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11 Amazing Recreational Lakes near Show Low, AZ

Sitting on Mogollon Rim, Show Low offers stunning mountain lakes and reservoirs. Most of the options are excellent for fishing and kayaking, but you'll have to travel further for wakeboarding and skiing.
ItIsWild.com - Best Recreational Lakes near Show Low, AZ

Surrounded by the White Mountains, Show Low offers stunning terrain with fantastic lakes and reservoirs.

Some of the options here, like Rainbow Lake and Show Low Lake, are excellent fishing spots. Others, like Woodland Lake, are great for families and picnics.

Concho Lake is best for snowbirds, and Lyman Lake is an incredible all-round spot with waterskiing and wakeboarding.

It’s a nice selection of lakes that covers pretty much every activity imaginable. Renting an RV and exploring these gems is the best thing you can do here.

Also, check out the Greer area. It offers some of the best lakes in the White Mountains.

Lakes near Show Low Arizona Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Fool Hollow Lake

Fool Hollow Lake in Show Low Arizona
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Fool Hollow Lake
  • Distance from Show Low: 4 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs

Fool Hollow Lake is a 150-acre reservoir just outside Show Low. It’s a well-known local spot and a highly-rated recreational destination.

What makes this lake special is its well-developed facilities run by the state parks system. Here you will find RV sites with hookups, restrooms, showers, and tent sites by the water.

But it’s not all about camping; there are plenty of other activities. For example, swimming is allowed at Fool Hollow Lake, although there are no designated swimming areas. Prepare for a rocky and refreshing (cold) experience; after all, this is a mountain lake.

Kayaking and canoeing are very popular at Fool Hollow Lake, too. It’s big enough for exploring, yet it feels cozy and unintimidating. The park offers rentals in summer, so it’s great for beginners, too.

When it comes to fishing, Fool Hollow Lake is pretty good but not exceptional. The nice thing about it is the variety of species. You can catch various bass, catfish, trout, as well as crappie, walleye, pike, and many more. Still, most anglers target largemouth and smallmouth bass and rainbow trout. The latter is stocked here from April to September.

Overall, it’s a fantastic spot with charming surroundings and plenty of things to do. If you’re renting an RV and looking for more than just camping, it’s an excellent choice.

Related: 12 Superb Lakes near Payson, AZ

2. Show Low Lake

Show Low Lake in Show Low Arizona
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Show Low Lake
  • Distance from Show Low: 6 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs

Show Low Lake is another fantastic option near the city. It’s 100 acres in size and offers excellent kayaking and fishing.

Unlike Fool Hollow Lake, this destination is part of a city, so it doesn’t require day-use fees. Still, it has camping and rental facilities, so making multi-day trips and staying overnight is possible, too.

On summer weekends, this place is buzzing with activity. It’s a popular swimming spot and an exciting lake to paddle around.

However, where Show Low Lake stands out is fishing. The bank access is good, and thanks to a paved launching ramp, you can also fish from a kayak or a boat.  

Also, the lake is responsible for the current walleye state record, 16lb 2oz. Plus, it is stocked with rainbow trout between April and September, which many anglers target. 

In short, it’s an excellent all-round option with plenty of activities and a lovely setting. 

Related: 11 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Flagstaff, AZ

3. Scott Reservoir

Scott Reservoir in Show Low Arizona
Source: depositphoto
  • Official Page: Scott Reservoir
  • Distance from Show Low: 8 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs

Scott Reservoir is a small 80-acre lake south of Show Low. It has free camping and plenty of hiking trails, but unfortunately, the water level is volatile here. 

Depending on the conditions, the reservoir can be a fun and charming spot or a dry marshy puddle.

If you’re lucky to visit when it’s full, you can enjoy kayaking, boating, and fishing. But when it comes to swimming, Scott Reservoir isn’t the best due to the muddy water.

When it’s dry, it’s a nice area for free camping; the limit is 14 days here. Also, it offers plenty of hiking options, including a popular Ice Cave trail.

Indeed, it’s not the best reservoir on the list, but if you’re looking for a quiet spot away from everyone else, this might be it.

Related: 15 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Greer, AZ

4. Rainbow Lake

Rainbow Lake in Pinetop Lakeside Arizona
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Rainbow Lake
  • Distance from Show Low: 8 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing

Rainbow Lake is a 116-acre reservoir in Lakeside. It’s an urban lake that is best suited for boating and lakeside cabin rentals.

