Phoenix With Kids

Camping at Bear Canyon Lake

We had so much fun camping at Bear Canyon Lake earlier this summer! We went fishing, we hiked in the woods, we explored the lake, and had several relaxing days camping.

Chris Tingom

We had so much fun camping at Bear Canyon Lake earlier this summer! We went fishing, we hiked in the woods, we explored the lake, and had several relaxing days camping.

Have you ever been camping at Bear Canyon Lake? It’s a lake just north of the Mogollon Rim just north of Payson Arizona. Getting there is a little tricky as it is many miles past Woods Canyon Lake and down a dirt road.

This lake is remote! There’s no cell signal, at least not on my Verizon iPhone, so it’s a truly relaxing place, and at a 7,560 elevation, it’s cooler than the surrounding areas!

The roads

The roads, while dirt are not difficult at all. I drove our Ford Edge and had no difficulty traversing. I saw a small sedan that got stuck while going through a gully, but I didn’t see anybody else with issues on the dirt roads.


Bear Canyon Lake has very limited facilities. there are no bathrooms. The roads are dirt and there is no cell signal. I saw online some times they add vault toilets, but we didn’t see any of them. This is true dispersed camping as there is no water, and no fees to camp.

There are no toilets, so you’ll need to dig a pit. This is truly wilderness camping at its best.

Because of its remote location, and the fact that there are no restrooms, most of the people visiting this lake tend to be people camping in the area.

Visit this Forest Service information page for additional details.

Bear Canyon Lake

Bear Canyon Lake is nestled at the bottom of a canyon, hence the name, and is probably the most beautiful lake in this part of the state. If you’ve been to Woods Canyon Lake, it’s very similar, except has high canyons on every side.

The size of Bear Canyon Lake is approximately 60 acres.

If you are considering bringing a kayak or other boat, be aware that the walk to the lake is steep and rocky as you descend several hundred feet. There are no launch ramps and only electric motors are allowed on boats.


While fishing over 2 1/2 days, we caught 10 rainbow trout. We were fishing with PowerBait and treble hooks with bobbers – sinking the bait about 4 feet (this was in June). We fished in several locations along the shore. For additional fishing tips and equipment advice, check out our guide to fishing in Phoenix.

Fish stocking schedule

Consult this spreadsheet for fish stocking schedules (note: spreadsheet shows best on desktop and is hard to discern on mobile due to formatting). Click the orange button on that page.

If you’re thinking of going fishing, please note the following licensing requirements:

For children aged 10 to 17, a Youth Combination Hunt and Fish license is necessary, priced at $5.00, and valid for one year.

Children under the age of 10 do not need a license.

Adults who wish to fish will need to obtain a combo Hunt/Fish license, available at $57.00 for one year or $15.00 per day.

These licenses can be conveniently purchased online through AZ Game and Fish, as well as at most sporting goods stores and the sporting goods department of Walmart. Remember, it is essential to carry the license with you while fishing.

We didn’t see any wildlife except for birds and the occasional squirrel. They do stock this lake though, so we had fun catching fish.

Fish species

Bear Canyon Lake is known for its variety of fish species. Some of the common fish include:

Rainbow Trout: Rainbow trout are stocked regularly in the lake (this is what we caught).

Brown Trout: Brown trout are also stocked in Bear Canyon Lake.

Brook Trout: Brook trout can be found in the lake, offering a chance to catch this beautiful species.

Smallmouth Bass: Bear Canyon Lake is home to smallmouth bass.

Sunfish: Various species of sunfish, such as bluegill and green sunfish, can be found in the lake.


There are no designated campsites at Bear Canyon Lake, and all of the campsites that I have seen up there are situated along the side of the dirt roads.

Compared to well-maintained campgrounds with a camp host and restrooms (that you’ll find in other lakes nearby) these campgrounds are much rougher and unmaintained. For example, while most campgrounds, clear, the brush and fallen trees, in this area, you’ll find lots of trees and branches all over the place. It makes it easy to find firewood for your campfire, though!

We brought a four-person tent because this was just a father-son camping trip. For June, the temperature at night got into the high 30s low 40s. If you have a Mr. Heater propane heater like we do, I would suggest bringing it.

You’ll want to check the local fire restrictions to see if you can have a campfire. If you can’t have a campfire, you’ll need to use a propane stove to cook.


This area is known to have heavy rain in May, and June, and in the monsoon season, so you’ll want to be sure to bring some rain gear. Check the local weather forecast.

Getting there

Here’s a Google Map, and you’ll want to download offline maps with Google Maps ahead of time as there is no cell reception at the lake.

Map Location of Bear Canyon Lake (PDF).

GPS Location: 34.389194, -111.003026

Driving directions

Here are directions to help when camping at Bear Canyon Lake:

From Shea Blvd in Fountain Hills, take AZ 87 N (73.5 MI.) to Payson

AZ 260 E (33.7 MI.) and travel past Willow Springs Lake

(L) onto Rim Rd/FR 300 (9.4 MI.)

(L) to stay on Rim Rd (2.2 MI.)

Before the tower, (R) turn right onto an Unnamed Rd (1.8 MI.)

Have you been to Bear Canyon Lake? Leave a comment and share your experience.

More reviews on camping spots and more can be found here!


  • Chris Tingom

    Welcome to Phoenix With Kids, a place where we share the cool activities we do with our children around the state. I live in Phoenix with my wife Jana and our three kids. I design and build websites for select clients.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Phoenix With Kids

Join our weekly email newsletter

Phoenix With Kids