A lake created primarily for recreational purposes by damming Chevelon Creek, Woods Canyon Lake offers myriad outdoor activities, from hiking and biking to fishing, camping and wildlife watching.
Woods Canyon Lake is one of seven lakes in the Rim Lakes Recreational Area on northeastern Arizona’s Mogollon Rim. Located roughly halfway between Phoenix and Petrified Forest National Park, it makes for a fun stop on any Arizona road trip. Surrounded by rocky aspen, oak, fir and ponderosa pine forests and grassy meadows, the area is home to abundant wildlife.
The lake is regularly stocked with rainbow trout during the summer season, drawing in avid anglers. Other fish species, such as brown trout and golden shiner, also abound in its water, while crayfish wander about its bottom. To many hikers’ delight, the Mogollon Rim offers amazing views, while star-dotted night skies put a spell on campers. Sitting at an elevation of about 7,000 feet, Woods Canyon Lake offers a cool getaway during Arizona’s hot summer months
Camping at Northern Arizona’s Woods Canyon Lake
There are several campgrounds near Woods Canyon Lake, from small and large to group campgrounds. Additionally, the lake’s marina has a full service grocery store, firewood and boat rentals. There are no showers available at any of the following campgrounds, though. You can find the nearest showers about ten miles away at the Canyon Point Campground. Telephones and gas are available in Forest Lakes.
The Aspen Campground at Woods Canyon has 148 spacious campsites, which are spread out along four loops running through woodlands and meadows. Twenty-seven sites are first-come, first-served, while the rest can be reserved in advance on Recreation.gov.
The Dyrt camper Laney S. appreciated the fact that “the lake is in walking distance with rentable boats and swimming.” She also mentions how the “perfect temperature” makes it possible to sleep outside. “The stars are magnificent here.”
Groups can set up camp at the Woods Canyon Group Campground, providing enough room for large groups of up to 100 people. This a primitive campground with only vault toilets and drinking water, but because of its convenient location from the water, you’ll be spending most of your time on the lake or in the woods anyway.
Another popular place for Woods Canyon Lake camping is the Spillway Campground, which according to The Dyrt camper Shaun S. is “the only campground on the shores of Woods Canyon Lake.” In addition to a group camping area that can accommodate up to 25 campers, there are 26 individual campsites, too. The sites are suitable for tents, trailers and small RVs with a maximum length of 16 feet. There is a campground host, fire rings, picnic tables, restrooms and drinking water.
Situated a bit further from Woods Canyon Lake, the Crook Campground is a large group campground. It consists of two cul-de-sac-style loops, each of which has room for up to 110 campers and 26 vehicles. Both RVs and tents are welcome at these group campsites, but know that pitching a tent in some areas may be challenging. In the middle of the group area is a picnic shelter.
A bit further from the lake, outside the Woods Canyon Recreational Area, lies Mogollon Campground, located near the Mogollon Rim. It’s a great base for hikes as well as sunrise and sunset watching from the rim.
The Dyrt camper Jenny M. says that “the beauty and majesty of the area” keeps them “coming back to the rim.” She goes on: “Hiking, fishing and spectacular stargazing are some of the many activities the rim has to offer.”
This campground is about two miles from Woods Canyon Lake, across from Forest Road 300. This campground has a total of 26 campsites—13 sites along two loops—that can accommodate tent campers, RVers and people towing trailers.
Things You Should Know About Woods Canyon Lake Camping
Wildlife Watching is Unavoidable
The region’s forests, swampy meadows and grasslands harbor a large number of animals. Deer, squirrels, skunks and elk are the most commonly seen animals, but raccoons and bears also frequent the area. The fish-rich water in the lake attract lots of birds, which in their turn draw in bird watchers. Wildlife photographers will have a field day at Woods Canyon Lake.
The Dyrt Camper Kaitlyn V. confirms this: “The wildlife is amazing here, great for photography.”
Summer Comes with Thunderstorms
While the high elevation results in pleasant summer temperatures, summer is also the rainy season in northeastern Arizona. Therefore, you should prepare for sometimes-heavy afternoon thunderstorms, which regularly happen from late-June through August.
Remember that the Mogollon Rim is the world’s second-most lightning struck area. If you see or hear a thunderstorm approaching, get off the rim and out of open areas as soon as possible.
Make sure to bring rain gear and, if you can, check the weather forecast on a regular basis while camping at Woods Canyon Lake. You don’t want to be on a boat on the lake or on the exposed rim during a thunderstorm!
The Woods Canyon Lake Store Has One of Northern Arizona’s Largest Ice Cream Selections
Along with groceries, firewood, camping gear, ice, beer and wine, and fishing bait and tackle, the Woods Canyon Lake Store also claims to have one of the largest ice cream selections in Northern Arizona. Especially after a hike on a warm summer’s day, this is a treat few campers will be able to resist.
The Campgrounds Close in Winter
Unfortunately, Woods Canyon Lake camping in winter is not possible. Due to the high elevation, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, in which the lake is located, receives quite a lot of snow in winter. Forest Service roads to the campgrounds and recreational areas are therefore closed from about late-November through March and, depending on snow cover, sometimes well into April.
There Are Great Hiking Trails in the Area
A few excellent hiking trails meander around the area, offering campers the opportunity to explore the ponderosa pine, oak and aspen forests. The 5.2-mile Woods Canyon Lake Trail loops around the entire lake, making for a pleasant nature walk suitable for most visitors.
Another highly recommended trail is the Rim Lake Vista Trail, also known as Trail 622, which runs past the Mogollon Campground. Meandering along the Mogollon Rim, it offers great panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes as well as trailside rock formations.
The Meadow Trail connects the Woods Canyon Lake Trail and the Rim Lake Vista Trail. Additionally, it also links together all five Woods Canyon Lake campgrounds mentioned above.
Woods Canyon Lake Camping Map