We camped here when we had a permit to fish at nearby Christmas Tree Lake. Christmas Tree Lake is a beautiful little lake nestled in the White Mountains of Arizona on Apache land. It boasts some amazing fishing for the native trout species- the Apache trout. The fish are stocked, so it may not be a true experience for some but most of the access to the native fish in their native habitat is restricted or non existent to protect these beautiful creatures. The lake offers paid access on a day to day basis. A total of 25 permits per day are offered to keep fishing pressure in check. But these permits are non refundable so don't reserve too early.
Permits and information can be found on the website but customer service can be difficult. Camping is available on a first come basis at Hawley Lake which also offers great fishing and beautiful scenery. Be aware that I did experience some free range cattle snooping through the camp at 2am which was a bit unexpected. Also, being in the mountains, it was pretty cold at night.
The area we camped in was open and the roads were well marked. Campsites were situated near fire rings with only the occasional picnic table. There were four pretty well maintained portable toilets near our camp as well. Be sure to review the rules and regulations on the website as some areas are off limits and to make sure you have all the proper permits for fishing and/or camping.(State and local licenses required for fishing)
Hawley Lake is the perfect escape when you want to get out of the heat. Pristine views, cool weather during the summer and clean facilities almost make you feel like your not in Arizona anymore. Campsites are first come first serve and both times we went in August and there were plenty of spots to chose from. Be sure to get your fishing license and permits in town, it’s a long drive into town from the lake. Bring rope to protect your campsite from wild horses and wandering cows. Overall one of favorite places to camp!
I remember camping at Hawley Lake all the time as a kid and it was one of my favorite places to be. After this trip back as an adult I noticed things have changed quite a bit. Do not get me wrong… it’s a beautiful lake with plenty of camping in a pine tree forest. However, there were some areas for improvement.
For starters, the roads are not marked very well. For example, you do not know how to get to the general store until you are almost to the general store. Generally, this does not bother me because I just turn on Google Maps and find whatever I need but there is intermittent cell service at best (with Verizon). Once in a while I’d catch a bar of 4G but most of the time was on “analog” or had no service at all. Along these lines, the campsites are not designated at all. Basically, you can just park and setup wherever you want. I felt like we were a bit encroached upon because of this.
There are bathroom buildings but all the ones I saw were closed. They then would have a few port-a-pottys sitting out in front of the building. The port-a-pottys weren’t well kept and were rarely stocked with toilet paper. There was trash everywhere! We walked to the ramadas by the lake and the fire pits were full of plastics and other garbage. There were constantly beer bottles left next to the port-a-pottys and randomly around camp and the lake. There was a bunch of stray garbage (including a very sharp sheared off tent pole) left in our campsite before we arrived.
The icing on the cake was the attitude of the fellow campers. There were generators running almost all night, loud music, and like I said earlier there was some weird lack of boundaries between sites.
So now that I have told you what I didn’t like about Hawley Lake let me tell you what I did like. The lake is very large and very beautiful. Most of the shoreline is easily accessible for fishing or lounging lakeside. Words for the wise you can not swim in this lake. There is a little boathouse that offers boat rentals if you would like to venture out into the water.
The weather is a wonderful escape from the valley. There is rain almost every day (varying between light afternoon showers and heavy storms). The camping fees are paid by the car and are very affordable ($9/night/car). If you plan to purchase your camping permits at the lake be sure to bring cash. The General Store does offer some essential items and has a small café with hotdog/hamburger type foods. There are cabins available for rent lakeside as well.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. On this trip, I tested The ICEMULE Pro X-Large. The ICEMULE Pro X-Large was bigger than I had expected. It makes total sense once you think about it because it holds 24 cans and ice but it still surprised me. When I was filling the cooler or trying to get those last few precious cans out of the bottom I have to stick my entire arm in all the way in up to my armpit.
The cooler is made of a very thick and durable flexible plastic type material (kind of like an above ground pool siding). It has been super rugged and did not get scratched or torn up when we have used it on a pool deck, thrown it in the truck bed (with the scratchy spray in liner), or when being toted around camp and to the lake. The cooler has an adjustable bungee cord on the front. At first, I was not sure what we were going to use that for and the more we take out the cooler I find the possibilities are endless. We have been using it to carry our silicone cups, extra sunscreen, a spare hat, etc.
The cooler has a fold top design with a buckle. I do not have any other bags that close this way so it was a bit odd to get used to and is a bit harder to do when it was full. When properly closed the cooler will float. I was shocked to find that even full of cold beverages and ice the cooler floated when I pushed it into the lake. This is a great feature if you want to use it for boating, kayaking, or tubing.
We have been using the cooler quite a bit and in a few varied conditions. One of the examples I will share is that we used it for a poolside BBQ in Arizona. We filled it with 30 cans and bottles and about a bag of ice (which is far more stuff and less ice than suggested). Our beverages stayed perfectly chilled in 100+ degree weather even though we were in and out of it constantly and after 8 hours, there was still ice in the bottom.
We have also used it without ice. We put in 12 cold drinks to start with and even without ice they were cool 3-4 hours later.
The last example I will share is that we put 3 bags of ice and 6 cans in to it. After 48 hours there was about 75% of the ice still left in the cooler!
If you do use it to its full capacity, I suggest that you fill it on an elevated surface. With 24 cans and 3 bags of ice, you will be looking at around 40 lbs of weight and when I tried to pick ours up from the ground it threw me off balance a little. After that, I would fill it on a picnic table or counter top and it was so much easier to just turn around and pick it up from carrying height. The straps on the bag are very padded and very comfortable even when it is full. There is a chest strap but no hip strap. If I could offer a suggestion to ICEMULE for improvement, it would be to add a hip strap to help carry the weight.
Some campsites were just recently upgraded with metal picnic tables.. Fishing was on point this Labor Day holiday ..
FYI- be sure to put food away nightly , the cows are no joke.. They get into everything !!!
This is probably the most beautiful campground I have been to so far. 80 degree days and 50 degree nights. Perfect for campfires under the blanket of millions of stars. The lake was amazing and quite beautiful. Fishing from our kayaks was a blast even had boat rentals available. Plenty of wildlife and cows for your viewing. Well worth the 4 1/2 hour drive from Mesa.