Woods Canyon Lake is the first lake 35 miles east of Payson as you top the Rim off Highway 260. It sits in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest. This picturesque lake is a popular hot spot in the summer because of its scenery, facilities, fishing, and proximity to the Phoenix area. Woods Canyon Lake sits at an elevation of 7,510 feet offering cooler summertime temperatures in a spectacular forest setting.
The 55-acre lake is heavily stocked with rainbow and tiger trout from April through September. There are also a few remaining brown trout from previous stockings. The stocking schedule is available at the Arizona Game and Fish Website. Woods Canyon Lake has an average depth of 25 feet so fishermen in boats or float tubes have easier access to the deeper parts of the lake where fish are often found in the warmest parts of the summer.
Trout here are caught on a variety of trout baits including worms, corn, salmon eggs, and power bait. Popular lures include small spinners, Crickhoppers, and spoons. Fly fishermen find success with Wooly Buggers, bead-heads, and midges for wet flies, and popular dry flies include elk hair caddis, stimulators, and grasshoppers.
Woods Canyon Lake can get crowded on summer weekends. To avoid crowds consider visiting during the week or moving along the shore further from the parking areas. The smaller Spillway parking lot provides easier access to the dam crest and the trail around the lake where fewer people venture.
There is a store with boat rentals and a boat ramp. Boats for rent at the store include kayaks, pedal boats, paddle boards, row boats and boats with an electric trolling motor. Boating at Woods Canyon Lake is restricted to electric motors only. You will see a variety of small watercraft here including kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, smaller fishing boats, and float tubes.
THE WOODS CANYON LAKE STORE AND MARINA
The Woods Canyon Lake Store carries a full line of groceries and a full candy isle. The Woods Canyon Lake Store offers a variety of beer, wine, soda, and sports drinks along with toiletries. They also have a supply of basic clothing on hand including sweats, socks, knit hats, hats, gloves, and water shoes. The Woods Canyon Lake Store even has a selection of over the counter medications on hand.
They carry fishing bait and tackle including fishing poles. The Woods Canyon Lake store also sells fishing licenses and is the number one seller in the state of fishing licenses which is an indication of how popular this high forest lake is. The store carries both boating and camping supplies. Additionally, The Woods Canyon Lake Marina offers boats for rent at the Marina including kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, paddle boards, row boats and boats with an electric trolling motor.
Woods Canyon Lake Trail
Woods Canyon Lake Trail is a 5-mile easy hiking trail around the perimeter of Woods Canyon Lake. The trail starts at the busy Spillway Campground. Find your way to the dam along the network of little trails. Cross the mound of dirt that forms the Woods Canyon Lake Dam head into the trees where the trail really starts. There are blue plastic diamonds nailed to the trees that mark the trail.
After about 45 minutes of hiking you will cross the grassy, trickle of an inlet to the lake. This is one of the prettiest spots on the hike. Just past the inlet the trail detours around the bald eagle nesting site from March 1st through August 31st. From here continue around the lake pas the Rocky Point Trailhead and back to the boat docks.
The trail is popular for bird watching as you will often see eagles, osprey, and herons. It is not uncommon to see one of the lakes bald eagles or ospreys diving out of the sky above the catch trout in the lake below. Dogs are able to use the Woods Canyon Lake Trail but must be kept on a leash.
There are many additional trails on the Mogollon Rim that are in the vicinity of Woods Canyon Lake including the Meadow Trail, the General Crook Trail, the See Canyon Trail, and the Rim Trail among many others. The trails surrounding Woods Canyon Lake provide expansive views of the forest below the Mogollon Rim. The Mogollon Rim is a 200-mile long cliff in northern Arizona that rises about 2000 feet in elevation and is a remarkable geological wonder that provides excellent photo opportunities near Woods Canyon Lake.
Camping facilities abound but can fill up quickly on busy summer weekends. Visit Woods Canyon during the week or in the fall if you are looking to avoid the heavier crowds. Campers can stay at one of four developed campgrounds (fee).
Spillway Campground has 26 individual sites each accommodating trailers up to 16 feet long. Campsites offer a fire ring, picnic table, and charcoal grill. There is also one group site. Trailers, tents, and smaller size RVs are allowed. The Spillway Campground fills up quickly due to its small size and proximity to the Woods Canyon Lake shore. Some Spillway sites are along the shore and offer views of the water.
The Aspen Campground is also within walking distance to the lake and is one of the most popular campsites in Arizona. It is much larger than the Spillway Campground with 136 sites that can accommodate larger trailers up to 32 feet long. There are 27 first come first serve sites and many others that work by reservation. The campsites at Aspen are well spaced with plenty of room in between them. It offers both wooded and meadow campground settings. The campsites contain picnic tables and fire rings.
Woods Canyon Group
Woods Canyon Group Camping by reservation within walking distance of Woods Canyon Lake. A Woods Canyon Group site can accommodate 120 people and 30 vehicles. It is a primitive campground but does offer vault toilets and drinking water.
The Crook Campground at Woods Canyon Lake is located approximately ¾ of a mile from the lake’s shore and accommodates large groups by reservation. The campground is also near The Rim Vista Trail which offers spectacular views from the Mogollon Rim and is accessed by the paved Meadow Trail.
This group campground is made up of two large loops that can accommodate up to 110 people and 26 vehicles each. There is also one single unit campground that is first come, first served that can accommodate 8 people and 1 vehicle.
Facilities at the Crook Campground include picnic tables, vault toilets, and water. There are also campfire grills and garbage facilities. Both tent camping and camping trailers are allowed.
Rocky Point Picnic Ground
The Rocky Point Picnic Ground is a day use only facility at Woods Canyon Lake. The picnic area is located near the shore of the lake and is adjacent to the Aspen Campground and the Woods Canyon Lake Store and Marina. Hours vary, but in general it is open from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. There are no trailers or boats allowed at the Rocky Point Picnic Ground.
WILDLIFE AT WOODS CANYON LAKE
Woods Canyon Lake is known for its bald eagle population which are often observed diving for trout in the lake. Wildlife viewing also includes an array of birds and waterfowl, squirrels and chipmunks, and an abundance of deer and elk.
DIRECTIONS TO WOODS CANYON LAKE
To reach Woods Canyon Lake from Payson, head east on Highway 260 for 29 miles before reaching the Woods Canyon Lake turnoff, FR300. Proceed about 3.5 miles down FR300 and then turn right onto Woods Canyon Road. Take this for 1.5 miles to reach the lake.