Saguaro Lake in the Tonto National Forest near Phoenix, Arizona, during sunset.
Brent Coulter/

22 Best Lakes Near Tucson

Published by Dianne Titos on July 20 2023

Tucson is famous as a melting pot of Native American, Mexican, and Western influences, for its architecture and delicious cuisine, as well as its desert landscapes. Maybe a lesser-known fact, but Tucson is also surrounded by gleaming lakes which will allow you to take a refreshing break, some only mere minutes away!

On this list of best lakes near Tucson, you will discover urban gems a stone's throw from the city, stunning lakes surrounded by alpine scenery, some of the best-hidden fishing spots, outdoor havens and serene shores for a picnic on a weekend out.

You will be spoiled for choice if you are looking for the best lakes near Tucson, and we've got you covered if you cannot make up your mind. Read on to find your next adventure, including how to get to these lakes, local gems, best things to do once there and things to keep in mind while visiting.

Best lakes near Tucson for enjoying different recreational activities
ActivityOur favorite lakes (& distance from Tucson)
Best lakes for fishing

Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Lake Havasu

Best lakes for swimming

Patagonia Lake (80 miles)

Roper Lake (130 miles)

Best lakes for water sports

Parker Canyon Lake

Lake Pleasant

Best lakes for a weekend trip

Lake Mead

Lake Powell

Best lakes for camping

Fool Hollow Lake

Bartlett Lake

Lake Powell, Page, USA view of the lake and red cliffs in the distance on a clear sunny day.
One of the stunning lakes on our list is Lake Powell; scroll down to read more about which other gorgeous lakes you can visit from Tucson.
prochasson frederic/

1. Silverbell Lake

10 minutes from Tucson (5 miles)

Why you should visit: Silverbell Lake in Christopher Columbus Park offers an escape from city life with its beautiful water views and surrounding parks. It's a great place for a family picnic, and for those interested in fishing, you'll find a variety of species like bass and catfish.

A female duck sitting on the ground with the blurry waters of the lake in the background
Silverbell Lake is located just a short drive from Tucson's center, so you might be surprised to learn that it is a haven for birds and a favorite among bird watchers.
Charles T. Peden/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Picnicking
  • Fishing
  • Bird watching

How to get there: From Tucson city center, follow W Grant Rd and N Silverbell Rd to reach this lake.

Our highlights: Christopher Columbus Park is an urban oasis in Tucson that boasts the charming Silverbell Lake for fishing and a dog park, making it an ideal place for family outings.

A favorite with anglers, Silverbell Lake is well-stocked and offers great fishing opportunities right in the heart of the city. You can find Bass, Crappie, Catfish and Bluegill in season here.

A birdwatcher's paradise, Sweetwater Wetlands Park is a man-made wetland near the heart of Tucson, providing a vital habitat for hundreds of species of birds and wildlife, offering unique photography and observation opportunities.

Opening hours: The lake is open from 6am to 10:30pm year-round.

Other things to know: Due to the water not being suitable, swimming is not allowed at Silverbell Lake.

While fishing is permitted, a license is necessary, so make sure you have the appropriate license before packing your fishing gear.

2. Kennedy Lake

15 minutes from Tucson (10 miles)

Why you should visit: Kennedy Lake at J.F Kennedy Park is another urban lake that offers a peaceful environment for bird watching and fishing. It's not large, but it's the perfect spot for a quiet afternoon and very easily reachable from Tucson's city center.

A wide shot of Kennedy Lake and the surrounding mountains, cacti in the background with a blue sky and a cloud ridge.
After fishing, you can hike up the hills surrounding Kennedy Lake to take in a scenic panorama.
Nancie Lee/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Fishing
  • Bird watching
  • Picnicking

How to get there: Follow Interstate 10 (I-10) south and get on S La Cholla Blvd past Sentinel Peak Park to reach Kennedy Lake.

Our highlights: Offering numerous recreational facilities, including sports fields, a swimming pool, and a fishing lake, John F. Kennedy Park provides a full day of family fun. The park's spacious picnic areas also make it a great place for gatherings and events.

Another urban lake that is great for fishing, you can find Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Bluegill, Sunfish, Channel Catfish and White Amur well stocked here.

Old Pueblo Archaeology Center is a hub for learning about the rich cultural history of the Indigenous people in the Tucson area, offering guided tours to ancient archaeological sites. It's a must-visit for history enthusiasts seeking to deepen their understanding of Arizona's past.

Situated at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Explorer Trailhead nearby provides access to a network of scenic hiking trails suitable for all skill levels. Its trails wind through diverse landscapes, providing panoramic views of Tucson and opportunities for wildlife spotting.

Opening hours: The lake is open from 6am to 10:30pm year-round.

Other things to know: Fishing here requires a Class U Urban Fishing License.

Even though you cannot swim in Kennedy Lake, there is a public pool you can enjoy in J. F. Kennedy Park.

