Canyon Lake
Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake

Free admission

The basics

Formed by the damming of the Salt River, 900-acre Canyon Lake is the smallest of the Salt River reservoirs. Its beauty is hardly pocket-sized, with the sandstone cliffs reflecting in the waters, deer and bighorn sheep wandering the sagebrush, and sunsets routinely in shades of orange and purple.

The buzz can be found in the Canyon Lake Marina & Campground—a swimming area, restaurant, two boat ramps, and 77 sites for tents, trailers, and RVs. Boat rentals are available onsite, too.

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Small Group Apache Trail Day Tour with Dolly Steamboat from Phoenix
Small Group Apache Trail Day Tour with Dolly Steamboat from Phoenix
$169.00 per adult
Traveler Favorite
Great tour!
Great trip. Loved the vibe in Tortilla Flat and the scenery from Dolly Steamboat was incredible. Stan was a great guide. Highly recommended.
David_H, Apr 2024

Things to know before you go

  • This is a popular spot on weekends and holidays—boating capacity is often reached before noon. Boaters should be prepared to be turned away or deal with delays.

  • A Tonto Daily Pass and Watercraft Sticker or Tonto Discovery Pass are required for boating access.

  • Certain portions of the lake are closed to motorized watercraft and water skiing; check the map before you venture out.

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How to get there

Phoenix and its environs (like Mesa, Tempe, and Scottsdale) are less than an hour from Canyon Lake. Most visitors will arrive in their personal vehicles, likely off exit #196 on U.S. 60, and turn north (left) on State Highway 88. Since it’s such a popular spot, expect a fair amount of traffic.

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When to get there

If you aim to boat at Canyon Lake, two words of advice: come early, especially on weekends and holidays. For any other activity, there’s no “bad” time to come, though know that summer can get quite toasty, especially around midday. Regardless of season, if you’re here to take advantage of the water, check water levels before planning your visit.

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Crowd-escaping tip #1

If you’ve got a boat, you’re going fast, and you want some nautical-themed seclusion, head toward the east end of the lake. Coincidentally, it’s also one of the most scenic sections—steep canyon walls limit the crowds and the noise here, putting you in smack-dab in the middle of a narrow, red-rock wonderland.

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Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What are the nearest attractions to Canyon Lake?