10 Best AZ Campgrounds for Water Recreation : Stay Cool at Camp in the AZ National Forests

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From peaks to prairies, there are lakes, streams, and creeks in Arizona to pitch a tent or park and RV next to. The campgrounds listed below are a mix of paid and dispersed with a variety of water recreation. These include fishing, boating, swimming, kayaking, and even wind sailing. Some of these campgrounds only allow tents while others you can have an RV and trailer. Overall, the focus of this article is on more of the individual sites vs. group sites.

Apache Sitgreaves National Forest

Luna Lake Campground

This easy to get to campground (1 mile down a gravel road) has individual and group camp sites.  You’ll feel instantly relaxed among the stands of Ponderosa pines, the lush meadow, tranquil lake and mountain views. 

With a non motorized boat, you can enjoy a leisurely boat ride or fish for Rainbow Trout on the 75 acre Luna Lake.   If you need to rent a boat or buy bait, fishing tackle snacks and drinks,  the Luna Lake Marina store is nearby.  

  • Average temp: Highest temperature: July -78 degrees, Lowest temperature: January-14 degrees
  • Elevation: 7,960 ft
  • Season:  Closed November 1-May 1
  • Cost: $16 Per vehicle per nigh
  • Sites: 50 single unit sites, RV’s up to 32 feet
  • Amenities:  Tables, fire rings, grills, picnic facilities, drinking water, vault and pit toilet, boat ramp
  • Stay Limit:  14 Days
  • Location:  Apache Sitgreaves National Forest- Five miles east on US Highway 180 and turn north (left) on Forest Road 570 
  • Management:   Alpine Ranger District   (928) 339-5000,  or visit Recreation.gov to make  reservations.

Woods Canyon Lake Recreation Area

Woods Canyon Lake is one of seven lakes in the Rim Lakes Recreation area. This is a great place to go camping with your family. Popular activities include boat rides, kayaking, fishing, photography, hiking, and watching the wildlife.   

I’ve taken my kids fishing at this lake and they absolutely love it. There is plenty of room to spread out on the shore line if you don’t go out on a boat.  Due to being a few hours away from Phoenix, this area is a hot spot and gets very busy during the summer. 

There are 4 developed campgrounds (including one for large groups) within the Woods Canyon Recreation area.  I provided information below for Aspen Campground- which is one of the larger campsite within walking distance to the lake.  The campsite terrain varies from grassy meadows to forest settings.

Also, the Woods Canyon Lake Store and Marina rents boats, sells licenses and fishing supplies.

  • Average temp: Highest temperature: July – 92 degrees, Lowest temperature: January- 25 degrees
  • Elevation: 7,000 ft
  • Season: Opens May 1 – Closes October 31
  • Cost: Non electrical sites- $25 a night, additional vehicle is $12.50
  • Sites: 148 Campsites,27 first come- first serve
  • Amenities: Campground host, firewood, fire rings, water, picnic tables, vault toilets
  • Stay Limit:  14 days
  • Location:  4 Miles north of State Highway 260 at mile marker 282, 25 miles west of Heber, AZ
  • Management:  Black Mesa Ranger District (928)535-7300, and to make reservations call- 877-444-6777. Or book online Recreation.gov

Coconino National Forest

Manzanita Campground

This creekside campground along Oak Creek Canyon is the perfect place to escape from the rat race. Right from your campsite, you can go fishing, wading or hang in a hammock next to the creek and relax. Just right down the road is Slide Rock-a very popular place to go swimming.   These sites fill up quickly and many of the campsites are closer together. The best two are sites 19 & 4 (more spread out).  Site 19 can be reserved and site 4 is on a first come first serve basis.  Due to the beautiful scenery and being right next to the creek, these campsites are already being reserved for the summer of 2020!  Overall, the least popular days for this campground are Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

  • Average temp: Highest temperature: July – 100 degrees, Lowest temperature: January- 34 degrees
  • Elevation: 4,800 ft
  • Season:  Year round
  • Cost: $22 per night
  • Sites: Tents only-11 of the 18 campsites can be reserved.
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, toilets, drinking water, fire rings
  • Stay Limit:  7 days
  • Location:  Six miles north of Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon
  • Management:   Make reservations- call  Toll Free 1-877-444-6777 (International 518-885-3639 or TDD 877-833-6777) or book on-line at Recreation.gov

>>>>Map of the Oak Creek Recreation Area<<<<

Dairy Springs Campground

This campground is one of the closest to Mormon Lake- known as the only natural lake in AZ.  Visitors to this lake enjoy  fishing, boating, and even windsurfing.  There are times however in a drought season when this lake does not have water.

  • Average temp: Highest temperature: July – 82 degrees, Lowest temperature: January- 16 degrees
  • Elevation: 7,000 ft
  • Season: May 1- Oct. 14
  • Cost: $21 per night – up to 8 people with one vehicle
  • Sites: 15 Sites- Tents and small motor homes up to 35 ft/ No hookups
  • Amenities:  Drinking water, picnic tables, grills,  vault toilets,
  • Stay Limit:  14 days
  • Location:  24 miles south east of Flagstaff
  • Management:   Group and single family site reservations accepted online at Recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777 (toll free number), TDD at 877-833-6777.