3. Sahuarita Lake

30 minutes from Tucson (25 miles)

Why you should visit: Sahuarita Lake is a small man-made lake, perfect for fishing. It's stocked with fish every month, making it a favorite for local anglers. Plus, the surrounding park provides a lovely spot for picnics and casual strolls.

Reflection of the trees on the tranquil waters of the lake during sunset, a few clouds in the sky
Take a peaceful stroll around Sahuarita Lake, which is particularly beautiful during sunset.
Ana Quihuis/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Fishing
  • Picnicking
  • Bird watching

How to get there: Following I-10 and then I-19 will directly take you to Sahuarita Lake from Tucson.

Our highlights: You will be spoilt for choice if you are looking for a lake to visit from Tucson and want to spend your day fishing. You can find Rainbow Trout, Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, Sunfish, White Amur, and Channel Catfish here.

Club Rancho Sahuarita is a community center nearby that offers a wide range of activities, from a water park and fitness center to numerous community events, making it a hub of activity and social interaction.

Anza Trail Park, also located close by, is home to a section of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. The park offers lovely hiking and biking opportunities.

If you haven't packed yourself a picnic, you are in luck because you will find fantastic dining (and shopping!) options in the nearby Sahuarita, including authentic food trucks!

Bonus: Sahuarita means "little saguaro," reflecting the local landscape and culture surrounding this man-made lake.

Opening hours: The lake is open from 6am to 10:30pm year-round.

Other things to know: This lake is dog-friendly but neither your furry friend nor you are allowed to swim in it.

You need a license to fish in this lake.

4. Rose Canyon Lake

1 hour from Tucson (35 miles)

Why you should visit: Rose Canyon Lake is nestled in the Santa Catalina Mountains and offers not just fishing but also the chance to hike along beautiful trails. In summer, you will find that its high altitude provides a cool retreat and is a much-welcome escape from the desert heat!

Reflection of the starts and the Milky Way on the lake
If you are camping near Rose Canyon Lake, you are in for a treat with the breathtaking starry sky above you.
Weisong Ji/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Camping

How to get there: Follow E Grant Rd east out of Tucson and head northeast on Mt Lemmon Hgwy to reach this beautiful lake.

Our highlights: Rose Canyon Lake is one of the most scenic lakes that are in the close vicinity of Tucson, on the way to Mt Lemmon.

You will drive past several scenic overlooks with stunning views, such as Babad Do'ag Scenic Overlook, Molino Canyon Vista, Thimble Peak Vista and Windy Point Vista, all located on the road to the lake.

There are beautiful hiking trails in the area as well, with varying levels of difficulty; Sevel Falls, Sabino Canyon Trail #23 and Molino Basin Trail Head are some of our favorites.

If you are looking to spend a long weekend at the lake, you will find great campgrounds nearby such as Rose Canyon Campground and General Hitchcock Campground.

Mt Lemmon is a short drive from the lake, providing the perfect opportunity to spend a full day here. This stunning peak is a recreational haven year-round. During the summer, it serves as a cool retreat from the heat, offering camping, hiking, rock climbing, and bird watching.

The scenic Mount Lemmon Highway leads to the small town of Summerhaven and the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, the southernmost ski destination in the continental United States.

In winter, this area transforms into a snowy playground, offering downhill skiing, snowboarding, and sledding.

Opening hours: Open from April to October. The gates are closed to the lake during the winter months. However, fishing is allowed on a walk-in basis for license holders.

Other things to know: Lake parking day use is $10.00 per day per vehicle (up to 6 persons). Extra persons, walk-ins, and bicycles are $1.00. Annual Day Use Pass is $60.00.

5. Arivaca Lake

1 hour 20 minutes from Tucson (65 miles)

Why you should visit: Arivaca Lake is a quiet, remote lake, a gem for bird watchers and anglers looking for peace and solitude. The surrounding grasslands and rolling hills provide beautiful views and opportunities for wildlife spotting.

Sunset afterglow at Arivaca Lake with shrubs in the foregorund
Arivaca Lake might not have the level of facilities that some other lakes in this list do, but it is stunning and is an amazing spot for fishing.

Main activities you can do there:

  • Fishing
  • Bird watching
  • Wildlife spotting

How to get there: Head south on I-19 and get onto W Arivaca Rd at Amado to reach this lake.

Our highlights: Keep in mind while visiting that the facilities are limited. This small lake is a favorite among local fishermen because it is easily accessible and is stocked with larger-than-average fish.

If you are looking to explore further, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge nearby provides a sanctuary for threatened and endangered species, as well as a habitat restoration area for the Masked Bobwhite Quail.

Opening hours: This lake is open year-round.

Other things to know: This is a small lake with limited facilities (there is a WC and a small boat ramp available).

There is no garbage services provided to the area, so make sure to pack everything you brought and take it back with you.

6. Pena Blanca Lake

1 hour 10 minutes from Tucson (70 miles)

Why you should visit: Pena Blanca Lake is a scenic lake near the Mexican border. It offers great fishing, and its location makes it an excellent spot for bird watchers looking for both common and rare species.

