Arizona Swimming Lakes

Arizona swimming lakes are all around the state. When we first moved to Arizona, way back actually, it was summertime. One of the first things we did was try to find out where we could swim. We figured there had to be some lakes for swimming in Arizona. And there were! We'll show you what we found, how that will be useful.

Remember that public Arizona swimming lakes do not staff life guards. Swimming is always at your own risk. So, use common sense, swim responsibly. 

A Park Ranger on horseback lassos a personal watercraft used by two young girls in a desert lakeA Park Ranger Assists Two Swimmers in an Arizona Lake

Arizona Swimming Lakes - National Forests

  • Canyon Lake - This swimming lake east of Phoenix Arizona was the first we discovered. The area wasn't as well developed then, as it is today. But we'd decided it could be our "ocean" of Arizona! The swimming area, with adjacent picnic tables & ramadas is called Acacia. Off Apache Trail, after crossing the 1st bridge, turn left. No drinking water. Vault toilets. Tonto National Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass Required.
  • Lake Mary - Upper Lake Mary is the larger lake, and has swimming capability. Coconino National Forest rangers state they don't "prohibit swimming in any of our bodies of water..." But they explain there aren't sandy beach areas, and so it's not ideal. People often swim here via water skiing or windsurfing.1
  • Apache Lake - Although not officially sanctioned by Tonto National Forest, a privately run marina resort on the lake has sandy beach areas. Lots of boating craft of all kinds compete with space at times, so be wary of that. Right now because of fire damage to Hwy. 88, only accessed from the North.
poster of a lake in Arizona
  • Prescott National Forest Arizona Swimming Lakes2 - As of August 2020, four area lakes were given the go-ahead for swimming. Requests were made by rangers: these lakes are "managed for multiple uses, including boating and fishing.  Practice good etiquette; give boaters and those fishing adequate space.  For your safety, make them aware of your presence and ask where they are heading or casting.  Be aware and alert of hazards, and avoid swimming where active fishing and boating is occurring." These lakes are:
  1. Lynx Lake - Largest forest lake, 55 acres. Stays pretty busy, especially summertime, weekends, holidays. With 12 tables, the North Shore picnic site has the best swimming access. Or around by the South Shore boat ramp or at the Marina boating area - but remember the ranger statement. This Recreation Area has two campgrounds.
  2. Granite Basin Lake - Small 5 acre lake, with picnic tables. Helpful for swimmers is only non-motorized boats allowed. Vault toilet, but no drinking water. $5 entry fee, but Free Wednesdays. From Williamson Valley Rd., Prescott, go NW on Iron Springs Rd. for 3 miles. Turn right on Granite Basin Rd. to arrive.
  3. Horsethief Basin Lakes - Bradshaw Ranger District's 3-1/2 acre lake near Crown King & Bumble Bee. Truly get-away-from-it-all! High-clearance vehicles recommended. Day use; non-motorized boats only. No drinking water or toilet. See Current Visiting Advisory> 
  4. Mingus Lake - Verde Ranger District's small lake with no boating. Nice views, one picnic table/ramada. $5 entry, free Wed. Vault toilet, no drinking water. From Prescott Valley, toward Jerome on Hwy. 89A, take Forest Road 104 at Summit Picnic Site. About 2 miles, look for lake on right.
  • Roosevelt Lake4 -  Within Arizona's borders, state's largest. Tonto Basin Ranger District. Take Hwy. 188N from Globe for 27 miles. Open all-year. Observe fall to winter “Closed to Entry” posted areas, for wildlife protection. 
    1. The forest doesn't publish authorized swimming areas. Many camping areas around the lakeshore are fine for swimming. The forest advises "No Wake" areas at coves by developed sites. They're ideal Roosevelt Arizona swimming lake spots. Of course it's advisable to read posted rules, and go by them.  
    2. Or call the Ranger Station: 602-225-5395
  • Bartlett Lake - There's no official Tonto National Forest swimming beach here. But an Outdoor Project contributor5 says sandy beaches are along one length. Any suitable area can be found for this Arizona swimming lake, at your own risk. Not easy access though, which is why you may encounter those au natural! From Carefree AZ, take Bartlett Dam Road of 14 miles of winding bumpiness.

