Canyon Lake

Outdoor adventurers enjoy this surprising oasis 45 minutes east of Phoenix.

Visitors looking for a splashy retreat in central Arizona choose from four lakes created along the Salt River. Canyon Lake is one of those recreation reservoirs, treating anglers and boaters to nearly 30 miles of shoreline. Like many outdoor attractions in Arizona, getting there is part of the adventure. On the scenic drive to Canyon Lake, wind through rocky desert landscapes that witnessed much of Arizona’s mining heyday. When the lake comes into view, hold on for another desert wonder: two one-lane bridges suspended over the water.

Canyon Lake
Canyon Lake. Credit: @mikefryeoutside.

Water Activities

Head to this remote area for fishing, boating and waterskiing surrounded by steep, red-rock canyon walls. Visitors can bring their own toys or gear up at Canyon Lake Marina, which rents pontoon boats, canoes and kayaks plus waterskiing and fishing equipment. Secret coves on the east end of the lake are popular with non-motorized watercraft. Many visitors make the drive in the afternoon to embark on one of the longest running water activities in the state. The Dolly Steamboat dinner cruises on Canyon Lake have given visitors a unique perspective of Arizona’s natural beauty for nearly 100 years.


Shoreline picnic areas attract visitors who are content with scenic views of the water and red-rock canyon walls. To explore the dramatic landscapes, hikers enjoy scenic trails that hug the shoreline. The Boulder Canyon Trailhead leads to multiple routes ranging from low-key strolls to multi-day backpacking trips that loop 30 miles into the surrounding wilderness. Hikers can add Lost Dutchman State Park to the agenda. Located off Highway 88 on the way to Canyon Lake, the gateway to the Supes features many of Arizona’s most astonishing hikes. Area wildlife frequent the area, too. Be on the lookout for bighorn sheep, javelina, deer and curiously plump hawks and vultures.

Area Attractions

State Route 88 follows the historic Apache Trail and leads to many iconic attractions in the craggy canyons of Tonto National Forest. Get the colorful backstory on Arizona mining at Tortilla Flat, a former stagecoach stop that once served a burly bunch of miners and cowboys. Today the town has a throw-back saloon, mercantile and a tiny museum in a one-room schoolhouse. At Goldfield Ghost Town, tour a former mine and visit shops and restaurants that hang onto Arizona’s Wild West roots.

For More Information

Tonto National Forest Mesa Ranger Station
5140 East Ingram Street
Mesa, AZ 85205
(480) 610-3300

Visit Destination Website

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