Cloud reflection with snow covered banks at Pena Blanca Lake in southern Arizona
Take in the mountainous scenery at Pena Blanca Lake during your visit.
Wendy Islas/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Fishing
  • Bird watching
  • Boating

How to get there: Head south on I-19 to reach Pena Blanca Lake.

Our highlights: This scenic lake is maybe unsurprisingly popular for camping, with White Rock Campground and Calabasas Group Site nearby.

If you have packed your hiking shoes, then we recommend heading to Atascosa Lookout Trailhead for spectacular mountain views.

Located in the ghost town of Ruby, Ruby Cemetery nearby provides a poignant window into the mining history of the Arizona-Mexico border region. A visit here offers an intriguing blend of history, mystery, and a glimpse into the lives of the mining communities of the past.

Bonus: The lake's name translates to "White Rock," which gives a nod to the scenery you can expect to find.

Opening hours: Open year-round.

Other things to know: The water isn't monitored for chemicals and there are no lifeguards, so while swimming isn't prohibited, we wouldn't recommend it. If you do, you will be swimming at your own risk.

Also, note the invasive species restrictions if you're planning to boat.

7. Patagonia Lake

1 hour 20 minutes from Tucson (80 miles)

Why you should visit: Patagonia Lake is a large and popular lake in the region. Its spacious campground, birding opportunities, and variety of water activities like boating and fishing make it a favorite destination for a well-rounded outdoor experience.

Lake Patagonia, Arizona, USA during a beautiful sunset.
Set your tent up in the campground, grab your favorite book and wait for the sun setting over Lake Patagonia.
Manuela Durson/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Bird watching
  • Camping

How to get there: Head south on I-19 from Tucson and hop onto AZ-82 past Beyerville to reach Patagonia Lake.

Our highlights: Located in the rolling hills of Southern Arizona, Patagonia Lake is a beautiful man-made reservoir perfect for an array of water activities, such as fishing, boating, water skiing, and swimming.

A highlight is the park's birding trail, which is considered a birder's paradise due to its abundance of unique species.

Patagonia Lake State Park boasts well-equipped campgrounds, making it a perfect spot for those who wish to extend their visit overnight or longer. The park also has boat rentals available, allowing visitors to paddle across the lake or enjoy a peaceful fishing session.

Adjacent to Patagonia Lake State Park, the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area offers an untouched, lush riparian habitat, a rarity in Arizona. It's a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and photographers, thanks to its abundant wildlife and scenic landscapes.

Just a short drive from Patagonia Lake, the historic John Ward Ranch offers an authentic glimpse into Arizona's ranching history. The ranch has been preserved in its original state, providing visitors with a real sense of the area's past.

Bonus: Despite being in the desert, Patagonia Lake is a known hotspot for water bird species, making it an ecological surprise in its environment.

Opening hours: Open year-round from 4am to 10pm.

Other things to know: You need to register your boat to use one of the 2 boat ramps available on the lake.

You cannot swim near the boat launch areas and no life guards are available at the lake, so if you want to swim, keep that in mind.

Dogs, unfortunately, aren't allowed to use the beach day area. If you are traveling with your pooch, make sure to head to the west day-use area instead.

Parts of the state park the lake is located in might be closed to extreme heat during summer, so check ahead of time to avoid any disappointment.

8. Parker Canyon Lake

1 hour 35 minutes from Tucson (80 miles)

Why you should visit: Parker Canyon Lake is a beautiful high-altitude lake, offering cool temperatures even in summer. The lake is great for fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing, with surrounding trails for hiking.

Bird standing in the water at Parker Canyon Lake
Make sure you bring your binoculars and wait for bird sightings at Parker Canyon Lake.
Theodore D King/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Water sports
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife viewing

How to get there: Follow I-10 out of Tucson, heading south. Switch to AZ-83 at Vail and keep on the highway until you reach Parker Canyon Lake.

Our highlights: Parker Canyon Lake is known for its fantastic water sports opportunities and facilities, which includes a marina.

Do not own a kayak? Fancy trying paddleboarding or pedal boating? Not to worry as you can easily rent one once you reach the lake.

You can also easily rent fishing boats and gear, so you don't have to plan ahead or bring your own if you are not sure how you'd like to spend your day at the lake!

San Rafael State Natural Area offers visitors a tranquil and scenic escape with panoramic views of mountain ranges, rolling meadows, and historical ranch buildings. It's a popular location for bird-watching, wildlife spotting, and leisurely strolls amid the quiet beauty of the landscape.

Coronado National Memorial commemorates the significant journey of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado's expedition, marking the first European exploration of the American Southwest.

The site offers historical insights, scenic drives, hiking trails, and spectacular views of the US-Mexico borderlands.

Opening hours: Open year-round.

Other things to know: High altitude makes it a cooler destination in summer but it is something to look out for if altitudes make you feel uncomfortable.

