Greater Prescott’s lakes are a magnet for locals and visitors alike. But sometimes you may want to find someplace a little cooler and less crowded (with people, anyway).
Luckily it’s easy to find other forested gems in Arizona. Here we’ll tell you about one just outside Flagstaff, then four more reached via state Route 260 as it winds along the Mogollon Rim to the White Mountains, where there are many more to choose from.
The Lake Mary Recreation Corridor stretches across two skinny lakes 12 miles east of Flagstaff, just over two hours away from Prescott. Upper Lake Mary has no limits on boat motor size, so it’s a favorite of power boaters and water and jet skiers. Kayakers, canoers and paddle boarders are welcomed, too, and it’s stocked with walleye, trout and channel catfish for anglers.
It’s a great stop for bird and other wildlife watchers, hikers and mountain bikers. There are three campgrounds, all scheduled to close for the season on Oct. 11, along with the day-use areas. The lakes themselves are open year-round.
WOODS CANYON, WILLOW SPRINGS LAKES
These lakes are located 7 miles apart along the 260, about halfway between Payson and Heber. Both are regularly stocked with trout; with bass and catfish also found in Woods Canyon, the smaller of the two. Both are surrounded by ponderosas, fir and spruce, and Woods Canyon has a scenic canyon-bound setting.
A two-and-a-half-hour drive from Prescott, both are part of the Rim Lakes Recreation Area and have stunning vistas of the 200-mile Mogollon Rim above. Woods Canyon Lake has several campgrounds, while Willow Springs Lake is within walking distance of one.
If your ideal escape to the woods involves a cabin, check out Hawley Lake, southeast of McNary on White Mountain Apache tribal lands. It’s about four and a half hours from Prescott and offers 68 cabins owned and operated by the tribe’s Community Development Corporation to provide jobs and fund housing opportunities. There’s also a campground for RVs, trailers and tents.
The quality of the fishing in the 260-acre lake is excellent year-round, with ice fishing a great winter ritual for the truly dedicated. The surrounding White Mountain peaks and their reflections in the water draw boatloads of photographers, too.
It takes just over four and a half hours to reach this 575-acre lake south of Greer, and you’re rewarded with spectacular views, fine fishing and endless trails for hikers and mountain bikers. Boat and kayak rentals are available. There are nine campgrounds in the area; two accommodate RVs and two are dedicated entirely to tent camping.
Located in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in the White Mountains, this 9,000-feet-high lake is one of the best fishing lakes in the state with rainbow, cutthroat, Apache and brook trout, the most prized catches. It’s near several other lakes and both forks of the Black River.