Aspen Campground is a scenic hideaway for anglers, boaters, families and photographers, located in north central Arizona near Heber and Payson. It sits in a dense pine and aspen area forest near the shore of Woods Canyon Lake at an elevation of 7,000 ft. With spacious campsites, calm and scenic lake waters, a marina, boat ramp and many amenities, Aspen is one of the most popular camping spots in Arizona.
The large and rambling campground offers several camping experiences and environments from marshy meadows to a rocky forest. Wildlife viewing includes birds, squirrels, deer and elk. Deer, skunks and bears are common campground visitors.
Summer temperatures can be very pleasant because of the elevation. However, the rainy season often brings afternoon thunderstorms from late June through August. Visitors should come prepared for rain and cool nighttime temperatures.
Popular activities include trout fishing, hiking, boating and photography. Woods Canyon Lake is one of seven lakes in the Rim Lakes Recreation Area, and one of the most visited. Two other lakes are within a short drive. Woods Canyon Lake only allows electric boat motors.
An easy hiking trail meanders around the lake, and the campgrounds paved roads make for great bike rides. Families might also enjoy attending educational programs given by Forest Service rangers on the weekends.
Aspen Campground is a large facility with 148 campsites. It is composed of four loops in alternating meadow and wooded areas, and campsites are spaced well apart from each other.
The nearest showers are 10 miles away at Canyon Point Campground.
A marina with a full service store with groceries, boat rentals and firewood is available at the lake. Gas, phone and groceries are also available in nearby Forest Lakes.
Visitors can explore endless vistas and take part in many outdoor activities in the surrounding Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, which encompasses 2 million acres of magnificent mountain country in east-central Arizona and New Mexico.
The nearest towns are Heber and Payson.
Picnicking: Picnic Tables
July 29 - August 4, 2019. Site # 131. 131 is a pretty open site as it sits next to Aspen Meadow. There is a movie screen or projector in the meadow where they show movies on Saturday nights (weather permitting) and they also hold Junior Ranger programs there. A previous camper roped up a swing between the campsite and the meadow, which was great for the kids. The campground itself is huge as it holds over 140 sites. Some sites are more open than others and it’s easy to find the best ones for next time by driving through the grounds. There are plenty of Pines as the elevation is upwards about 7,500 feet. Mon -Thu was pretty quiet and felt more of a open, or private camping experience, while Friday and Saturday nights the campground was completely full and thus made the sites more congested. Still, the ground seemed capable of catering to everybody. This seems to be the case as the Aspen Campground is just a short walk to Woods Canyon Lake, where there is a general store, fishing, boating etc. Next time we come back, we are bringing kayaks or something to get out on the water.
I’ve been to this area a lot of times as a kid and decided to take my kid up here. It still a great area. Its quiet and very clean. The bathrooms are cleaned daily and are very nice. The host were very friendly also. Will come back again
The area near Woods Canyon Lake has multiple campgrounds and is a very popular summer getaway because of the cooler weather, lake access, beautiful views, and hiking trails. Because of this, the campgrounds are usually full on the weekends and I highly suggest reservations on recreation.gov. Aspen in particular has 148 campsites of which only 27 are first come first served. The closer sites in Aspen are about half a mile walk from the boat dock and store while the farthest are around a mile walk. There is parking at the lake but it is always packed so plan to walk or use the overflow parking lot, which is about a quarter mile away. The roads and the driveways are paved which makes parking, driving, and walking through the campground very easy.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that even with 148 sites most of them had a decent amount of space in between. We camped with friends and reserved two spaces hoping to have some space for the kids to play without disturbing the neighbors and we could have easily only reserved one. We found very little trash on the ground from the previous occupants and the sites seemed to have fairly level clearings for tents. Each site had a metal fire pit with a fold over adjustable grill grate. There was also a standalone BBQ and a picnic table. Most of the driveways were surrounded by large boulders so depending on the length of your RV or trailer you should pay attention to the length of the driveway when you make reservations as you may not have room to hang over the end or bring an extra vehicle.
