Woods Canyon Lake, Near Payson

Exploring the Tranquility of Woods Canyon Lake in Arizona

Situated at an elevation of approximately 7,500 feet in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, this picturesque lake offers a tranquil escape for nature enthusiasts, anglers, and adventurers alike. With its crystal-clear waters, lush pine forests, and abundant wildlife, Woods Canyon Lake beckons visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of the great outdoors.

A Natural Gem

Woods Canyon Lake is a man-made reservoir created in 1956 by the damming of Woods Canyon Creek. Despite its artificial origins, the lake seamlessly blends into its natural surroundings, creating a haven for a variety of flora and fauna. Surrounded by ponderosa pines, Douglas firs, and aspens, the area boasts vibrant colors in every season, from the lush greens of spring and summer to the golden hues of autumn.

Outdoor Recreation

One of the main draws of Woods Canyon Lake is its abundant recreational opportunities. Anglers flock to its shores in search of rainbow trout, brook trout, and brown trout, making it a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts of all skill levels. Whether casting a line from the shoreline or venturing out onto the water in a kayak or canoe, anglers can enjoy the thrill of reeling in their next big catch against the backdrop of stunning mountain vistas.

For those seeking adventure on land, the area offers a network of hiking trails that wind through the surrounding forests. Trails like the Woods Canyon Trail and the Lakeshore Trail provide opportunities for leisurely strolls or more challenging treks, rewarding hikers with breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding landscape. Wildlife sightings are common along these trails, with opportunities to spot deer, elk, squirrels, and a variety of bird species.

Camping Under the Stars

For those looking to extend their stay, Woods Canyon Lake offers several campgrounds that provide the perfect setting for a night under the stars. The Woods Canyon Campground and the nearby Spillway Campground offer tent and RV sites equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, and access to restroom facilities. These campgrounds provide a rustic camping experience, allowing visitors to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect with nature.

Exploring the Surrounding Area

While Woods Canyon Lake itself offers plenty to see and do, the surrounding area is also worth exploring. Nearby attractions include the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, home to one of the world's largest natural travertine bridges, and the quaint mountain town of Payson, which boasts charming shops, galleries, and restaurants.

Preserving the Beauty

As a designated recreation area within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, Woods Canyon Lake is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which works tirelessly to preserve its natural beauty and protect its delicate ecosystem. Visitors are encouraged to practice Leave No Trace principles, ensuring that the wilderness remains unspoiled for future generations to enjoy.


Whether you're an avid angler, a hiking enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat in nature, Woods Canyon Lake offers something for everyone. With its stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, and myriad recreational opportunities, it's no wonder that this hidden gem is a beloved destination for outdoor adventurers across Arizona and beyond. So pack your bags, hit the trails, and prepare to discover the tranquility of Woods Canyon Lake.

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