Veronica Samuels

Are you looking for lakes in Sedona AZ? Whether you are looking to escape the heat or want to cool off, this post covers the best lakes near Sedona, Arizona.

Known for its magnificent red landscapes and many historical landmarks, Sedona may not look like a city to spend a summer.

But there are plenty of lakes in Sedona AZ where you can enjoy fishing, kayaking, boating, canoeing, paddling and swimming.

These Sedona Lakes are perfect for day trips and weekend getaways with your kids to beat the heat and enjoy watersports.

No matter your reason, I have compiled this list of the best lakes in Sedona AZ to help you have a fantastic trip with your loved ones.


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  • Driving Distance from Sedona – 70 miles(1.5 hours)
  • Activities – Fishing, Canoeing, SUP, Picnics, Kayaking, Hiking, Swimming, Birding, and Boating

One of the closest lakes near Prescott, AZ, for outdoor adventure lovers is Watson Lake, renowned for its magnificent, large rock formations and Granite Dells. 

Plan a trip to Watson Lake, located just 4 miles from Prescott, not only to escape the scorching heat but also to enjoy hiking around the many trails offering spectacular views of the Granite Dells rock formations around the lake via hikes or kayaking.

Watson Lake offers a packed day of activities for families and groups with something for everyone, including fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, camping and day picnicking.

Anglers can fish Carp, catfish, crappie and largemouth bass.

best lakes in Arizona

There are two boat launches at the lake, as well as canoe and kayak rentals available. Note that swimming is prohibited in Watson Lake.

You can access Watson Woods via the lake, apart from the giant boulders of the Granite Dells, the iconic attraction of the Lake.

If you are traveling with kids, I recommend heading to the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve nearby.

It is a beautiful spot for excellent birdwatching as it is home to hundreds of bird species, including eagles and pelicans.

For hikers, there are two popular trails Peavine and Iron King Trails, both easy to moderate hikes taking to stunning vista points and forested mountains around the lake.  

During the summer, campsites are available for visitors, and you can use restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grills, and fish cleaning stations.

The Parking Fee is $3 per vehicle, with Wednesdays being the free parking day.


  • Driving Distance from Sedona – 66 miles(1.5 hours)
  • Activities – Fishing, Canoeing, SUP, Picnics, Kayaking, Hiking, Birding, Paddle boarding, Birding, and Boating

Unlike the other lakes in Sedona AZ, which are massive, Lynx Lake is far smaller, spanning 55 acres. 

Still, it is one of the most crowded Prescott Lakes in the Prescott National Forest, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors for many reasons.

At a 5,500-foot elevation, you can enjoy the cool weather around the lake surrounded by the ponderosa pine forests in Lynx Lake in Bradshaw Mountains high country, a fabulous way to escape the heat.

It is conveniently located within a 20-minute drive Southeast of the city, and there are many activities for everyone. 

Sedona Lakes

Though swimming is prohibited, you can enjoy boating, fishing, camping, hiking, kayaking, sailing, and canoeing.

You can enjoy fishing rainbow trout, largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, crappie and catfish. At the Lynx Lake Marina, you can rent canoes, kayaks or pedal boats.

If you are looking for a hike, check out the Lakeshore Trail. This is a 2-mile-long easy trail around the lake where you will be treated to fantastic views of the shoreline and the forested mountains. 

You will even spot many birds on your trail.

The Lynx Campground has 39 sites, and the Hilltop Campground, south of the lake, has 38 camping sites. 

Each campground has toilets and drinking water but no hookups.

The campgrounds are open from April through October. You can also camp at some places around the shoreline of the lake.

Lakes in Sedona AZ

You can enjoy gold panning at the nearby Salida Gulch Trailhead along Lynx Creek, which is open to the public. You must bring your pan, and all holes must be backfilled.


After leaving the city to head to Prescott Valley. Head east on Walker Road and follow the signs to Lynx Lake.


  • Driving Distance from Sedona – 119 miles(2.5 hours)
  • Activities – Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, SUP, Hiking and Camping

Woods Canyon Lake is one of the most popular recreation areas in Arizona.

One of the best lakes in Sedona, Woods Canyon Lake is one of the Rim Lakes on the Mogollon Rim, easily accessible within an hour from the town.

Woods Canyon Lake is very popular among families visiting in large numbers during summer thanks to the fun activities you can enjoy, from kayaking to boating and everything in between.

Woods Canyon Lake is seasonal and only open to visitors between April and October, with the winter months freezing the waters.