As the lake is remote, ensure to fuel up before you travel.

9. Canyon Lake

2 hours 10 minutes from Tucson (110 miles)

Why you should visit: Canyon Lake is a breathtakingly beautiful lake with its red rock canyon surroundings. Boating, fishing, hiking, and wildlife spotting are common activities, and the Dolly Steamboat tours provide fantastic scenic views.

Cloudy morning view at Canyon Lake with rugged mountains in the background
Bring your hiking boots and admire the scenery of Canyon Lake from an elevation.
86Eric_Anthony_Mischke 86/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife spotting

How to get there: AZ-79 will take you all the way north to Canyon Lake.

Our highlights: Dolly Steamboat Cruises on the lake will allow you to enjoy a delicious dinner while admiring the stunning scenery. There is also a twilight cruise option if you are looking for romantic date ideas!

You will drive on the Apache Scenic Byway, more commonly known as the Apache Trail, as you head to Canyon Lake. This is a historic 120-mile long road that provides some of Arizona's most stunning views. Along the way, you can enjoy views of the Superstition Mountains.

Lost Dutchman State Park located in the Sonoran Desert captivates visitors with its beautiful desert landscape, springtime wildflower blooms, and the stunning Superstition Mountains backdrop.

Hiking, camping, and picnicking are popular activities, making it a great location for outdoor enthusiasts.

Tortilla Flat offers visitors a charming taste of the Old West with its historical buildings, unique gift shop, and famous restaurant. It's also a great gateway to the Superstition Mountains and Apache Trail, offering scenic drives and outdoor adventures.

Opening hours: Open from 8am to 10pm year-round.

Other things to know: The Apache Trail is unpaved for much of its length and winds steeply through rugged desert mountains and narrow cliff-hugging stretches. So the drive can be challenging and is not suitable for all vehicles.

10. Roper Lake

2 hours from Tucson (130 miles)

Why you should visit: Roper Lake is perfect for a family vacation with its hot springs, a large swimming area, cabins, and camping sites. Bird watchers will also find a variety of species in the park.

Wild Arizona Poppies in springtime in the desert with spiky green yucca plant in foreground
If you visit Roper Lake during spring, you might catch the wildflowers near Safford in full bloom.
Ingrid Curry/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Swimming
  • Hot springs
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Bird watching

How to get there: Take I-10 out of Tucson, heading east, and then switch to US-191 past Willcox to reach Roper Lake State Park.

Our highlights: Roper Lake State Park features a specific area for swimming, complete with a sandy beach, located on the western side of the day-use island. This designated zone provides an excellent spot for cooling down, separate from the lake's boating and fishing activities.

One of its primary attractions is the natural hot springs. Soaking in these warm, mineral-rich waters provides a unique and rejuvenating experience.

The park has thoughtfully provided a concrete tub near the shore of the lake for visitors to enjoy the hot springs safely and comfortably.

The lake itself is known for excellent fishing opportunities. It is regularly stocked with largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and channel catfish, making it a popular spot for anglers of all experience levels.

Swimming is also a popular activity here, with a designated swimming area separate from the boating and fishing zones.

Opening hours: Open from 6am to 8pm.

Other things to know: Roper Lake State Park features well-equipped camping facilities, including cabins, electric hook-up RV sites, and tent camping spots. The amenities make it easy for visitors to settle in and enjoy a multi-day stay surrounded by nature.

Pets are not allowed at the swimming beach.

11. Saguaro Lake

2 hours 10 minutes from Tucson (130 miles)

Why you should visit: Saguaro Lake is uniquely surrounded by towering saguaro cacti. It's a picturesque destination for boating, fishing, and even guided horseback rides around the lake.

Sunset reflection off of Saguaro Lake with a silhouette of a Saguaro cactus in the foreground
Arizona is famous for its towering Saguaro cacti, and you will find them in abundance around Saguaro Lake.

Main activities you can do there:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Horseback riding
  • Hiking

How to get there: Drive out of Tucson via I-10 and then following AZ-101 and AZ-87 will take you to Saguaro Lake.

Our highlights: This lake is close to Canyon Lake (you can find more information about this lake above), so you can combine visiting both of them on a single trip if you feel like exploring.

Don't forget to book a tour with Desert Belle Cruises to enjoy the scenery from a different perspective. It is an entirely different experience to see the surroundings of the lake from the water.

The lake is well stocked with large bass, carp and bluegill, with other species spotted occasionally, which makes this lake perfect for a fishing trip, so make sure to pack your gear if you are keen on trying to catch that record-breaking fish!

Wildlife enthusiasts rejoice! If you are lucky enough, you can spot a wild horse or two during your visit to the lake. It is a good idea to keep your camera ready.

If you are keen on getting back on the saddle, or to try horseback riding in general, make sure to visit Saguaro Lake Ranch Stable. You might need to book in advance, so make sure to give them a call before visiting.

Bonus: Named for the iconic saguaro cactus native to the Arizona desert, it's a testament to the area's unique flora.