Arizona Swimming Lakes - National Park Service

  • Lake Mohave - Several locations along this Arizona swimming lake formed by the Colorado River below Hoover Dam. Most areas have little shade.
  1. Willow Beach - A small sandy opening onshore, into the water where you may have rocky spots to navigate. Motorized boats aren't allowed in the area - just paddle-craft. Enjoy for views of the scenic Black Canyon. Travel 12 miles South of Hoover Dam on Hwy. 93, to Entrance on right, go 4 miles in. A campground is up the road, picnic tables nearby.
  2. Princess Cove - I-40 Exit 48 to Hwy. 93 North. Exit onto Hwy. 68 toward Laughlin/Bullhead City. Make right onto Davis Dam Rd., right onto Katherine Dr./Spur, right at Cabin Site Rd. bearing right at 1st fork. Make right at Princess Cove Rd., bear left at the next 2 forks, around the bend & left again at the fork. Follow Princess Cove Rd. to its end at the Picnic area & beach. Totals about 8 miles from Davis Dam Rd., though it sounds longer! A nice sandy beach & swim area. Picnic tables.
  3. Cabinsite Cove - Follow Princess Cove directions above, to Cabin Site Rd. at Princess Cove Rd. There instead make a left. Follow Princess Cove to its end. At forks:, bear right, then left twice. Last fork, either way is fine. Mostly sandy beach, but rocky swim area. No tables.
  4. North Arizona Telephone Cove - Follow Princess Cove directions above to Cabin Site Rd., bear right at fork. Make left onto Telephone Cove, bearing right onto Telephone Cove North. Follow to the end. Mostly sandy beach & swim area. No tables.
  5. South Arizona Telephone Cove - Follow the North Tele-Cove directions but bear left onto Telephone Cove South Road, all the way out. About 1/2 mile south of the North site. Sandy beach & swimming. Picnic tables.
  6. Katherine Beach - Sandy beach, no tables. But amenity rentals at the nearby marina area. Follow Princess Cove directions to Davis Dam Road. Make right on Katherine Access Road. Follow to the marina. Park near the picnic area.
  • Lake Powell - The NPS states7 there aren't any specifically tagged swimming areas within Lake Powell in Arizona, nor in Utah for that matter. They remind all when swimming you do so at your own risk. But recognizing people desire an Arizona swimming lake, and will go out and swim, they have following advisories (among others):
  1. Swimming NOT allowed at any marinas or any launch area, as these areas have potential deadly risks
  2. Cliff Jumping or Cliff Diving is illegal.
  3. Remember to never swim alone, to never allow a child to be unattended or overseen by another child around the water, and to get young children/inexperienced swimmers into US Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water
  4. When boating, be sure 1) no one starts engines when swimmers are overboard, and 2) the boat is secure when swimmers are in the water

Arizona Swimming Lakes in State Parks

Many Arizona State Parks have lakes for swimming. We've been to quite a few! In fact, after finding Canyon Lake, we realized the state park closest to our home had a nice swimming lake. That's where we've gone the most.

Always remember that AZ state parks don't provide life guards: Swim At Your Own Risk. Sometimes there's a sandy beach, sometimes not so much. You might want beach chairs with you. Plus it's helpful to wear water-shoes because lake bottoms can have rocky areas.3