Recommended – 25 Best Things To Do In Payson In Arizona

Lakes in Sedona AZ

There are options for launching ramps, boat rentals, five campgrounds, and plenty of short and long trails near the lake. 

The lake is stocked with rainbow, brown, Skamania, and tiger trout from April through September.

Enjoy boating, rent kayaks, SUP, or canoes, or simply swim in the waters to cool off.

Since it gets very crowded during peak months, it is best to arrive early for better access.


From Payson, head east on SR 260 towards Mogollon Rim. At the top of the Mogollon Rim, turn left on FR 300 and continue for four miles, to take a right to get on FR 105 for a mile to arrive at the lake.


  • Driving Distance from Sedona – 70 miles(1.5 hours)
  • Activities – Fishing, Canoeing, SUP, Picnics, Kayaking, Hiking, Birdwatching, and Boating

Goldwater Lake is a small lake located only 4 miles from the city and one of the most popular lakes near Sedona AZ.

Surrounded by a lush pine forest and close to the city, it is ideal for a picnic with your family or enjoying all the water activities.

Swimming is not permitted. You can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, hiking and boating.

Only boats with electric motors are permitted, along with kayaks and canoes. Kayak and canoe rentals are available.

Lakes in Prescott AZ

The Arizona Game and Fish Department stock the lake with rainbow trout, Largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, bluegill and sunfish.

If you love hiking, take the trail around the lake, an easy trail doable by kids and pets as well as overlooking beautiful views of the lake. 

The trail around the lake also connects with other trails in the Prescott National Forest.

Recommended – 11 Beautiful Lakes In Tucson In Arizona

The lake is for day use only. There is a playground for kids, a sand volleyball court, picnic tables, grills, a volleyball court, horseshoe pits, fishing docks, and restrooms by the lake. There is a $3 parking fee.


If you’re traveling from the downtown area, head east on Gurley Street, south on Mount Vernon Street, and travel approximately four miles to the lake.


  • Driving Distance from Sedona – 55 miles(1 hour)
  • Activities – Swimming, Camping, Hiking, Fishing, Canoeing, Kayaking and Boating

Located in the northern part of Arizona, Mormon Lake is one of the best lakes in Sedona and worth adding to a day trip for a relaxing or water adventures-packed outing with your kids.

Unlike the other Arizona lakes, Mormon Lake is shallow, with its depth reaching only 10 feet or 3 metres, and usually dries almost entirely during the dry season.

lakes in Flagstaff for kayaking

But it is one of the largest lakes in Arizona as the lake gets quickly filled in spring and after rains, attracting hundreds of families wanting to enjoy water activities and beautiful views.

It is one of the famous lakes to see wildlife and birds, especially during spring, against the stunning backdrops of the San Francisco Peaks.

In summer, you can enjoy fishing, boating, windsurfing, hiking, and biking.

You can rent mountain bikes, and during winter, rent snowmobiles and cross-country skis at the resort near the western shore of the lake.

Have lunch or dinner at the famous steak house on the premises of the Mormon Lake Lodge, known for its excellent delicacies apart from the steak.

Although there are no restrictions to the boat length, it is best to bring only small boats as the lake is shallow. 

lakes in Flagstaff

Mormon lake is a better choice for camping, picnics, and enjoying the secluded landscapes rather than water activities, as there is little depth.

Dairy Springs and Double Springs Campground are the two prominent campsites near Mormon Lake, with over 40 single-unit campsites available.

There are tables, fire rings, cooking grills, drinking water and vault toilets at the campgrounds.

I highly recommend checking out the hiking trails near the campsites that lead to stunning overlooks.

Campground Season is between May 1st through the end of September at both campgrounds. It is best to book in advance as the sites quickly get filled up.


Drive south from Flagstaff 25 miles on Forest Highway 3 (Lake Mary Road) to the Forest Road 90 intersection. Turn west on FR 90 and drive about 4 miles to the lake.


  • Driving Distance from Sedona – 102 miles(2 hours)
  • Activities – Fishing, Canoeing, SUP, Picnics, Kayaking, Hiking, Swimming, and Boating

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

Besides being close to the central city, Lake Pleasant is a popular getaway among locals and tourists. 

They frequent it here for picnics and a weekend trip, thanks to loads of fun activities with something in store for everyone.

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.

Lakes in Sedona AZ

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.

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.

✅Join this Beautiful Boat Cruise in Lake Pleasant Arizona, a 2-hour tour highly recommended for exploring the lake in the comfort of a boat with a local expert.😍

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 in Sedona AZ

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

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.