Out of all the locations on the list, Rainbow Lake is the most urban. Most of the shoreline is privately owned, with the exception of a small parcel of land that provides public access. It has a boat ramp and parking, but that’s really it.

Although there are no campgrounds by the lake, you can rent cabins and lodges here. The selection is pretty good. 

Another advantage of an urban destination is that you can rent boats. Rainbow Lake Resort offers pedal boats, aqua cycles, pontoon boats, and more.

When it comes to fishing, it’s terrific here. AZGFD stocks the reservoir with rainbow trout monthly from April until September. Also, you can catch yellow bullhead, channel and flathead catfish, largemouth bass, and many more species. It has a diverse selection.

Yet, the difficulty for anglers is the access. The public spot provides limited bank space, so the best fishing is done from the boat or a kayak.

Another issue with the lake is that it’s sensitive to droughts. The water levels tend to fluctuate here, although not as much as at Scott Reservoir.

If you’re looking for a more developed spot with excellent cabins, this is the best option. But wilderness fans will find it too cramped. 

Related: 12 Superb Lakes near Payson, AZ

5. Woodland Lake

Woodland Lake in Pinetop Lakeside Arizona
Source: depositphoto
  • Official Page: Woodland Lake
  • Distance from Show Low: 12 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Picnics, Hiking, Sports Fields

Woodland Lake is 18 acres in size. It’s another urban option in Pinetop-Lakeside, but it’s much more visitor-friendly than Rainbow Lake.

Despite its modest size, the reservoir offers plenty of outdoor activities. It’s part of a day-use park with playgrounds, softball fields, volleyball and tennis courts, and plenty of benches and ramadas for picnics.

The lake itself has a boat ramp suitable for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and boating. Also, it’s a decent fishing spot that is stocked with rainbow trout. 

The park has a paved walking trail that loops the lake. It’s an easy 1.1-mile path. Plus, there is access to the White Mountain Trail System if the loop is too short for you.

Woodland Lake is a day-use area. It’s great for family outings, dog-walking, and picnics, but not for camping. There are a couple of RV parks in town, so multi-day trips are possible.

Related: 11 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Flagstaff, AZ

6. Concho Lake

Concho Lake in Concho Arizona
Source: wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Official Page: none
  • Distance from Show Low: 28 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Birding

Concho Lake is a 60-acre lake easily accessible from Route 61. It’s a tranquil destination best known for camping and undisturbed wildlife.

The biggest drawback here is fluctuating water levels. Concho Lake is used for irrigation, so usually, by mid-summer, it’s already too low for boating or fishing.

If you are lucky to visit when the lake is full, you can enjoy boating, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. During drought-free years, AZGFD stocks the lake with trout, so keep an eye on the stocking schedule, too.

This destination attracts wildlife enthusiasts who are keen to spot rare species. Many birds visit the lake during migration, and the area is known for its wonderful dragonflies.

Still, the main reason folks visit this area is free camping. You can stay for up to 7 days, and because of its elevation, it’s an excellent spot to escape summer’s heat. But there are no facilities whatsoever. Treat it as a boondocking spot.

Related: 15 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Greer, AZ

7. Lyman Lake

Lyman Lake State Park Reservoir in Arizona
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Lyman Lake
  • Distance from Show Low: 56 miles (1h)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, RVs, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

Lyman Lake is a 1,500-acre reservoir between Springerville and St Johns. With tons of activities and a superb state park, it’s probably the best lake destination in East Arizona.

The reservoir is frequently described as a hidden gem, and rightly so. It offers not just kayaking and fishing, like most lakes in the area, but also boating sports like wakeboarding and water skiing.

The state park here is very well-kept and highly rated. It provides campgrounds with hookups, cabins, boat ramps, and a selection of hiking trails with petroglyphs and ancient ruins.

Swimming is allowed at Lyman Lake, too, and the park has a designated swimming area free from boat traffic.

However, there is one major drawback here, and it’s fishing. It’s pretty bad. Lyman Lake is a warm water lake known for walleye, largemouth bass, and cats. But you will have to get lucky to reel one in. Although there are reports of 17-fish streaks, the vast majority of anglers return home empty-handed. 

All things considered, this is an incredible destination, especially if you’re into boating sports, and hiking. But anglers will have to sit this one out.

