Outdoor and Active

Arizona’s most iconic lakes are right in Tempe’s backyard!

When thinking about Arizona the words dry, desert, and hot are probably top of mind. What if we told you that Arizona is made up of diverse landscapes, one of which includes water? That’s right, Arizona has a total of 128 lakes (please don’t laugh Minnesotans) and some are even located in Tempe’s backyard! I must say, you have not seen a true Arizona sunset until you have seen one reflecting off the water. Check out these lakes that are in close proximity to Tempe.

Fun fact: Out of the 128 lakes in the state of Arizona, only two of them are natural; Mormon Lake in Flagstaff and Stoneman Lake near Sedona.

Let’s start with the two lakes that call Tempe home: Tempe Town Lake and Kiwanis Lake. Both are fairly small in size, but make a huge impact on the Tempe community. 

Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake, located adjacent to Downtown Tempe, provides a recreational haven for kayaking, sailing, rowing, and fishing. Tempe Beach Park, the park surrounding Tempe Town Lake, is also known for hosting events such as 5K community walks, large-scale triathlons, concerts, and festivals. Tempe Town Lake and Tempe Beach Park is a hub for activities all year-long. Check out our blog for more fun things to do at Tempe Town Lake.

Attractions and Activities

  • Go for a run or walk – Grab your sneakers and go for a jog or walk along the 5-mile path around Tempe Town Lake. 
  • Rent a boat or use a personal watercraft – All personal watercraft requires a permit to be used on Tempe Town Lake. Most watercraft devices are permitted to use on Tempe Town Lake except for boats that are equipped with motors and electric boats with the capability of exceeding a wakeless speed (about 5mph). For more information on permits and what types of boats are allowed on Tempe Town Lake, visit the City of Tempe’s website. If you do not have a personal watercraft, visit Boat Rentals of America – Tempe Town Lake! You can rent pedal boats, stand-up paddleboards, electric pontoons, or their new donut boat!
Kiwanis Park
Kiwanis Lake

Kiwanis Lake

Kiwanis Lake is a 12-acre lake nestled in the middle of Kiwanis Park on Mill Avenue just south of Baseline Road. This is the perfect lake to rent a pedal boat, go fishing or even feed the resident ducks. While you’re there, take advantage of all the nearby park activities that Kiwanis has to offer. For more things to do at Kiwanis Park, visit our website.

Attractions and Activities:

  • Boat Rentals of America has a location at Kiwanis Lake too! You can rent single or double kayaks, pedal boats, or bikes at the north end of the lake on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
  • If you would rather stay dry on land, Kiwanis Park has a ton of fun activities. Park-goers can enjoy batting cages, an indoor recreation center, sports fields, an indoor wave pool, a splash palyground and a new state-of-the-art tennis center.

Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake sits at the heart of the Tonto National Forest, roughly 45 minutes from Tempe, making it the closest lake outside of the Tempe area. As you may guess from the name, Saguaro Lake is surrounded by canyon walls that are studded with saguaro cacti. While visiting Saguaro Lake, make sure to also keep your eyes peeled for wild horses and bighorn sheep as they tend to roam around at this location!

Attractions and Activities:

  • Saguaro Lake encourages patrons to take part in the Sonoran Desert through their various touring expeditions like Desert Belle Cruises, which offers 90-minute cruises year-round. This narrated cruise is entertaining and educational and even has a snack bar on board with beer, wine, water, and soft drinks! For tickets, visit the Desert Belle website.
  • Boating – All powerboats are welcome on this lake. There are two launch ramps at the Saguaro Lake Marina. During warmer months, Saguaro Lake becomes quite popular. It is best to arrive early as parking is not always guaranteed. Please note, you must have the Tonto National Forest daily pass and watercraft sticker for parking and boating. Once on the lake, enjoy 22 miles of shoreline. All watersports like skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding are welcome on this lake! The maximum depth of this lake is 116 feet. 
  • Grab lunch or dinner at ShipRock Restaurant and enjoy views of the Goldfield Mountains. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. 
  • Camping at Bagley Flat – There are 10 designated campsites. For more information, visit their website.

Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt Lakes

Experience three of Arizona’s notorious lakes all in one outing by driving the Apache Trail. Stretching 40 miles along Route 88, the Apache Trail connects Canyon, Apache, and Roosevelt Lakes. Along the Trail, there are multiple points of interest such as Goldfield Ghost Town, Lost Dutchman State Park, and Tortilla Flat. Check out one of our recent day trip videos featuring the Apache Trail here. All three lakes require the Tonto National Forest daily pass and watercraft sticker.

Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake is the first stop of the Apache Trail and measures 950 acres. Explore more than 28 miles of shoreline, rock formations, and private beach coves. Although it is the smallest of the four lakes dammed by the Salt River, Canyon Lake has an abundance of picture-ready scenery. It is most notably known for its shoreline along red rock cliffs and the canyon walls at the east end of the lake.

Attractions and Activities:

  • Canyon Lake is also home to the Dolly Steamboat tour where they offer several excursions.
  • Boating – As mentioned above, Saguaro and Canyon are the most popular and fill up quickly. As a result, this lake is also limited to the number of boats permitted per day. Canyon Lake is equipped with two boat launches: Laguna and Palo Verde. All water sports are welcome on this lake.
  • Fishing – Canyon Lake is home to Walleye, Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Carp, Yellow Bass, Bluegill, Green Sunfish, and Rainbow Trout.

Apache Lake

Apache Lake is 16 miles past Tortilla Flat and is the only lake along the Apache Trail that offers motel rooms and shaded campgrounds with full hook-ups for RVs. The lake itself is 2,568 acres, which creates an untouched and uncrowded atmosphere perfect for thrill-seekers looking to take advantage of perfect glass-like water.

*Drivers beware, the unpaved path to Apache Lake can be windy and tight along the canyon walls. Please drive at a slow pace and allow room for larger vehicles to pass first.

Attractions and Activities:

  • Boating – Both non-motorized and motorized boating are allowed at Apache Lake. Apache Lake only has one paved launch ramp.
  • Grab lunch at the Apache Lake Restaurant. Please note, the restaurant and bar open on March 31, 2021. 
  • Fishing – Apache Lake is home to Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Flathead Catfish, Rainbow Trout, Walleye, Yellow Bass, Bluegill, Green Sunfish, and Carp.
  • Camping at Burnt Corral: Burnt Corral Campground includes 75 camping units. The campground is near the launch ramp and along the Apache Lake shoreline.

Roosevelt Lake

Located 4 miles upstream from Apache Lake lies one of the most iconic lakes in Arizona history, Theodore Roosevelt Lake. Roosevelt Lake is the third largest lake located in Arizona next to Lake Powell and Lake Mead, however, it is the largest located entirely in Arizona.  

Attractions and Activities:

  • Boating – Roosevelt Lake is popular for water skiing, jet skiing, swimming, and general boating recreation.
  • Fishing – Roosevelt Lake is home to Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Crappie, Sunfish, Channel, and Flathead Catfish.
  • Picnicking – Individuals can picnic on the shores of Roosevelt Lake. Some popular picnicking sites include; Grapevine, Schoolhouse, Cholla, Indian Point, Cholla Bay, and Bachelor Cove.
  • Camping at Cholla Recreation: The campground contains an extensive selection of both RV and tent-only sites.

Bartlett Lake

Bartlett Lake, formed by the Verde River, is located just 55 minutes from Tempe Town Lake. Sitting at a surface area of 2,815 acres, Bartlett has more acres than Saguaro and Canyon Lake combined! Enjoy shoreline camping, recreational opportunities, and beautiful surroundings that make for an unforgettable Arizona day on the water. A plus to this location is that it has newly paved roads making for a smooth and easy drive!

Attractions and Activities:

  • Boating – Four launch sites: Jojoba, Bartlett Flat, Bartlett Marina, and Yellow Cliffs.
  • Fishing – Bartlett Lake is home to Large and Smallmouth Bass, Crappie, Sunfish, Channel, and Flathead Catfish.
  • Camping – There are no designated campsites at this location, however, camping along the shore is allowed.

Lake Pleasant

If you feel the need for speed, Lake Pleasant is the place for you! With room to move, powerboats are among the norm at this location. Lake Pleasant is big on scuba diving, water skiing, jet skiing, windsurfing, and other water sports. Covering over 10,000 acres, it is the largest lake in the Phoenix and Scottsdale area.

Attractions and Activities:

  • Boating – Lake Pleasant has two boat launches.
  • Camping – Lake Pleasant offers 148 sites for RV and tent camping.
  • Fishing – Lake Pleasant is home to 12 species of fish: White Bass, Striped Bass, Large Mouth Bass, Bluegill, White Crappie, Black Crappie, Bigmouth Buffalo Fish, Channel Catfish, Flathead Catfish, Green Sunfish, Redear Sunfish, and Tilapia.
Lake Pleasant
Alicia Griffith
Written Alicia Griffith

Alicia is an ASU Alumna and Tucson native who is unapologetically herself. When she is not sharing her passion for Tempe, she is a devoted dog mom and reality TV enthusiast who has a weakness for charcuterie boards and wine!