming and wading are prohibited, but you can bring small boats(non-motor), kayaks, canoes, and rowboats. 

There is a playground for kids, shaded areas, and picnic tables to relax.


  • Distance from Phoenix – 14 miles
  • Driving Duration – 40 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, SplashPad, Picnics, Playground

One of the smaller urban lakes near Phoenix is Pioneer Lake, a 5-acre urban lake located in the 83-acre Pioneer Community Park in Peoria.

It is an ideal place for picnics and fishing. There are picnic ramadas, barbecue grills and a shaded playground for kids. There is a park for dogs as well.

Since the lake is a part of the community fishing program, it is regularly stocked with channel fish, trout, largemouth bass, carp and bluegill.


  • Distance from Phoenix – 14 miles
  • Driving Duration – 20 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking and Boating

Kiwanis Lake is located in Kiwanis Community Park in central Tempe, a short drive from Phoenix. The 13-acre lake is one of the famous fishing lakes near Phoenix. You can fish Rainbow trout, Largemouth bass, Yellow bass, Sunfish, Catfish, Tilapia and Carp.

You can enjoy boating on small boats between sunrise and sunset and paddleboarding. Swimming and wading are prohibited.

Other amenities include picnic areas, ramadas, sports fields, and a recreation centre with a wave pool.


  • Distance from Phoenix – 18 miles
  • Driving Duration – 25 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Picnics

This 4-acre lake is one of the small urban lakes near Phoenix, which is a part of the Community Fishing Program.

The lake is stocked with varieties of trout, carp, large bass mouth, and catfish and is an excellent spot for quick fishing or a picnic with your kids.

There are splash pads, sports courts and trails, a miniature railroad, and a playground.


  • Distance from Phoenix – 2.5 miles
  • Driving Duration – 10 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Picnics, Paddle boats

One of the famous parks in the city, Encanto Park boasts 222 acres of a lush oasis and is a top venue for gathering as it is home to a historic clubhouse and boathouse.

The park also houses a fishing lagoon, a famous Community fishing hole where you can enjoy fishing. Although you cannot swim in that lake, you can use paddle boats. 

There is a swimming pool on the premises to cool off and two golf courses. 


  • Distance from Phoenix – 24 miles
  • Driving Duration – 45 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Hiking and Camping

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is one of the famous lakes near Phoenix, located in neighbouring Gilbert.

It is a fantastic wildlife preserve spanning 110 acres.

Riparian Preserve is home to over 300 species of birds, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, so it is one of the best places in Arizona for spotting wildlife, especially birdwatching.

Fishing is allowed at the 5-acre lake, part of the Community Fishing Program, and you can fish Rainbow Trout, Largemouth Bass and Sunfish. No Boats are not allowed.

The park also has campsites, a play area and a simulated fossil dig.


  • Distance from Phoenix – 33 miles
  • Driving Duration – 42 minutes
  • Activities – Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking and Boating

Located in Chandler, one of the local hotspots is Veterans Oasis Park, a beautiful park spanning 113 acres and is home to a 5-acre beautiful community fishing lake, many pretty hiking and horseback riding trails, pavilions, and an outdoor amphitheatre.

Since it is home to wetlands as well, there is plenty of Sonoran Desert flora and wildlife for visitors, especially birdwatching.


Veronica Samuels

Similar Posts