Opening hours: Open year-round, with entry starting at 6am.

Other things to know: During most weekends and holidays from April to October, Saguaro Lake often hits its boating limit early in the day, and no further boats are permitted to enter.

12. Theodore Roosevelt Lake

2 hours 30 minutes from Tucson (130 miles)

Why you should visit: Theodore Roosevelt Lake is the largest lake in Central Arizona, ideal for boating and fishing. It's also historically significant, associated with one of the oldest and largest masonry dams in the United States.

Flowers on scenic Theodore Roosevelt Lake on a sunny day with blue sky
Don't forget to pack a picnic to enjoy on the serene shores of Theodore Roosevelt Lake during your visit.
Danita Delimont/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Swimming

How to get there: Follow AZ-77 until you reach Globe and then switch to AZ-188 to reach Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

Our highlights: Theodore Roosevelt Lake, located in Arizona's central wilderness, is a prime destination for both fishing and boating enthusiasts. As the largest lake contained entirely within the state, it offers extensive opportunities to fish for bass, crappie, and catfish.

The expansive lake also accommodates various boating activities, ranging from relaxing pontoon cruises to exhilarating water skiing and jet skiing.

A significant historical point of interest near the lake is the Tonto National Monument, housing well-preserved cliff dwellings dating back to the Salado culture. Visitors can hike to these ancient sites, gaining insights into the history and lifestyles of the people who inhabited the area centuries ago.

The area surrounding Theodore Roosevelt Lake offers a range of camping options, catering to various preferences. Whether you're looking for fully developed campgrounds with restroom facilities and boat launching ramps or prefer more rustic, dispersed camping experiences, there's a spot for you.

One of the most breathtaking aspects of Theodore Roosevelt Lake is the stunning scenic views it offers, particularly in the spring. During this time, the landscape is transformed by a profusion of wildflowers, creating a vibrant carpet of colors against the backdrop of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Opening hours: Open year-round.

Other things to know: This is a large lake with multiple access points, each with its own facilities and rules. It's part of the Tonto National Forest, so appropriate permits and fees apply.

13. Lake Pleasant

2 hours 30 minutes from Tucson (155 miles)

Why you should visit: Lake Pleasant is one of the most versatile recreational areas, with opportunities for boating, fishing, scuba diving, camping, and wildlife viewing.

Plus, it's near the city of Phoenix, so you can visit this colorful city to explore and have a meal on your way to the lake or afterwards.

Silhouette of a person fishing on the lake, with some clouds in the sky
Lake Pleasant, like many of the lakes on our list, is a prime fishing spot.
Roger Siljander/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Scuba diving
  • Camping
  • Wildlife viewing

How to get there: Follow I-10 until Phoenix and hop on to I-17 to reach Lake Pleasant.

Our highlights: Anglers will find an abundance of white and striped bass, bluegill, and catfish in its waters, while boaters can enjoy the expansive stretches of this beautiful lake.

Additionally, Lake Pleasant stands out as one of the few places in Arizona where you can go scuba diving. Its depths hide intriguing features such as old buildings and other structures submerged when the lake was expanded.

The lake is also a prime spot for wildlife viewing. Visitors may catch sight of the intriguing burros (wild donkeys), which are frequently seen near the water. Bird watchers will be delighted with the variety of species that call this area home, including herons, eagles, and a myriad of waterfowl.

One of Lake Pleasant's greatest advantages is its close proximity to Phoenix, the largest city in Arizona. After a day at the lake, you can visit the colorful city's museums and galleries, with a wide array of nightlife and entertainment options if you are planning to stay overnight.

Bonus: Despite its inviting name, the lake is actually named after a Castle Hot Springs prospector called Pleasant Anderson.

Opening hours: The main entrance to Lake Pleasant Regional Park is open from 5 am to 9 pm daily between May 1 to October 31 and from 6 am to 8 pm daily between November 1 to April 30.

Other things to know: Since this lake is near Phoenix and can get quite busy, especially during holidays and weekends.

14. Bartlett Lake

2 hours 50 minutes from Tucson (160 miles)

Why you should visit: Bartlett Lake is nestled in the mountains, offering stunning natural views. It's a great spot for water sports, fishing, and camping, with wildflowers blooming beautifully in the spring.

Saguaros in Sonoran Desert on a sunny day with Bartlett Lake in background.
Bartlett Lake is known for its beautiful surroundings and you can admire gorgeous wildflowers in the spring and the mighty Saguaros under the sun in summer.

Main activities you can do there:

  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Boating

How to get there: Follow I-10 and drive through Phoenix. Switch to AZ-101 past Chandler and heading east from Carefree will take you to Bartlett Lake.

Our highlights: Located within Arizona's Tonto National Forest, Bartlett Lake offers a variety of water sports, including boating, fishing, and jet skiing.

It's a water enthusiast's dream come true, with ample space and beautiful surroundings for these activities. Bartlett Lake also provides several camping spots, perfect for those wishing to spend a night under the stars after a day of adventure.

