When most people think of Arizona, images of barren desert, scorching heat, and cactus probably flash before their eyes. What many people don’t know is that Arizona is home to many forested areas not too far from major cities, like Phoenix. One of these areas is the Mogollon Rim (pronounced Muggy-Own by locals and referred to as “The Rim” by most), which is part of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The Rim is a ridge in Arizona extending almost 200 miles with elevations between 4,000 and 8,000 feet and is home to a series of lakes that are commonly referred to as the Rim Lakes. The first and most frequented of the Rim Lakes is Woods Canyon Lake. Heading up to this high-country area covered in pine, fir, oak, ponderosa, and aspen trees is an ideal way to escape the summer desert heat and a perfect place to see the seasons change. Visitors have a handful of adventures to choose from including hiking, fishing, kayaking, and camping.
A moderate, 5-mile hiking trail loops the lake and is a great way to explore the area and view wildlife. The lake is also known for great trout fishing and is stocked during spring, summer, and fall seasons. Kayaks, SUPs, and electric powered boats are allowed on the lake, and all three options can conveniently be rented at the Lake Store and Marina if you don’t have your own. While adventuring, be sure to keep an eye out for bald eagles; Woods Canyon is home to a couple of very active and majestic bald eagles that are definitely better at catching trout than most of the fishermen who frequent the area! Woods Canyon Lake is part of the Arizona Bald Eagle Management Program, so some areas at or around the lake may be restricted during breeding season. Other wildlife that frequent the area include deer, elk, hawks, and even bears.
Woods Canyon Lake is the perfect place for a day or weekend trip for any outdoor adventurer. To enjoy the lake over a weekend, one can camp at the lake’s established campgrounds or follow the Rim Lakes dirt road to the backside of the lake for dispersed camping. After visiting Woods Canyon Lake, whether it be for a day or a weekend, you will certainly have a better understanding of the variety of landscapes Arizona has to offer!
Note: The Lake Store’s parking lot is free, but it fills quickly. Some of the overflow parking areas and other lots within the recreational area have fees up to $5, so come prepared with cash. Also, because of snow and harsh road conditions, access to the lake is restricted between November 15 and April 1 and is completely closed off for much of that time.