Butcher Jones Recreation Area at Saguaro Lake

Have you been to Butcher Jones Recreation Area at Saguaro Lake? This popular lake spot offers a great place for swimming, plus kayaking, hiking, picnicking, and possible wild horse sightings!

We spent a morning here recently with some friends! Butcher Jones offers shallow water for littles to play in, then gets deeper for swimming. The kids had a blast catching crawdads, diving for lost items, and exploring along the reeds. The scenery is beautiful too. We took lunch and stayed for about 4 hours! We’ve also visited in the off-season, and it’s just as fun (maybe a little chillier in the water in January, ha).

Butcher Jones is about a 45-minute drive from Phoenix, depending on where you start, of course. Saguaro Lake has one other recreation area, but it is not a good spot for swimming. It does however have an excellent marina to rent or launch boats and the Desert Belle boat tour. Learn more here.

A few tips for visiting Butcher Jones;

  • a Tonto Day Pass is needed to park. One per car, not person. You can buy one onsite for $12, or at various local retailers in Phoenix for $8. The road is paved the entire way to the lake. Motorized boats need to be launched at Del Norte Recreation Area, kayaks/ paddleboards are fine.
  • this area fills up fast! There are multiple parking options, including two overflow parking lots. If you can, visit Monday-Thursday to avoid crowds, and arrive before 9 am during the summer months no matter what day.
  • always pack sunscreen, hats, towels, floaties for non-swimmers, and plenty of food and water. We also like to bring buckets and shovels, nets, a blanket to sit on, chairs for the adults, and carry everything in our wagon. Please always watch your kids while near the water.
  • wear shoes to the water. From there it’s optional. We love our Keens! But some of us also go barefoot. There can be large rocks in the water.

Butcher Jones Recreation Area at Saguaro Lake

  • there are bathrooms here. They are vault toilets and during our visit, needed a serious cleaning. Hoping that changes soon! There are picnic areas in the shade, but watch out for biting ants.
  • the marked hiking trail starts to the left of the beach. It is 5.8 miles in and out, and even going a half-mile one way has some beautiful views! We recommend hiking before 9 am in the summer.
  • spotting the wild horses is random, but Butcher Jones is one of the top places. They like to appear in the early morning before the crowds, or around sunset. Please do not approach the horses, just observe from a distance.
  • more information about Butcher Jones can be found here.

Looking for other day-trip ideas? Browse these blog posts!

Jana is a homeschooling mother of three children, and lives in Scottsdale with her husband, Chris. She enjoys traveling, reading and coffee. Follow @phoenixwithkids on Instagram for daily photos around Phoenix!

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