Best Lakes Near Phoenix

Phoenix is nicknamed the Valley of the Sun due to its proximity to the Salt River Valley and has grown significantly in the last 50 years making it one of the 5 largest cities in the country.

Warm year-round weather with numerous hiking, biking, and outdoor activities makes Phoenix a great place to live. One downside of Phoenix is its limited options of lakes and natural waterways.

I have lived in the Phoenix area for nearly 10 years and have discovered some nearby lakes within a short driving distance that can break up the monotony of living in a desert landscape.  of my

Top Lakes in Phoenix

Below is a list of my top choices of lakes if you need a change of scenery from the typical Phoenix landscapes:

1. Lake Pleasant


Lake Pleasant is a large lake located inside of Lake Pleasant National Park.

Due to the large amount of coves and underwater canyons, Lake Pleasant is known to have some of the best inland scuba diving in the western states.Lake Pleasant is ideal for water sports and activities. It’s also home to The World’s Largest Floating Water Slide!

Lake Pleasant offers so much to do from Moonlight Scorpion Hunting, camping, great fishing, water tubing, and water skiing. If you’d rather stay out of the water, you could go for a hike and enjoy the incredible views. End your night with one of the offered dinner cruises and enjoy some breathtaking nighttime desert stargazing.

2. Lake Bartlett


Lake Bartlett is located 20 minutes from Mesa, inside Tonto National Forest.

If you’re looking to fish, there have been several state record fish caught in Lake Bartlett – mostly due to the fish habitat improvement project (Fish City)! Views of beautiful mountains and Sororan plant life surround the lake for you to soak in.

The lake offers camping and spots for picnicking, as well as boating and water skiing. Lake Bartlett hosts multiple marinas, the biggest being Bartlett Lake Marina. Bartlett Lake Marina offers a 45 foot, two story party pontoon yacht for you and up to 19 of your friends to enjoy for the day, or you can snag a 40 foot Aqua Lodge houseboat with everything you could possibly need!

3. Tempe Town Lake


Tempe Town Lake is Arizona’s 2nd most visited public attraction, located right in the heart of the town of Tempe.

The lake was created with the purpose of protecting the town from flooding by damming off a dry 2 mile long section of the Salt River and adding water. Tempe Town Lake hosts multiple paths with beautiful scenery for walking, jogging or biking.


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It is a great place to take out a non-motorized boat. Tempe Town Lake has plenty to offer you and your family for the day,including Tempe Center for the Arts, the Town Lake Marina, multiple volleyball courts, a beach, and habitat areas. There are over 40 events held at Tempe Town Lake each year, making it a great place to plan a fun day out!

4. Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake is located in the Tonto State Forest. Saguaro Lake is known for being the oldest of the reservoirs built on the Salt River. The lake is named after the Saguaro cactus, which can be found standing stoically throughout the landscape. I recently took a steamboat tour of this lake and it was awesome!

Boating, kayaking, fishing, swimming, sailing, and water skiing are all enjoyed by locals and visitors. You may also set up camp for the night and enjoy the stars. Saguaro Lake Marina offers a full restaurant with picnic tables and restrooms.

The marina is also where you’ll find Butcher Jones Beach, which is great for swimming and family picnics.

5. Chaparral Lake

Chaparral Lake is located inside of Chaparral Park in Scottsdale, Arizona. Chaparral Lake is surrounded by a breathtaking landscape and vast wildlife, including a large variety of fish. Anglers enjoy a lot of good fishing and are able to enjoy many methods to catch the variety of fish.

Chaparral Lake does have enforced daily bag limits on how much fish you can take home. There is no swimming at Chaparral Lake itself, but there is a swimming pool inside Chaparral Park in a different area of the park. Chaparral Lake has a path around the lake popular for jogging or walking, mainly due to the incredible views surrounding the lake at all hours of the day.

There are no gas motor boats or inflatable floats, but boats of other kinds (such as paddle boats) may be used during daytime hours. Chaparral Lake is perfect for a relaxing day at the lake!

6. Encanto Lagoon

Encanto Lake (or Encanto Lagoon) is a large lake found inside of Encanto Park, located in Phoenix. Encanto Lagoon is a great place for fishing, bearing in mind their enforced daily bag limits, and is surrounded by tall trees and gorgeous greenery.

There is no swimming or boats allowed, but you can rent paddle boats at the lake or just take a walk and enjoy the sights. Aside from the lake itself, Encanto Park as a whole offers an amusement park, playgrounds, waterfalls and more for a fun day with the family.

7. Roosevelt Lake


Roosevelt Lake is a large, beautiful reservoir built on the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest. Roosevelt Lake is known as the oldest artificial reservoir in Arizona, and once held the title for largest man made lake  in the world.

Roosevelt Lake is a very popular stop for vacationers, due to the good fishing and warm water for swimming. You can take out your boat, enjoy the beaches, or set camp near one of the coves and watch the desert night sky. Roosevelt Lake has a general store and several marinas, so you can be sure to find what you need. Roosevelt Lake also has a wildlife refuge area where you can view vast local wildlife.

8. Horseshoe Reservoir

Horseshoe Reservoir is located on the Verde River inside of Tonto National Forest and is known for being the most remote and inaccessible lake in the area. The water level is controlled by the Horseshoe Dam and varies greatly due to municipal supply needs and the amount of rainfall.

Because of the drastically changing water levels, water sport activities are not typically allowed. Due to extended dry periods and low water levels, there isn’t a vast enough population of fish to attract anglers, although there are some fish to be caught. Boating is allowed at Horseshoe Reservoir while maintaining a safe speed limit, allowing boaters to keep their eyes out for dangers in lower water levels. Horseshoe Reservoir is, however, a great location for camping and hiking.

Final Word

One of the most surprising things about Arizona is the number of hidden lakes all within a short drive of Phoenix. Two of the other bigger cities, Flagstaff and Tucson, also have nearby lakes that you won’t necessarily run into unless you do your research. I typically like to spend a few days on the water each year and the above lakes took me a few years to discover over time.

Chaparral Lake and Encanto Lake are both great if you just want to spend an hour or two away, while Bartlett Lake and Saguaro Lake are my two favorite lakes for boating activities.