Arizona’s terrain may be dominated by saguaro cacti, rough mountains, and vast expanses, but the state also boasts stunning lakes, including many within 60 minutes of Phoenix. These best lakes give outdoor enthusiasts chances to boat through red rock canyons, scuba dive to depths, fish for tournament-sized bass, etc.
1. Lake Powell
Lake Powell, which was formed by damming Glen Canyon, is one of the best lakes in the United States for house boating. Still, you don’t need a houseboat to explore its approximately 2,000 miles of shoreline and 96 significant canyons. The waters flanking the Arizona-Utah border are ideal for boating, kayaking, jet-skiing, sailing, and waterskiing.
Hiking, fishing, and camping are all popular activities at Lake Powell, part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. You may explore Glen Canyon Dam, visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument, and marvel at Antelope Canyon from the Arizona city of Page.
2. Lake Mead
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the country’s first and largest national recreation area, with two magnificent lakes: Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. Both were created by damming the Colorado River, but Lake Mead, with its 1.5 million acres and 225 square miles of surface area, is significantly more remarkable. Boating and watersports, such as waterskiing and kayaking, are popular here, but people also swim, scuba dive, fish, and camp.
Lake Mead can get busy due to its proximity to Las Vegas. You can start from the Hoover Dam and explore the hot springs with a permit. Lake Mohave is accessible on the Arizona side of the Arizona-California border at Katherine Landing.
3. Lake Havasu
Lake Havasu is one of Arizona’s best boating lakes, with 60 miles of accessible waterways along the state’s northwest border with California. It’s popular with spring breakers who come to the party on the water, go camping, and relax on the sandy beaches of Lake Havasu State Park. Anglers come here hoping to catch world-record-breaking largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass.
The London Bridge was transferred brick by brick from the United Kingdom to Lake Havasu City in 1971. The lake’s coast has scaled-down replicas of historic American lighthouses that serve as navigational aids.
4. Theodore Roosevelt Lake
When the Theodore Roosevelt Dam was built in 1911, Theodore Roosevelt Lake was the world’s largest man-made lake, covering over 21,500 acres. It’s still Central Arizona’s largest lake, attracting boaters, watersports enthusiasts, and anglers looking for crappie, catfish, smallmouth, and largemouth bass. Tonto National Monument’s main walk leads to a 20-room cliff residence with spectacular lake views, only 5 minutes from the marina.
5. Lake Pleasant
Lake Pleasant is one of the nearest lakes to Phoenix, formed by the Waddell Dam on the Agua Fria River northwest of the city. On weekends, outdoor enthusiasts travel to the lake to boat, kayak, sail, paddleboard, and waterski. You can even scuba dive at the lake, which is regarded as one of the best inland diving spots in the West.
Are you looking for something unique? A wildlife center, dinner cruises, and moonlit scorpion hunts are all available at Lake Pleasant Regional Park. You can also catch largemouth, white, and striped bass at night.
6. Watson Lake
Are you looking for something to do on land? Watson Lake contains hiking and mountain biking routes, an 18-hole disc golf course, and access to Granite Dells’ rock climbing boulders. This lake, just 4 miles from downtown Prescott, is surrounded by unearthly granite rocks, making it one of the most attractive in the state. Kayakers, canoers, and standup paddleboarders flock here, but boating and fishing are also available.
Goldwater Lake, a lesser-known lake nearby, has similar terrain and recreational activities, including excellent kayaking and canoeing.
7. Willow Springs Lake
Willow Springs Lake, which was created by the Arizona Game and Fish Department in 1967 and is annually stocked with rainbow trout from May through September, is one of the state’s great trout lakes. It’s also one of the most private. Boats are restricted to electric or gas motors with a maximum of 10 horsepower. Therefore families casting from the shore are more common than watercraft on the lake.
Willow Springs Lake usually shuts after the first winter snowstorm, although intrepid anglers cast a line and ice fish here when it doesn’t.
8. Lynx Lake
The cooler summer days and lush foliage of this pine tree-lined lake in the Bradshaw Mountains, 15 minutes from Prescott and less than two hours from Phoenix, entice Phoenicians. Most visitors either fish for rainbow trout, largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish from the shore or trek the 2-mile Lakeshore Trail. However, some people go out on the water in tiny motorboats, kayaks, and canoes.
However, Lynx Lake Recreational Area has a lot more to offer. Visitors may pan for gold just north of the lake along Lynx Creek.
9. Canyon Lake
Canyon Lake, at 950 acres, is the smallest of the Salt River dam-created lakes. Yet, it’s busy with boaters and watersports enthusiasts who travel 45 miles from Phoenix for the festive atmosphere and magnificent scenery. Tourists who stop here while driving the Apache Trail or booking a narrated tour on the Dolly Steamboat are also frequent visitors. You may also go scuba diving, fishing for several sorts of bass, and hiking in the area.
Other adjacent Salt River lakes worth visiting are Theodore Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake, and Saguaro Lake.
10. Patagonia Lake
Patagonia Lake State Park, about 15 miles north of the Arizona-Mexico border, is a favorite among Arizona campers. The lake has 105 lakefront RV and tent campsites, but it also has 12 boat-in campsites and seven cabins for rent. Visitors come to see Inca doves, hummingbirds, canyon towhees, and other species and boats and fish. Visit Sonoita’s wineries, only a half-hour away, for a respite from watersports and animal views.