In the 20 years I’ve lived in Arizona, I’ve been to very few of our lakes. One of the downsides to living in the desert is the lack of bodies of water. I grew up around expansive lakes and reservoirs in Indiana, so that aspect of nature calls to me. Luckily I live just 45 minutes from the nearest major lake, which is Canyon Lake. It’s surprising that I had never been to that area, but as “adventure” is our word for 2019, I figured a visit was in order! I’ve been wanting to spend extra time outdoors with Wynston as of late, so I made an impulse decision to pack up the car for an afternoon at the lake.
Dog-Friendly Canyon Lake, AZ
In the past I’ve heard a lot about Canyon Lake and how beautiful it is, but I figured the views were just going to be the same old – mountains and dirt. But I didn’t let that stop me. A 45 minute drive is modest considering where we live, and I was excited to go explore with Wynston.
In reality, the trip shouldn’t take a full 45 minutes, but the last several miles of the 20 mile drive are winding and narrow. If you get motion sickness, I suggest taking medication before making the drive. Even I got a little queezy because the drive was so crazy at the end. The speed limit is 15-20mph, to give you an idea of how cautious you need to be on those mountainous roads.
The slow drive was worth it though, as Wynston and I drove over a mountainside to gaze upon Canyon Lake. The water is sandwiched in a canyon, hence the name, and I could see a marina and picnic areas in the distance. I knew we’d come to the right spot.
I also knew that a Tonto Pass was required for parking in Canyon Lake recreation areas. You can purchase them at specific gas stations and Walmarts, or at the Canyon Lake Marina. However, we’re currently in a government shutdown, and there are no employees manning National Park areas. I was able to park right next to the lake with no pass, as there wasn’t a way for me to purchase one.
Wynston and I did some scouting of the area before we made camp at the shore. We chose an area away from picnic tables and the marina to ensure peace and quiet. Every now and then we’d see a few other sightseers with their dogs, but everyone came and went. Canyon Lake seems to be a popular tourist destination for people driving past the area.
The weather was absolutely perfect. There was a slight chill in the shade, but it was so perfect in the sun. The temperature was about 61°F. I was able to enjoy our outing in pants and a tank top.
I spent a majority of my time just sitting on the shore, sometimes laying down on a beach towel, listening to the calm waves and active ducks. Wynston quite enjoyed the ducks, as he tried to make friends with them. Some of the ducks seemed to be taunting him from the water, and Wynston would go to the shoreline and cry. My poor boy. He just wanted to play!
I allowed Wynston to wander a bit while I kept my eye on him. He never went too far and I’d put him back on leash when we saw people or other dogs. After he explored a bit, he’d come back to our camp and lay with me. Then he’d be off again. There was much to see!
At one point I had Wynston cuddled up next to me as I lay on the shore, my sweatshirt under my head as a pillow. We both began to doze off. We had the warmth of the sun on our skin, the sound of the water around us and birds chirping nearby. It couldn’t have been any more peaceful.
We were lucky enough to see the Dolly Steamboat rolling by during our time at Canyon Lake. The Dolly Steamboat offers a few different cruise packages. It would be fun to take their 1.5 hour tour, but only service dogs are allowed. We’ll have to stick to kayaking and lounging!
There are said to be bald eagles and desert bighorn sheep in the Canyon Lake area but we didn’t spot any. I’m sure you have to go away from the more populated areas to see such majestic creatures. I’d love to go camping there, so maybe we will see some wildlife then.
After some relaxation, Wynston and I packed up to walk the shoreline more extensively. We found beautiful sandy areas, just like a beach, while other parts of the lakeside were rocky and rough. It was interesting to see the changes in terrain. We also walked by the marina, which was nearly empty. I’m sure the government shutdown is taking such a huge toll on the National Parks and guests.
I was happy to see that the area in which we settled was very clean. The bathrooms were in good shape and there wasn’t trash around. I’m glad that people are stepping up to take care of such precious areas, especially while employees are being affected by the shutdown.
Wynston and I had an absolutely amazing time at the dog-friendly Canyon Lake. I cannot wait to go back! Next time we’ll be equipped with our kayak, now that I see how easy it would be to load our boat into the water from the shore. The lake is the closest one to us, plus it’s more beautiful than some of the other desert lakes, and for that I’m grateful. I look forward to spending another day there soon.
Do you have any local lakes that you enjoy taking your dog to? So far our favorites are Woods Canyon Lake in Payson, AZ and now Canyon Lake!