8. Big Bear and Little Bear Lakes

Little Bear Lake White Mountains Arizona
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Big Bear and Little Bear Lakes
  • Distance from Show Low: 28 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, RVs

Big Bear and Little Bear Lakes are a pair of reservoirs just north of Route 260, between McNary and Greer. They are also known by their Apache names – Shush Bezahze and Shush Be Tou, respectively.

These are stunning lakes just a couple of miles from each other. Both offer campgrounds among the pines and a selection of sites right by the water.

The best activities here are paddling and fishing. Little Bear Lake is more popular with anglers who report pretty good rainbow trout catches, although the fish size is modest. 

And Big Bear Lake is a highly-rated camping spot with excellent kayaking and shore access. There isn’t much between the two.

Because they are so close to each other, you can test them both and see which one feels better.

Overall, this is an excellent two-in-one option and another location that makes the White Mountains such a unique place. Remember to purchase reservation passes, though.

9. Hawley Lake

Hawley Lake White Mountains Arizona
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Hawley Lake
  • Distance from Show Low: 35 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, RVs

Hawley Lake is a 260-acre reservoir on the Fort Apache Reservation. It’s the most developed of all the reservation lakes and one of the most gorgeous, too.

The reservoir is geared towards lakeside recreation and offers campgrounds, a boat launch, a fishing pier, and cabins to rent. 

In summer, there is also a store with essential supplies and licenses that you need for fishing, boating, and camping on the reservation. But it’s best not to rely on it and get everything you need in advance. You can get information on licenses here.

Although swimming is prohibited at Hawley Lake, it attracts many visitors who come here to fish, kayak, camp, and just unwind in nature. There is plenty of wildlife around (and cows). You might see elk, horses, turkeys, ground squirrels, and various birds.

Fishing is pretty good at Hawley Lake. It’s a trout territory with rainbow, brown, brook, Gila, and Skamania varieties. Plus, there is an occasional catfish, too. 

Anglers report great results fishing from a boat, yet bank fishing is hit and miss. Also, the access road remains open throughout the winter, so the reservoir is a popular ice fishing spot.

One thing to note is that if you plan to bring your own boat, you must have an electric motor. Gas motors are prohibited at Hawley Lake.

In short, this is an excellent destination. It’s as charming as other White Mountains lakes, yet it’s easier to get to and offers more amenities.

10. Horseshoe Cienega Lake

Horseshoe Cienega Lake White Mountains Arizona
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Horseshoe Cienega Lake
  • Distance from Show Low: 31 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, RVs

Horseshoe Cienega Lake is 120 acres in size and located off Route 260. It’s one of the more popular lakes in the White Mountains that can get pretty busy in summer.

The reservoir is known for excellent fishing and offers a variety of trout. Rainbow, brown, and brook are the most common types here, and the sizes are decent, too. In the past, it even held a state record for brown trout. 

Unlike most lakes in the area, Horseshoe Cienega Lake has a store and a fishing pier, but you’ll get the best results fishing from a boat.

Also, the reservoir is the perfect size for kayaking and canoeing. It’s neither small nor huge, and the pine-covered shoreline is rather stunning.

However, don’t be fooled by the lake’s proximity to the highway. The access road is dirt and gravel and can be challenging for large RVs.

Overall, it’s a well-balanced destination. It’s away from the civilizations, yet not totally remote; developed, but not too much. 

11. Christmas Tree Lake

Christmas Tree Lake White Mountains Arizona
Source: pixabay
  • Official Page: Christmas Tree Lake
  • Distance from Show Low: 48 miles (1h 30min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing

Christmas Tree Lake is a special place. Located high in the White Mountains, this 41-acre lake offers a unique fishing experience that you won’t find anywhere else.

This spot is all about Apache Trout – the state fish of Arizona. It’s a rare specie, native exclusively to this state. And although Hurricane Lake has the state record, Christmas Tree Lake is considered the go-to place for this fish.

The reservoir is located deep in the Fort Apache Reservation and requires a high clearance vehicle to access. Some people make it in regular cars, but the conditions have to be right. Expect battered logging roads.

Also, fishing at this lake requires a special permit; the regular fishing Apache permit isn’t enough; see the official page. The lake itself doesn’t have any amenities; it’s a remote destination, so come prepared.

Apart from fishing, this is an excellent place to paddle, especially if you enjoy the ‘in the middle of nowhere’ vibe. But this is it for activities.

Overall, this is an angler’s haven and a bucket list spot. It’s best suited for seasoned adventurers, as most people will find it too remote.

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