Lake with roped off swimming area, hill in background, picnic table adjacent with a grill, trees alongside.Winter-time at Patagonia Lake Swimming & Picnic Area
  • Patagonia Lake - This was the closest to our house. When we found it, we said YES! Nice sandy beach in the Day Use area (caution: no dogs allowed on beach). Lots of shaded picnic tables/ramadas. Scenic lake with a huge arcing walking bridge. Fishing & boating (with restrictions) allowed, plus great campsites (some boat-in) & rental cabins. They have guided tours, boat tours, trails, & 3 stores. 11 miles West of the town of Patagonia, off Hwy. 82.
  • Lake Havasu SP - Swim all along the shore. But they suggest specific spots: several beautiful white sand beaches created just for that. For instance, Windsor Beach. The Colorado River created this Arizona swimming lake when Davis Dam enveloped its waters. It's got wonderful water activities, including fishing. Plus campsites, cabin rentals, trails, ranger programs, picnic areas with ramadas, visitor center/store. Even lighthouses! From Hwy. 95, in Lake Havasu City, take Industrial Blvd. West, crossing over London Bridge Rd. to enter park.
Palms and other trees along a lakeside, with a person looking it overRoper Lake Swimming Access
  • Roper Lake - Another of our favorites. Nice swimming area on a Day Use peninsula. Picnic tables, shade trees & ramadas. Grassy area. Depending on water level, may be a sandy beach or stairway into the lake. This State Park has campsites, cabins, trails, fishing, boating (electric & non-motorized only). 
  • Havasu Riviera - A park in the making. You can virtually travel there, by checking their Live-Stream Camera as they create this new Arizona swimming lake area.
  • Lyman Lake - The specific area here for swimming is between the park store & petroglyph trail. What's nice is that watercraft (boat motors have no restrictions) aren't allowed in the swimming area, so no worries there. But on the other hand, you're not allowed to swim from any other lakeshore areas. It's a huge 1500 acre lake with room for all. Campsites, cabins, trails, ranger & local programs here.
  • Cattail Cove - The day use area has a nice white sand beach designated for swimming in Lake Havasu. Other shoreline areas are also fine for swimming. Campsites for RVs, and boat-ins are available. Store & hiking trails are other facilities. Park entrance: Turn West off Hwy. 95, 15 miles South of Lake Havasu City. 928-855-1223
  • Fool Hollow Lake - No specific swimming area, it's kind-of rocky, water-shoes essential here. Also stay away from boat ramps, docks & the dam. Non-motorized & 10hp max boats only allowed, so swimmers won't worry about big boats. The park has campsites, trails, picnic area with ramadas, store/visitor center, amphitheater with ranger programs & summer watercraft rentals. Located in Apache-Sitgreaves NF in Show Low AZ. It's a 6300 ft. elevation pine forest environment. 
  • Alamo Lake - At this Sonoran Desert park, you're allowed in the water, but take precautions: no swimming near boat ramps, docks, or the dam. Find campsites & camping cabins & park store here. Boating & fishing are activities. To get there, take US 60 to Wenden, AZ. Watch for the Point-of-Interest sign. Take the 2-lane Open-Range road across railroad tracks for 33 miles, to park entrance.

Other Arizona Swimming Lakes

lake amidst desert hills covered with saguaro and other types of cactusWhich Arizona Swimming Lakes Have You Been to?
Which Arizona Swimming Lakes Have You Liked Best?
  • Lake Pleasant - In the Maricopa Regional Park of the same name. Address: 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd., Morristown, AZ. Very popular, just North of Phoenix. 
  1. Areas to swim are around picnic areas, campsites, Fireman's Cove, Coles Bay, and Humbug Cove. If you're boating, that's another way to get into the water for a swim. 
  2. As it's a reservoir, supplying desert city needs, lake water levels vary. That affects water temperature, depths, swim-site accessibility. 
  3. The park offers hiking trails, campsites, picnic areas, a marina, and a  water-cabin, houseboat-like rental. 602-506-2930X1.
  • Peña Blanca Lake - Northwest of Nogales, this more recently can be considered an Arizona swimming lake according to a This is Tucson writer6. Once contaminated with mercury from local mining, but dredging relieved the problem. No specific swimming areas, but carefully choose a place to go for it. As it is allowed. 
  1. Off I-19 take the Ruby Rd. exit. About 8 miles watch for right turn to the lake. 
  2. No water, has a picnic area, $8 Day Use Pass.
  • Saguaro Lake - Stewart Mountain Dam formed this wonderful lake just outside outside Phoenix proper. Three main swimming beaches. Exit 199 off N. Beeline Hwy. (87) onto N. Bush Hwy. Motorized watercraft aren't allowed in the bay in front of Butcher Jones and Saguaro del Norte Bays. Watercraft on the eastern side of Saguaro Lake are prohibited from creating wake & must observe buoys.8
  1. 1st choice is Butcher Jones: nice sandy beach, good parking area. Take the left turn onto Butcher Jones Beach Rd.
  2. 2nd choice is Saguaro del Norte: Lots of parking along the entrance road: left turn onto 206 or E. Forest Rd. 206A. A few spots with sandy areas, otherwise pretty rocky.
  3. 3rd Choice is Sadie's Beach: requires a little hike, & it's not very beachy! Water can be muddy here, too. But it's toward the East.

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