Coronado National Forest

Arivaca Lake

A long drive along Ruby Road will get you to this primitive and dispersed campsite.  On this 90 acre lake built by AZ Game & Fish, you can take out a single electric trolling motor boat and fish for bass, catfish and blue gill. Note that the campsites are located more along the road and are not right by the water. This camping area does have some negative reviews on trip advisor – one of the reviews state the water was murky and there were potholes on the road going into it.  On the upside- more than likely you would have the place to yourself.  I personally have been in this area and I think it’s beautiful!

  • Average temp: Highest temperature: July – 97 degrees, Lowest temperature: January- 29 degrees
  • Season: Year Round
  • Elevation:  3,805 ft
  • Cost: Free
  • Sites: Dispersed camping- Tents and RV’s
  • Amenities: Toilet and boat ramp
  • Stay Limit:  14 days
  • Location:  Southeast of the community of Arivaca, off Ruby Road
  • Management:   Nogales Ranger District, (520) 281-2296

Riggs Flat Campground

This campground is situated in an alpine forest and meadow setting.  Experience the convenience of the Riggs Flat Lake which is stocked with rainbow, brown and brook trout.

 You can take a small boat-no more than a single electric trolling motor on the lake or fish from the shore. AZ Game and Fish financed this dam specifically to provide trout fishing for outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Average temp: Highest temperature: June – 99 degrees, Lowest temperature: January- 29 degrees
  • Season:  April 15 – November 14
  • Cost: $20 per night (First come, first serve)
  • Sites:  26 single campsites-Tents and RV’s (less than 22 ft)
  • Amenities:  Picnic tables, toilets, drinking water, boat ramp, vault toilets
  • Stay Limit:  14 days
  • Location:  Near Safford, AZ
  • Management:   Safford Ranger District, (928) 428-4150

Kaibab National Forest

Dogtown Lake Campground

Close to the Grand Canyon, this campground is situated in a pine forest along the shore of the scenic Dogtown Lake. You have many options here for water recreation-, fish for trout, crappies and channel cats, or go canoeing, kayaking, or  boating (electric motorboats -single motor with one horsepower or less are allowed). You will also have a view of Bill Williams Mountain as you sit back and enjoy your camp coffee in the morning. 

  • Average temp: Highest temperature: July – 83 degrees, Lowest temperature: January- 22 degrees
  • Elevation:7,050 ft
  • Season: Late April to late September (also varies on weather conditions)
  • Cost: $26 per night
  • Sites: 50 individual campsites, 4 double sites, and 1 group site- Tent and RV
  • Amenities: Drinking water, picnic tables, tent pads, restrooms, grills/fire pits, garbage bins, pit toilets
  • Stay Limit:  14 days
  • Location:  Near Williams, AZ
  • Management:   For fees and reservations go to www.recreation.gov website or via telephone at 1-877-444-6777. For campground inquiries please call Southwest Recreation at 928-699-1239.

White Horse Lake Campground

Also close the Grand Canyon, this forested campground is located around the White Horse Lake. This spot is popular for fishing as well as boating (single electric motor boat of one horsepower or less), canoeing and kayaking. 

  • Average temp: Highest temperature: July – 83 degrees, Lowest temperature: January- 22 degrees
  • Elevation: 6,600 ft
  • Season: Late April to late September (also varies on weather conditions)
  • Cost: $26 per night
  • Sites: 94 single unit sites-tents, trailers, and motor homes up to 38 ft, 22 wheelchair accessible (No Hookups)
  • Amenities: Tables, fire rings, grills, tent pads, drinking water, composting toilets, garbage bins, boat ramp
  • Stay Limit:  14 days
  • Location:  19 miles southeast of Williams
  • Management:   For fees and reservations go to www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777​. For campground inquiries please call Southwest Recreation at 928-699-1239.

Tonto National Forest

Haigler Canyon Campground

Haigler Canyon Campground sits along Haigler Creek- a natural spring stocked with rainbow trout.  This canyon area also provides swimming holes and plenty of shade to cool off in the hot summer months.

Bears are often seen here and bear proofing your food is highly encouraged. 

  • Average temp: Highest temperature: July – 92 degrees, Lowest temperature: January- 54 degrees
  • Elevation: 5,003
  • Season: May-October
  • Cost: $16 per night
  • Sites: 2 Campgrounds- 14 sites, trailers under 20 ft. (first come first serve- no reservations)
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, grills, vault toilets
  • Stay Limit:  14 days
  • Location:  Near Payson, AZ
  • Management:   Payson Ranger District (928) 474-7900

Ocotillo Dispersed Camping

This campsite is located near two water sources- Horseshoe Reservoir and the Verde River.  Small boats with 25 horse power or less are allowed on the reservoir and non motorized allowed on the Verde.  The reservoir is your best bet for catching large and smallmouth bass, crappie, sunfish, and flathead catfish.

  • Average temp: Highest temperature: July – 103 degrees, Lowest temperature: January- 64 degrees
  • Elevation: 2,402
  • Season: Year round (as water levels permit)
  • Cost: Free
  • Sites: Dispersed
  • Amenities: Boat ramp (Only one on the reservoir)
  • Stay Limit:  14 days
  • Location:  Near Carefree and Cave Creek
  • Management:   Cave Creek Ranger District (480)-595-3300

Summary

Each of the AZ National Forests have unique and beautiful campgrounds that provide some type of water recreation.  We are fortunate in AZ to have so much diversity and places to go unwind. I encourage you to break from the norm, go somewhere new and take advantage of our beautiful public lands!!

Have you been to any of the places noted here?  Have others that you enjoy?  Please leave a comment below!

Happy Camping

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