The lake's location within the Tonto National Forest means there are plenty of hiking trails to explore, immersing visitors in the beauty of Arizona's landscape.

Several record-breaking were caught in this lake-see if you can break the state record yourself!

Opening hours: Open year-round, as water levels permit.

Other things to know: Due to the possibility of harmful algae blooming, we would not recommend swimming in Bartlett Lake.

15. Riggs Flat Lake

3 hours 30 minutes from Tucson (160 miles)

Why you should visit: Riggs Flat Lake is located high in the mountains and offers a cool retreat from the summer heat. It's a tranquil spot for fishing and camping, surrounded by forested hills and hiking trails.

Man fishing on the shore of Riggs Flat Lake on Mount Graham at sunset
Pack your rod and bait and head to Riggs Flat Lake for that record-breaking catch!

Main activities you can do there:

  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Hiking

How to get there: Follow I-10 southeast towards Willcox and get on US-191 to reach Riggs Flat Lake.

Our highlights: Set in the high altitude landscape of the Coronado National Forest, Riggs Flat Lake is a serene and picturesque destination set in meadows and alpine forest.

During the summer, the lake's chilly waters are replenished with brown and rainbow trout. Typically, brown trout are introduced into the lake once in late autumn.

Rainbow trout, on the other hand, are typically replenished once monthly from April through November, although this depends on the lake's pH level.

The lake offers opportunities for fishing and camping, two activities that define the outdoor experience here. Hiking trails in the vicinity provide stunning views of the surrounding landscape, making them a must for nature enthusiasts.

The nearby Coronado National Forest mean that if you crave to spend more time outdoors, you can visit the lake and then head to this stunning forest for a hike under the lush canopy of trees.

Bonus: At an altitude of about 9,000 feet, it's one of the highest lakes in Arizona.

Opening hours: This popular lake is open from April 15 to November 14.

Other things to know: The lake's high altitude brings cooler summer temperatures, offering a refreshing getaway from the desert heat.

16. Fool Hollow Lake

3 hours 30 minutes from Tucson (190 miles)

Why you should visit: Fool Hollow Lake offers year-round recreational opportunities. Fishing, boating, and camping are popular, and the surrounding forest is great for wildlife viewing and hiking.

A quiet wintry scene along the shore of Fool Hollow Lake. Near Show Low in Arizona's White Mountains, USA.
Nestled in Arizona's White Mountains, Fool Hollow Lake is stunning, especially in winter.
Dennis Swena/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife viewing

How to get there: Drive past Mt Lemmon on AZ-77, heading north, and switch to US-60 with the views of Pinal Peak to your left to reach Fool Hollow Lake.

Our highlights: Fool Hollow Lake, located in Show Low, is a hub of recreational activities such as fishing, boating, and camping. The lake also boasts abundant wildlife, providing plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing.

For those eager to explore more, the nearby Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, only a short drive away, offer additional outdoor adventures, including more trails and wildlife spotting opportunities.

Pinetop-Lakeside, nestled in the heart of Arizona's White Mountains nearby, offers a serene escape with year-round recreational activities, from hiking and fishing in the summer to skiing in the winter.

Known for its charming small-town atmosphere, abundant wildlife, and picturesque landscapes, it's an ideal destination for those seeking a peaceful getaway amidst nature's beauty.

Bonus: Legend says the lake was named after a man who tried to farm the rocky canyon in the 1880s, leading locals to say "only a fool would try to farm here."

Opening hours: The park is open year-round with varying opening hours. From November to March, open from 7am to 8pm. From April to October, open from 5am to 10pm. Check the opening hours prior to visiting during the holidays.

Other things to know: Since the lake does not have a designated swimming area, you should make sure you swim close the shore or your boat and in full view of others.

17. Watson Lake

3 hours 20 minutes from Tucson (215 miles)

Why you should visit: Watson Lake is visually striking with its granite boulders and bright blue water. It offers boating, fishing, and a network of trails that provide stunning views of the lake and its rock formations.

Prescott, Arizona, USA with a sunset above Watson Lake in the foreground and the rocky Granite Dells in the distance.
Watson Lake is surrounded by Granite Dells, which creates a unique landscape, so make sure to pack your camera to immortalize it.
Nick Fox/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Canoeing
  • Rock climbing

How to get there: Head out of Tucson and drive towards Phoenix on I-10. From here, take I-17 to reach the lake.

Our highlights: Watson Lake, located near the historic town of Prescott, offers boating and fishing opportunities set against a visually striking backdrop.

The lake's surrounding Granite Dells provide a unique hiking experience with unusual rock formations. If you are feeling adventurous, you can bring your gear and enjoy rock climbing in the area.

Looking for less strenuous activities during your visit? Bird watching is a popular activity here, with the area attracting many species.

Prescott's attractions, such as the iconic whiskey row and the Sharlot Hall Museum, are just a short drive away. You can visit the town and grab a meal before heading back to the lake for more fun by the water or back home.

