San Carlos Lake

Visit one of Arizona’s largest lakes that lies entirely within the borders of Arizona – San Carlos Lake on the San Carlos Apache Tribal Lands. Enjoy fishing, boating, and hunting.

With 158 miles of shoreline, San Carlos Lake is one of the largest lakes in Arizona when it’s full – averaging 19,500 acre-feet of water in a good season! One of eight lakes with desert surroundings, you’ll find deep blue waters framed by gaunt, rocky, cactus-speckled mountains – in this case, the foothills of the Gila and Mescal mountain ranges. Make a point of visiting this aquatic oasis.

History & Nature

Formed by Coolidge Dam, San Carlos Lake lies within the 3,000-square-miles of the San Carlos Apache Indian tribal lands, located approximately 125 miles east of Phoenix near US 70. It’s one of the larger reservations in the state (after the Navajo reservation) and is subject to tribal regulations – a permit is required for all hiking, fishing, camping, and off-highway driving.

This region of Arizona is fortunate to have an abundance of natural wonders, especially wildlife. Elk, bighorn sheep, javelina, antelope, and migratory birds are all spotted regularly, and the natural beauty of the lake will be a scenic backdrop for your visit.

Things To Do

Fishing is a major activity on the lake. A tackle shop on the shoreline ensures that you’re well-supplied with all of your fishing needs. The lake holds the state record for largemouth bass, black crappie, and flathead catfish – cast a line see if you can break the record! Nearby Talkalai Lake also has excellent fishing, as well as Seneca Lake which is managed as both a warm-water and cool-water fishery.

Looking for something to get your heart pumping? The nearby Salt River provides the chance to try whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing, so you’re sure to stay busy. Guide service is required.

Hotels, Lodging & Camping

Panoramic high desert mountain vistas surround the Apache Gold Resort Hotel, on Highway 70, a AAA-3 Diamond rated 145-room hotel adjacent to the Apache Gold Casino. Next to the hotel is the Apache Gold RV Park, the 60-space RV park has full hookups. Enjoy an ideal southwestern desert climate that is cooler than nearby Phoenix and Tucson in the summer and offers mild desert winters.

Hours & Pricing

For hours, please visit the website.


  • $10/day includes camping, picnicking, hiking, and permit to venture onto back roads
  • Permits are required for fishing, hunting, or special-use.

Check for latest permit costs, at the Recreation & Wildlife Department in San Carlos.

For More Information

San Carlos Recreation and Wildlife Department
PO Box 97
San Carlos, AZ 85550
(928) 475-2343

Visit Destination Website

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