I’m dedicating 2019 to adventure and stepping outside my comfort zone. On days where I’m feeling less than adequate, rather than isolating myself and staying in my hermit cave, I leave my house instead. I find that when I get out into nature and explore new places with Wynston all of my worries disappear. One of my goals for this year is to travel around more of Arizona and truly enjoy everything The Grand Canyon State has to offer. So on a cloudy February day, we headed to Saguaro Lake and stopped at Butcher Jones Recreation Site to see what all the hype is about.
Saguaro Lake & Butcher Jones Recreation Site
Saguaro Lake and Butcher Jones are popular weekend and vacation spots. The areas often bring drunken college shenanigans, which is why I’ve always steered clear. I prefer to check out new places on the weekdays when I know everything will be quieter, and that’s what brought us there on a Tuesday.
Saguaro Lake is an easy 35 minute drive from our house. There are several places where you can enjoy the lake, along with a variety of camping sites and the Saguaro Lake Marina, which holds full size boats and yachts. Both Saguaro Lake and Butcher Jones are a part of the Tonto National Forest system. A Tonto Daily Pass is required to park in all surrounding areas, and they can be purchased at the marina and other locations.
We chose a chilly, overcast day to visit the lake. I knew the weather would be as it was, but that didn’t stop us! A cloudy sky often makes for the most breathtaking photos. It was, however, extremely windy on the shore of Butcher Jones Rec Site, making it far too cold to comfortably sit on the beach, even with a sweatshirt on. We stayed only to take pictures, then went to find a different spot for lunch. The beach was gorgeous, and I want to take Wynston back on a warmer day. It’d be the perfect place to put our kayak in the water.
Just a five minute drive later we found ourselves at the Saguaro Lake Marina. We didn’t want to exactly be AT the marina, so we drove the parking lot a bit until we found some picnic areas. I parked, we scouted the location and decided to make camp. There were some other people that stopped randomly to take photos, as the sun glistened on the lake so beautifully.
I’m passionate about traveling on a budget so we packed our own lunch for the day. Wynston and I shared a sandwich as we listened to the sound of the waves hit the shore. The sun came and went, and every now and then we’d see a boat pass by.
After lunch we decided to walk and explore. There were paved sidewalks and several small docks nearby but no hiking trails in the area where we ate. I know there was a hiking trail next to the Butcher Jones beach but we didn’t really have plans to hike for the day (although I do want to go back and check it out when the weather is warmer). Wynston did find a random dirt path, though…
We got to what I thought was the end of the parking lot and picnic area. There were stairs to a dock in front of us and I said to Wynston, “Okay, it’s time to turn around.” He walked a bit further and turned behind a short wall by the dock. Behind some brush was a narrow path. Wynston stopped and looked at me, almost as if to beckon me over. So I followed him.
Wynston’s discovery was the best part of our day. The trail was no more than 2ft wide and it seemed to go on forever. The path lined the perimeter of Saguaro Lake and the views were stunning. We had tall mountains on one side of us and water on the other. Wynston was in heaven. I could tell he was super stoked about his find, and I was so proud of him for being brave.
We didn’t travel too far on the path, as I wasn’t prepared with the right shoes and I didn’t have my knife on me. If I go hiking alone and away from civilization I always have protection. But since I wasn’t expecting to go off the beaten path, I didn’t have my self defense weapon. I will make sure to have it next time, as I want to see how far that trail goes.
Eventually Wynston and I made our way back to the parking area and packed up the car. I intended to make a stop at the Salt River but as soon as we started driving, Wynston was passed out in the back seat. So we just went home.
I will absolutely be taking my son back to Saguaro Lake and Butcher Jones Recreation Site. We’ll go on a warmer, less windy day next time so we can spend more time at the shore and on the hiking trails. I highly recommend both areas to anyone looking to enjoy water and beautiful scenery just outside Phoenix. If you have a kayak or paddle board, I’d suggest bringing them to fully enjoy the lake experience.