Located nearby, Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary is dedicated to conserving and protecting native and exotic animals. With close-up encounters, hands-on experiences, and educational programs, it's a great place for family visits and wildlife lovers.

Bonus: If you are visiting in September, you (and your furry friends, if you are bringing them along) can participate in the Prescott Area Celtic Society, Prescott Highland Games & Celtic Faire.

Opening hours: Open year round, but opening hours vary. Summer Hours are 7am to 10pm and winter hours are 7am to sunset.

Other things to know: Swimming is prohibited at this lake.

18. Martinez Lake

3 hours 40 minutes from Tucson (250 miles)

Why you should visit: Martinez Lake is popular for water skiing and fishing. It's also close to the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, making it excellent for wildlife viewing and bird watching.

Fishing piers on lake on a sunny day
Martinez Lake is an angler's paradise.

Main activities you can do there:

  • Water skiing
  • Fishing
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Bird watching

How to get there: Take I-10 northwest to leave Phoenix and drive west via I-8 towards Fortuna Hills. From here, head north on US-95 to reach Martinez Lake.

Our highlights: Martinez Lake is renowned for water skiing and fishing, drawing adventure seekers and anglers alike.

The lake offers wildlife and bird viewing opportunities, enhancing the outdoor experience. This lake is a haven for migratory birds and about 200 species have been recorded here!

For nature lovers and bird-watching enthusiasts, the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge is located a stone's throw away and provides amazing opportunities for wildlife viewing.

If you are looking to stay active after enjoying the water activities, you can also take a scenic hike on the Painted Desert Trail nearby.

For urban amenities, the nearby city of Yuma provides shopping, dining, and historical attractions, so we would recommend putting aside a day to visit Martinez Lake and its vicinity.

Opening hours: This lake is open year-round.

Other things to know: This is a primarily a destination for water skiing and fishing, so be sure to adhere to safety regulations. Nearby wildlife refuge rules should also be respected.

19. Lake Havasu

4 hours 50 minutes from Tucson (310 miles)

Why you should visit: Lake Havasu is famous for the London Bridge, relocated from England. It's a bustling destination offering a wide array of activities including boating, fishing, and enjoying the lively city nightlife.

Lighthouse on the banks of Lake Havasu, Arizona, with mountains in the background
Lake Havasu is the perfect destination for a long weekend, and it hosts some amazing annual events that you might want to plan your trip around.

Main activities you can do there:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Sightseeing (London Bridge)

How to get there: Follow I-10 all the way from Tucson to New Hope and then head north on AZ-72 and AZ-95 to reach Lake Havasu.

Our highlights: Nestled in the heart of Mohave County, Arizona, Lake Havasu is a vibrant playground for water enthusiasts and history buffs alike. With 300 days of sunshine and 400 miles of gorgeous coast, this lake has something for everyone!

It is known as “Arizona's Playground” for a reason! The lake's clear, calm waters make it perfect for a range of water sports, including boating, jet skiing, and fishing.

Moreover, the lake is known for its unique historical landmark: the London Bridge. In a remarkable feat of engineering, the bridge was transported from London and reconstructed in Lake Havasu City in 1968.

The lively Lake Havasu City, known for its buzzing nightlife and a variety of dining options, amplifies the overall experience.

Bonus: The annual Boat Show in April is a highlight event that attracts visitors worldwide, making it a must-visit for anyone. If visiting in January, you can also participate in the Havasu Balloon Festival and Fair.

Opening hours: Lake Havasu State Park is open year-round but the visitor center's opening times vary. From April to September, open from 6am to 6pm. From October to February, open from 7am to 5pm.

Other things to know: Lake Havasu and its surroundings can be very hot in summer, so prepare accordingly and make sure to hydrate if you are traveling during the warmer months.

20. Lake Mohave

6 hours from Tucson (350 miles)

Why you should visit: Lake Mohave offers a variety of recreational activities, from fishing to scuba diving. The lake, sandwiched between the Black and Cerbat mountain ranges, offers stunning vistas.

Road running alongside Lake Mohave in Arizona
After a stunningly scenic drive, the cobalt blue waters of Lake Mohave will greet you.
Laurens Hoddenbagh/

Main activities you can do there:

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Scuba diving

How to get there: From Tucson, head to Phoenix on I-10, driving northwest and then follow US-93 to reach Lake Mohave.

Our highlights: Positioned within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Lake Mohave offers an array of activities, from fishing and boating to scuba diving.

Its expansive waters provide ample room for these activities, making it a haven for water sports enthusiasts.

Additionally, its proximity to the historic town of Oatman adds a touch of Old West charm to the visit. Oatman is famous for its resident wild burros roaming freely on the streets, which adds a unique charm to the town's atmosphere.

Its proximity to Laughlin, known for its casinos, offers the excitement of gaming and entertainment after a day in the great outdoors.

