Lakes

10 Best Lakes Near Payson

Payson, Arizona, is a beautiful town in the heart of the Tonto National Forest and is known for its picturesque scenery, outdoor activities, and friendly community. Payson is only a short drive from Phoenix (about a 1-hour drive) but has a totally different landscape.One of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty of Payson is by visiting one of the many nearby lakes. .

Top Lakes Near Payson

Let’s take a look at the top options all within a short drive of Payson below:

1.Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery

Activities:

  • Picnicking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Visitor Center
  • Self Guided Tour

The Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery is a great spot for picnicking and is about 15-20 minutes away from Payson. There is a show pond where you can feed the fish but fishing at the hatchery is currently closed. They produce over 50,000 lbs of trout at the Tonto Creek hatchery, and there are full-time employees on-site and a visitor center.

The hatchery also has picnic tables and BBQ grills available for visitors, making it a perfect spot for a reunion or a place to hang out with friends.

2.Woods Canyon Lake

Activities:

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Mogollin Rim Viewing
  • Wildlife Watching
  • Camping

Woods Canyon Lake is a popular camping, fishing, and boating destination as well. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, Apache trout, and brown trout, making it a great spot for nearby fishing.

The lake also has a small boat ramp and a small marina, making it a great spot for boating. Visitors can also enjoy many nearby hiking trails surrounding the lake.

3. Chevelon Canyon Lake

Activities:

  • Hiking 
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Cabins

Chevelon Canyon Lake is a remote and secluded lake that is known for its excellent fishing, with rainbow trout and brook trout being the most common species found in the lake. 

There are options to tent camp or picnic and is a great lake if you are looking for some fishing with nice recreational space to explore or play games in.

4. Black Canyon Lake

Activities:

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Picnicking

Black Canyon Lake is a remote, secluded, forested lake in the Coconino National Forest. The pines provide excellent shade throughout the exterior of the lake and makes for a great place to spend the day on the water.

One of my favorite things about Payson is the plethora of options for hiking, camping and fishing all within the same area and Black Canyon Lake is a great place to spend a day if you want to get out on the water.

5. Knoll Lake

Activities:

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Hiking
  • Sightseeing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Photography

Knoll Lake is another secluded forest lake that provides breathtaking views of the pines and is near Happy Jack, AZ. The roads to Knoll Lake are often closed in the wintertime due to cold weather, so keep Knoll Lake is mind for warm weather excursions.

The lake even has a small island in the middle of it which makes for a great place to bring a canoe or boat, with its waters stocked with rainbow trout by the Arizona Gaming and Fish Department.

6. Blue Ridge Reservoir

Activities:

  • Fishing
  • Nature Viewing
  • Water Activities

Blue Ridge Reservoir is a man-made lake located in the Tonto National Forest that is also within a short drive of Payson

The reservoir was made in the early 1930s by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as part of the Salt River Project, an effort to bring water to the Phoenix area. The reservoir is fed by the Blue Ridge Creek, and is a popular destination camping and fishing.

The reservoir is home to various fish species like bass and catfish. Anglers can try to catch these fish from the shore or rent a small boat from the marina. 

7. Green Valley Lake

Activities:

  • Boating
  • Playground
  • Walking Trails
  • Fishing Docks

The lake is fed by nearby Green Valley Creek, which provides crystal-clear and cool water.

Fishing is a popular activity at Green Valley Lake, the lake is stocked with rainbow trout, Apache trout, and brown trout, making it a great spot for anglers of all skill levels. The lake also has a small marina that rents out fishing boats and equipment for visitors.

8. Fossil Creek

Activities:

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horse Riding
  • Nature Viewing 
  • Water Activities

Fossil Creek in Arizona is a beautiful and unique destination that offers a variety of outdoor activities. The creek itself is crystal clear and provides excellent swimming, fishing, and tubing opportunities. 

The surrounding wilderness is also excellent for hiking, with well-maintained trails that lead to waterfalls and other beautiful scenery. 

The area is also home to a diverse array of wildlife, including deer, elk, and a variety of birds. Overall, Fossil Creek is a awesome destination for anyone looking for a peaceful and scenic outdoor getaway.

9.Roosevelt Lake

Activities:

  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking
  • Water Activities

Roosevelt Lake in Arizona is lake that is a little further of a drive but is well worth it if you are looking for a larger lake. There are various species that use the lake during the wintertime that migrate there like Canadian Geese and Raptors for bird enthusiasts out there.

This lake is also an awesome place to camp, with numerous stretches throughout the large lake to get plenty of privacy and space to yourself right on the water.

10.Apache Lake

Activities:

  • Fishing
  • Beautiful scenery
  • Picknicking
  • Secluded shorelines for camping

Apache Lake is a hidden gem in northern Arizona that is well worth the drive. There is various wildlife like big horn sheep on the cliff walls and is great for bird enthusiasts as well.

The lake itself is formed by the Horse Mesa dam that is downstream of the Theodore Roosevelt river. There is a large marina, rv park, lodge, and mechanic shop. If camping isnt your thing there is rooms at the lodge for as little as $100 a night!

Final Word

Many people drive through Payson as they travel to Phoenix or Flagstaff from other places or as they head east, but many don’t realize Payson is a great place to stop for a couple of days to enjoy the beautiful scenery and nearby lakes. 

While the winter months bring occasional snow, the spring to late fall are great times to hit the water in Payson and we hope the list above gives you some great ideas!