  • Driving Distance from Sedona – 70 miles(1.5 hours)
  • Permit – Yes, $10 per person
  • Parking – Available at the trailhead

Fossil Creek Falls, located near Camp Verde, is one of the most famous waterfall hikes in Arizona, plunging from about 25 feet and also a lot wider than many waterfalls, forming a stunning turquoise pool below, one of the best swimming holes in Arizona.

Located along the northern part of the rugged Mazatzal Mountains, this remote area is one of the largest wilderness areas in the state, and is one of the best lakes in Sedona AZ.

It is an excellent half-day trip that you can easily add when visiting Payson, as it is only 30 minutes away, or Strawberry, only 15 minutes away from the waterfalls.

Fossil Creek Waterfalls is located 2 hours North of Phoenix, or 1.5 hours South of Sedona. 

It is suitable for all levels, so if you are traveling with kids, this is one of the recommended swimming holes in Arizona worth adding to your itinerary. Bring snacks and water, and look out for rattlesnakes on your hike.

To get to the trailhead, drive for about 21 miles down Fossil Creek Road, and most of the route is unpaved.

You must pay a $10 fee to enter Fossil Creek, allowing parking space at the trailhead. 

If you love adventure, you will love your visit to Fossil Creek falls, as you can enjoy diving from the edge of the cliff 25 feet high to the pool below. 

But check the water levels before plunging as sometimes the currents can be strong and deeper in some places.

The journey to the waterfall is a beautiful one-mile-long hike amidst the stunning Fossil Creek in the Fossil Creek Wilderness area, which boasts abundant lush forests, and rich wildlife, especially many birds.

There are several swimming spots and campsites on the way to the waterfalls. Stop by and swim in the pools or picnic on your hike. 

After reaching the falls, you can swim at the beautiful pool, admire the beautiful landscapes and relax.

You can also walk, sit behind the waterfall, and even snorkel to see the fish in the water. You can enjoy floating, and kayaking.


You can also access the waterfall following the path along the creek, which is more adventurous if you want to explore more, head to Fossil Springs, the source of Fossil Creek waterfalls. 

Lakes in Sedona, Arizona

The hike to Fossil Creek springs is a moderate trek with an elevation gain of about 4 miles one-way, and a permit is required.


Take the I-17 north out of Phoenix to the 260 East. After 10 miles, you’ll see forest road 708 leading to the trailhead.


Fossil Creek Falls is worth visiting throughout the year. Spring and summer are the popular months, so if you plan to go during these seasons, it is best to secure your permits in advance.


Fossil Creek Waterfall and the surrounding area are open to the public from April to October and are available solely for day use with a reserved permit.

The permits sell out very early, especially on the weekends, so be sure to get your permit soon.

You can get your permits online here, issued one month before the arrival date. 

The permit is for day use only, and no camping is allowed. No fees or permits are required if you are visiting during Fall and Winter, from October 2 to March 31.


The Dead Horse Ranch State Park, about ten miles from Jerome is a unique historic site continuously occupied since 8,000 BC. 

It is one of the attractions near Jerome Az for outdoor lovers and families and among the best lakes in Sedona AZ.

Dead Horse State Park is only a short drive from Sedona so you can easily spend a weekend here enjoying the park.

day trip to jerome

It may not appear so, but it is one of the best spots for kayaking in Sedona, thanks to its two lagoons, filled with water even during the hottest days.

Besides kayaking, Kids can enjoy horseback riding, and wildlife watching, while you can enjoy fishing, biking, camping, and hiking around the Verde River lagoons.

Spot grey fox, coyote, javelina and many beautiful birds.

You can also stay overnight in one of the riverside log cabins in Dead Horse Ranch.


Verde is among the best lakes near Sedona known for being home to magnificent wildlife, fishing, birdwatching, railway lines, and historical Arizona monuments. 

As the name indicates, if you want a flatwater kayaking experience head to the flatwater section.

Just a short but stunning 30-minute drive from downtown Sedona, the Verde Calm Flat Section is 23 miles of tranquil, flat Class I water- perfect for Verde River kayaking.

The calm section begins at the Bridgeport River Access in Cottonwood to the Black Canyon River Access Point in the Prescott National Forest.

This is the place for beginner paddlers that can try dope paddling, surrounded by gorgeous limestone hills, prehistoric caves and the beautiful Prescott National Forest.

The Whitewater Section is another destination in Verde and is the best spot if you want an adventurous journey on the river.

As you encounter rapids including turns, dips, and thrilling surges, you will also be treated to stunning views of the wilderness on your ride.


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