Mojave National Preserve features sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, Joshua tree forests, and carpets of wildflowers. Its diverse terrains and unique desert wildlife offer myriad opportunities for hiking, camping, and stargazing.

Bonus: Named after the Mojave Indians who previously inhabited the area, it's a link to the indigenous history of the region.

This lake is home to the Razorback sucker, a fish species that has been listed as endangered since 1991.

Opening hours: Open daily, year-round. Alan Bible Visitor Center is open daily, 9am to 4:30pm, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

Other things to know: The area is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, so national park rules and fees apply. The water level can vary, affecting boating and other activities.

21. Lake Mead and Hoover Dam

6 hours from Tucson (380 miles)

Why you should visit: Lake Mead is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. Its deep blue water contrasted with the surrounding desert landscape makes for a unique and stunning environment for boating, fishing, and hiking.

During your visit, you will also be able to see the world-famous Hoover Dam, a true engineering marvel that will leave you in awe. For more detail about visiting Hoover Dam and driving over it, here is our comprehensive guide.

Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam at sunrise.
Don't let the majestic Hoover Dam steal all the thunder; Lake Mead is a superstar on its own.

Main activities you can do there:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Sightseeing (Hoover Dam)

How to get there: Just like driving to Lake Mohave, head out of Tucson on I-10 and switch to US-93 to reach Lake Mead, a little further than Lake Mohave.

Our highlights: Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, is an epicenter of water-related activities. It provides opportunities for boating, fishing, and even scuba diving in some areas.

The lake's panoramic beauty, complemented by the rugged desert landscape, offers breathtaking views, especially from its numerous hiking trails.

Lake Mead is home to the historic Hoover Dam, so you will be getting two for the price of one on this trip! This impressive and popular dam is an iconic landmark representing a marvel of modern engineering and providing an excellent photographic backdrop.

Additionally, Lake Mead's proximity to Las Vegas allows visitors to combine the tranquility of nature with the excitement of the city's vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene.

Valley of Fire State Park is renowned for its striking red sandstone formations that appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun's rays, thus the name. With its petrified trees, ancient petroglyphs, and various hiking trails, it's a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and history buffs.

If you are simply in for some fun, make a detour to Las Vegas-or even better, spend the night in Sin City and try your hand at some casino games! If you'd like to learn more about what awaits you on your way back from Las Vegas, check our ultimate road trip guide out.

Bonus: The town of St. Thomas, which was initially populated during the development of the West, was submerged and has been underwater since the creation of Lake Mead. When water levels are low, remnants of this town resurface.

Lake Mead has been a popular location for filming movies. Notably, it appeared in the 1977 film "The Gauntlet" starring Clint Eastwood.

The Hoover Dam made a memorable appearance in the 2007 blockbuster "Transformers", where it was portrayed as a secret government base.

Opening hours: Lake Mead National Recreational Area is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Other things to know: You can visit for free on these days: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, First day of National Park Week, Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act, National Public Lands Day and Veterans Day.

As one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, safety should be a priority when boating. It's part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, so national park rules and fees apply.

22. Lake Powell

6 hours from Tucson (390 miles)

Why you should visit: Lake Powell, with its dramatic red rock canyons and blue waters, offers some of the best scenery in the Southwest. Boating, fishing, and exploring the numerous side canyons make it a favorite vacation spot.

You will also get the opportunity to make a detour to the bucket-list-worthy Grand Canyon National Park on this trip.

Lake Powell, Arizona, USA with stunning red rock formation along shores in the foreground, the lake and a stunning sunset in the distance.
Its stunning red rock formations set Lake Powell apart from all the pretty lakes on our list.

Main activities you can do there:

  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Exploring side canyons

How to get there: Drive north from Tucson on I-10 and I-17 until you reach Flagstaff. Here, you can make a detour to the Grand Cayon or continue driving north until you reach Lake Powell.

Our highlights: Lake Powell, with its deep blue waters contrasting with the surrounding red rock canyons, offers a uniquely picturesque experience.

Known for boating, fishing, and exploring its many side canyons by kayak or paddleboard, it's a haven for those who love water activities and stunning landscapes.

Close by is Rainbow Bridge National Monument, one of the world's largest known natural bridges. Another nearby attraction is Horseshoe Bend, a renowned scenic viewpoint offering an iconic view of the Colorado River's dramatic turn.

As the gateway to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Powell also serves as the starting point for more exploration opportunities in this rich, varied landscape.

Only a short detour from the route, the Grand Canyon in Arizona is a natural wonder that offers breathtaking vistas, incredible hiking trails, and white-water rafting.

Its unique geological colors and erosional forms, seen particularly from the South Rim, make it a premier destination for nature lovers and adventurers.

Bonus: The 1968 classic "Planet of the Apes" filmed its iconic ending scene on the shores of Lake Powell.

Opening hours: Open year-round.

Other things to know: Lake Powell is a favorite place for swimming, especially in summer when the water temperatures can often exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, it's important to note that Lake Powell and the Colorado River do not have lifeguards or specified swimming beaches.