Bear Canyon Lake has 60 surface acres and is located at 7,560 feet in elevation with a maximum depth of 60 feet. This densely forested lake is located 44 miles from Payson, Arizona atop the Mogollon Rim. The dam was installed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to create this beautiful forest lake. There is no marina or store located at the lake, and camping and Bear Canyon is in dispersed camping areas. Access to the lake’s shore is by foot-trail only. Although the lake is accessed only down a dirt road and has primitive camping facilities, it still attracts a number of visitors on summer weekends.
The toilets and campground facilities are rustic and semi-primitive. You will find a large dispersed camping area along 89A as you head into Bear Canyon Lake. Dispersed camping is also aloud in the forest on the surrounding Mogollon Rim where it is not restricted. There are also a smaller dispersed camping area if you come into Bear Canyon Lake via forest Road 84.
Bear Canyon Lake is a "Pack it in - Pack it out" area. There is NO GARBAGE SERVICE. Please be good stewards of the land and leave the area better than how you found it. For more information on dispersed camping on the Mogollon Rim you can read by blog on "Dispersed Camping in the Forests Surrounding Payson, Arizona."
Boating and Fishing
This beautiful lake is narrow, and canyon bound. There are no boat ramps at Bear Canyon, and there is no vehicle access closer than 1/4 mile to the lake's shore. Therefore, boats need to be light enough to carry to the shoreline. Float tubes and kayaks are popular here, but if you can manage a larger boat the lake is restricted to electric motors only. There are two main parking lots if you come in off of Forest Road 89A. Both of these parking lots have trails down to the shoreline that are roughly 1/4 mile long. A third access point that is available on foot is to park near the gate on the rocky Forest Service Road that leads down near the dam. This trail is a little wider and flatter if you are looking to get a boat tot he lake. To reach this egress you will need to come into Bear Canyon lake via Forest Road 84/84A.
The lake can also be fished from by anglers from the shore. The lake is well stocked with rainbow trout about 6 times a year from April through September. The stocking schedule is located at the Arizona Game and Fish Website. Trout can be caught on standard trout baits such as Power-Bait, worms, or corn. They can also be caught on small spinners, crank-baits or any number of flies.
There is a shoreline trail with great shade and scenery that goes along the western shore of Bear Canyon Lake. There is also a little bit rougher trail fisherman's trail on the east side of the lake. The trails do not form a complete loop unless you are able to cross the spillway from the dam to the western shore. This scenic trail can be used for hiking, fishing, scenic viewing, or wildlife viewing.
The Mogollon Rim surrounding Bear Canyon Lake is loaded with excellent hikes including the General Crook Trail, the See Canyon Trail, Military Sinkhole Trail, Colonel Devin Trail, Railroad Tunnel Trail, and more.
To reach this beautiful forest lake from Payson - take highway 260 up the rim to the Woods Canyon Lake turnoff. Bear Canyon lake is located 9 miles past Woods Canyon Lake just off the 300 road on a dirt road. To access the two main parking lots and camping area you will turn on Forest Road 89A from the 300 road.
To access the dam and the walkable service road to more easily carry in a small boat you will want to take Forest Road 84 from the 300 road and turn towards the lake on Forest Road 84A near mile marker 3.