Lists | 6 Best Phoenix Lakes to Beat the Heat

Photo Cred: John Fowler

Photo Cred: John Fowler

Listen, Phoenix is an awesome place to call home but if you are going to stay sane during the summer months you have to find a way to escape the heat.  Thank goodness we have lakes surrounding the valley of the sun!  So instead of cranking up the A/C and lying in your underwear all day take a trip to one of these 6 valley lakes and enjoy some fresh air, cooling waters, and unlimited outdoor recreation.  The best part is these lakes are closer to home than you might think!

Lake Pleasant

Lake Pleasant is the biggest lake in the Phoenix area covering over 116 miles of shoreline and over 10,000 acres of water surface! This lake is open 365 days a year and is a very popular spot for fishing, camping, boating, and all sorts of outdoor recreation.
Although the lake is well known for it's younger crowds on holiday weekends, Lake Pleasant is a family friendly lake. There is plenty of room on this lake to fish, kayak, water ski, or relax on the houseboat. The lake is also home to bobcat, bald eagles, and famous wild burros so bring your binoculars and keep your eyes open!
The lake has a large parking lot that supports 700 vehicles as well as 2 boat ramps (Scorpion Bay and Pleasant Harbor). Don't have a boat? Don't worry, Lake Pleasant has plenty of picnic and hiking trails for just about everyone to enjoy.


  • Time: 40 miles from downtown Phoenix
  • Website: Canyon Lake
  • Area Map: Map

Canyon Lake is one of the four man-made lakes on the Salt River and although the smallest it may be the most scenic. This magical lake winds through coves and massive rock cliffs. Big horned sheep, raccoon, deer, and many other desert animals depend on this lake for life. Canyon lake offers more than just scenery too. This lake is perfect for cruising, water skiing, fishing, kayaking the canyon coves, or just hanging out at one of the recreational beaches. Also, if you are looking to get out and hike we suggest the beautiful Boulder Canyon Trail which offers incredible views of the lake and inner depths of the rugged Superstitions.
What's more is that Canyon lake is the beginning of the Apache Trail Scenic Drive (one of our favorite roads).
Check out this video for an overview of Canyon Lake

Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake is the first (or last) of the four man-made lakes on the Salt River. This lake is accessible from the scenic Bush Highway and is just East of the popular Usery Mountain Regional Park. Properly named, this desert lake is lined with majestic Saguaros. If you like picturesque views, fishing, kayaking, camping, boating, or all of the above then this lake is for you.
The lake is split into two main parts; upper and lower Saguaro Lake. The lower portion is bigger and has more open water surfaces while the upper end of the lake offers canyons, coves, and boat access only camping spots. If you are looking to just relax and take in the weather we suggest one of the main recreation areas like Saguaro Del Norte Recreation Area or Butcher Jones Beach. Whatever it is you are looking for this lake offers it!

Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake, named after our U.S. President, was at one time the world's largest man-made lake. Now, at 21,000 water surface acres and a shoreline of 128 miles, this monster lake ranks third in Arizona behind Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Roosevelt Lake also sits at the northern most part of the Apache Trail Scenic Drive and is quite a treat to end your drive at the concrete dam and bridge.

Not only is Roosevelt known for it's trophy Large-Mouth Bass but it is also a popular water skiing and boating area. The lake has several marinas, campsites, and recreation areas which can be found here on their website.
If you are visiting the area we also suggest you take a quick detour to the Tonto National Monument to get a great history lesson of those who lived and used these waters before us.

Tempe Town Lake

Although really an urban lake, Tempe Town Lake lies on traditional banks of normally dry Salt River. This lake is in the centerpiece of the remarkable and beautiful downtown Mill Ave. district. The lake has just about any and every recreational activity available. Also, many festivals, concerts, and holiday celebrations are centered around this architectural masterpiece.
If you plan a trip to the lake we also recommend visiting the nearly 2,000 acre Papago Park, and the Desert Botanical Gardens for two more outdoor adventures.

Bartlett Lake

Bartlett Lake is known for it's beautiful desert landscape and great fishing.  This area is also home to some of the best wildflower viewings in the state.  Bartlett Lake is the 2nd largest of the valley lakes just behind Lake Pleasant.  The lake also hosts sandy beaches on one end and mountains on the other.  Fed by the Verde River and set in place by the Bartlett Dam, this lake is a fan favorite to desert dwellers.

Bartlett lake invites all to come to it's waters to enjoy camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, or simply just to take in the views.

* Please remember to hike at your own risk. To learn more please refer to our Hiking Disclaimer