There were bathroom buildings and water faucets throughout the facility and there was hardly ever a line. The bathrooms have both a men’s and women’s side and were always stocked with toilet paper and relatively clean. Aspen has a weird design and there is only one single lane to exit the campground. This is also where the dumpsters are located so on our way out on Sunday morning there was a line of cars parked in the road blocking traffic while they threw out their trash.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. On this trip, I tested the Matador Beast28 Packable Technical Backpack. Matador has put some nice features on the backpack but has left a few things to be improved on. I am going to start with some of the pros:
- Lightweight – This backpack weighs 1.14lbs which is very light! The material is very thin but seems to be resistant to wear and tear. They have also cut the weight and bulk by making the straps out of a lightweight breathable mesh.
- Pockets – The backpack has a lid pocket and a bottom pocket can hold some of your favorite small items to keep them from getting lost in main area. The bottom pocket claims to be a storage space for the compression sack but I have been using it for a beanie or other small items. There is a front stash pocket with expandable compression straps and two smaller side pockets.
- Daisy Chains – When space is at a premium, it is nice to be able to clip some extra gear on the outside of the pack. I have been using a carabineer to hang the compression sack from the daisy chains giving me a little extra storage space. There are two gear loops towards the top of the backpack that work perfect for hanging a solar panel when you are out. This is where the expandable compression straps come in handy. They hold some of the weight of the gear you loop on the daisy chains and keep the extra pressure off the zipper.
- Main Compartment Access – The main storage area on the backpack has a clamshell design so it opens down both sides and the top giving you easy access to the entire compartment.
- Hydration Compatible – I am a big fan of being able to carry a hydration bladder instead of just water bottles that tend to sweat all over everything. The backpack has easy to use generic clips that should allow you to use any brand bladder without issues.
- Compression Sack – So many times, you buy something with a compression bag and you cannot ever get it back in. This backpack actually rolls down really well and can be put back in the back for easy travel or storage. The sack also double as extra storage space when hung from the daisy chains on the front.
With all that being said here are some areas I think Matador could have improved the Beast28:
- Pockets – The side pockets on the backpack are great for smaller items like a map or a cell phone but are very small and won’t hold a water bottle any larger than a disposable plastic bottle (even then it was a tight fit). They have a bit of stretch to them but not a lot. The other pocket that I felt could be improved is the external stash on the front. The pocket is not stretchy at all and that seems to limit it to a small book, map, or GPS.
- Compression Straps – The compression straps go more to the side than to the top so it’s a little awkward to try to roll up a jacket or blanket to put in that area. I have done it but it would have made more sense to put them closer to the top. Especially since they are already kind of the way when you want to try to access the main storage area. In addition, if you choose not to utilize that area or the daisy chains then they do not serve much functional purpose but cannot be left undone otherwise you have extra material loose and swinging around.
- Capacity Rating – I am not sure if this backpack is too small or my other backpack is too big but my other pack is rated at 18 liters and hold easily 1.3 times what the Beast28 (with a 28 liter capacity) holds.
Overall, I am happy with the Beast28. It is working well as a more capable day pack than what I have been using and allows me to carry a full hydration bladder, lunch, snacks, and a few layers of clothing for the varying weather conditions. It is super light and compresses down so it’s easy to throw in my bag for longer trips but still capable of being used for more technical outings. I have highlighted a few things that I think Matador could improve on but none of them are notable enough to keep me away from using this as my primary day pack moving forward.
Great getaway for those from the valley. The lake is in walking distance with rentable boats and swimming. The site was a drive up, with a table and pit. You can make reservations ahead and we picked a spot away from others so it was super quiet. Perfect temperature to sleep outside or in the tent. Stars are magnificent here.
This is a very nice forest camp. Sites are great, semi private. Lake is beautiful, store available.
Deep on the 300rd you'll find campsites that haven't been used in years. We found the perfect on right on the cliff of the mogollon rim.
Lots of campsites water and trailer dumpsite available! The trout fishing here is top notch. The lake is stocked during the summer almost everyweek but the hold overs in the spring can get pretty huge!
Woods canyon lake offers beautiful trails for hikers of all levels.
I spent a weekend here in late September. The site was clean, had a nice fire ring, grill and picnic table. There were plenty of trees to hang your hammock on. The hosts were nice and helpful. Bathrooms were well maintained and drinking water was nearby. The best part is the wildlife; birds, squirrels and elk coming through my campsite made my weekend!
Love that it's close!