Megan Bryant is a passionate writer and traveler who has combined her two loves to help others fulfill their traveling dreams. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually curled up with her 3 Dachshunds and a good book or planning her next adventure—wherever that may be.
Phoenix, Arizona, is renowned for its stunning desert landscapes, vibrant cultural scene, and scorching summer temperatures. However, hidden amidst the cacti, you’ll find a collection of remarkable lakes that offer refreshing respite and tons of outdoor adventures. From expansive reservoirs nestled within the Tonto National Forest to serene urban lakes in the heart of the metropolis, the lakes of Phoenix offer a diverse range of experiences for residents and visitors alike.
So, whether you’re a water enthusiast seeking adventure or a nature lover in search of serenity, you won’t want to miss these 10 incredible lakes in Phoenix.
In the bustling heart of Phoenix is Alvord Lake, which offers an urban oasis within the peaceful Encanto Park. This charming lake is a popular spot for picnicking and fishing; however, many people simply pop down to the water to enjoy the park’s amenities. Whether you cast a line in the lake, make use of the shade from the park’s towering trees, or enjoy the water from a row boat, Alvord Lake offers a level of relaxation for everyone who visits.
Located northeast of Phoenix is the desert oasis of Bartlett Lake. Bartlett Lake and its Sonoran Desert backdrop beckons water enthusiasts who are in search of boating and fishing opportunities; however, the water also makes the perfect playground for kayakers, paddle boardings, and those in need of a refreshing dip.
With its clear waters and scenic shoreline, Bartlett Lake is a great place to cool off on a hot Arizona day. Boaters can explore the lake’s numerous coves and find secluded spots for swimming and picnicking. Anglers can cast their lines in hopes of catching largemouth bass and crappie. For those seeking a more laid-back experience, Bartlett Lake’s sandy beaches offer a perfect place to soak up the sun and enjoy a leisurely day by the water.
A short drive from Phoenix is Canyon Lake—a beautiful waterway nestled within the Tonto National Forest. This picturesque reservoir is characterized by its steep cliffs and pristine waters. With boating being one of the lake’s most popular pastimes, kayakers, paddleboards, and those with pontoon boats can enjoy the water and its surrounding tranquility.
Fishing at Canyon Lake is also excellent, with anglers often reeling in a variety of fish species, including rainbow trout, bass, and catfish. And hikers can even enjoy a day by Canyon Lake as the Apache Trail, a scenic byway that winds along the lake’s shoreline, is a must-visit for its breathtaking vistas and the opportunity to spot bighorn sheep and other wildlife.
Chaparral Lake in the city of Scottsdale stands as a tranquil oasis for fishing and picnicking, with plenty of local park amenities for the public to enjoy. Anglers can try their luck catching catfish, trout, and sunfish, while families can make use of the playground and sports courts before getting involved with the lake’s recreational activities.
Hidden deep within the remote reaches of the Tonto National Forest northeast of Phoenix is Horseshoe Reservoir—a hidden gem that provides a peaceful escape for boating and fishing enthusiasts. Surrounded by pristine desert landscapes, Horseshoe Reservoir allows its visitors to reconnect with nature and discover the tranquility of the desert’s heart.
Boating on the reservoir is a peaceful experience, and with the absence of motorized boats, you can truly relax and enjoy the sounds of nature. There are even plenty of campgrounds to make use of, so you can camp out under the desert’s starry skies before spending another day down by the water.
Nestled within the confines of Kiwanis Park in Tempe is Kiwanis Lake—a popular waterway for fishing and picnicking, with its tranquil waters and scenic surroundings providing a serene backdrop for relaxation. The lake is stocked with catfish and rainbow trout, making it a favorite destination for amateur anglers. But as the Kiwanis Park itself offers a wide range of recreational activities, including a playground, volleyball courts, and hiking trails, the water has also become a popular spot for families.
Lake Pleasant, located just northwest of Phoenix, is a true desert gem. Formed by the Waddell Dam on the Agua Fria River, this expansive reservoir is a recreational paradise. Its clear blue waters span 10,000 acres, providing ample space for a variety of water activities, including boating, fishing, and camping.
Boating enthusiasts can navigate the lake’s numerous coves and inlets, while anglers can try their luck catching a variety of fish species, including bass and catfish. Plus, as Lake Pleasant is a hub for migratory bird species, the waters even appeal to bird watchers and wildlife lovers who want to reconnect with nature.
Tucked away deep in the heart of the Tonto National Forest is one of Arizona’s largest lakes, Roosevelt Lake. Known for its vast expanse of water and rugged wilderness surroundings, Roosevelt Lake offers some of the state’s most exceptional boating and fishing experiences.
Boaters can explore the lake’s numerous bays and coves, and anglers can cast their lines in search of crappie, walleye, and carp. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot bald eagles, mule deer, and other native creatures, while those who wish to extend their stay can pitch a tent in one of the lake’s scenic campgrounds.
Saguaro Lake, nestled in the Tonto National Forest northeast of Phoenix, is surrounded by towering cliffs, rugged canyons, and the iconic saguaro cacti. The picturesque reservoir offers one of the most serene escapes near Phoenix and has plenty of outdoor activities for its visitors to enjoy.
Boating on Saguaro Lake is one of the most popular activities, as boat ramps and rentals are available at the marina. However, fishing enthusiasts also love the waters, with Saguaro Lake being stocked with bass, catfish, and sunfish. Even beyond Saguaro Lake’s shores, there are plenty of things to do as hikers can explore the Butcher Jones Trail, which offers stunning views of the lake and the surrounding desert landscape, and photographers can capture the lake’s dramatic scenery.
Tempe Town Lake
In the heart of the bustling city of Tempe, Tempe Town Lake, which sits along the Salt River, offers a unique recreational experience right in the center of town. Kayaking, paddleboarding, and jogging along the lakeside paths are popular activities here, with the lake’s iconic pedestrian bridges providing stunning views and a perfect backdrop for photos.
Tempe Town Lake is more than just a recreational spot, however, as it’s become a vibrant hub for community events and gatherings. Throughout the year, the lake hosts concerts, festivals, and athletic competitions, creating a lively atmosphere that adds to the city’s appeal.
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