Top-5 AZ family camping and fishing spots for August

A campfire burns Saturday night, July 22, 2017, at a Woods Canyon Lake Recreation Area campground site off Forest Road 300.

Family fishing and camping during summers in Arizona can produce some of the best memories life can spawn.

What makes for good camping and fishing during triple-digit months of desert sweat? Escaping to the high country for a ton of stocked or self-sustaining fish, quality camping amenities, and scenery that’s as cool as the air temps.

Many fire restrictions have been lifted, allowing campfires and gooey s’mores for kids.

Be safe with summer monsoon storms — get off the water when you hear lightning, watch out for flash flooding, and don’t forget to bring a few extra layers and a rain jacket to stay comfortable in the mountain cold.

OK, here is our top-5 list of family camping and fishing spots. Do you agree?

5. Kaibab Lake

Kaibab Lake is usually the jump off to the Grand Canyon, and has been stocked with some of the quarter-million more trout.

This family-friendly camping area is a few miles from Williams and an hour’s drive from the Grand Canyon to the north.

Anglers are still catching a few trout on a variety of colors of PowerBait with the best fishing being early in the morning.  Try taking kids to catch crappie around the fishing dock on yellow or orange mini-jigs.

Directions: From Flagstaff, take I-40 west to Exit 165; turn north onto AZ 64 and go about 2 miles to the campground entrance on your left. Paved and all-weather gravel roads are suitable for passenger cars (but in winter may be closed at times because of snow).  See a Google map.

4. Show Low Lake (and Show Low Creek)

Show Low Lake is scenic and just an hour from the town of Show Low.

Possibly the state’s premier walleye fishery. Has a year-round concession with 75 campsites (seven have electric hook-ups). New facility improvements, including a new fish cleaning station, restrooms, stairs from the upper parking lot down to the boat launch, and ADA boat trailer parking are now open.

Like Fool Hollow Lake, Show Low lake and creek are great for putting the family on trout, sunfish and crawdads. In addition to the premier walleye, the lake also has smallmouth and largemouth bass, channel catfish, and bluegill, and is stocked regularly through the summer with 12-inch rainbow trout.  Kids can catch sunfish from the fishing piers or among the rocks along the dam with a small hook and piece of worm.

Directions: From Show Low, take Show Low Road southeast one mile from Highway 260.  See a Google map.

3. Fool Hollow Lake

AZGFD biologists regularly stock Fool Hollow Lake with trout.

An excellent fishery for getting the family into the outdoors and onto sunfish and mudbugs (crawdads). Has excellent family-fishing amenities such as clean and spacious campgrounds, picnic areas and fishing piers.

Kids can catch sunfish off piers and over rocky shoreline areas using No. 12 hooks and small pieces of worms. Crawdads can be trapped here as well.  Read more about how to catch both.

The lake has self-sustaining populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass, sunfish, walleye, carp, catfish, black crappie and black bullhead that are easy for kids to catch (try a simple worm on the bottom). Fishing also is good for 12-inch stocked rainbow trout — try fishing at least 10 feet deep.

Directions: Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area is located in east-central Arizona, two miles north of US 60 off Highway 260 in Show Low. See a Google map.

2. Woods Canyon Lake

Woods Canyon Lake has been stocked with aggressive tiger trout.

A family fishing mecca. Woods has been stocked with tiger trout, and along with nearby Willow Springs Lake, is scheduled to be loaded with rainbow trout weekly.

For families who aren’t in to camping in a tent or camper during the summer monsoon storms, the closest lodging is at Forest Lakes Lodge, just 11 1/2 miles away on Highway 260.

A little tip: refuel your automobile at the Rim Resort Filling Station, just a mile east of the Forest Lakes Lodge on Hwy 260. Call 928-535-9682 to ensure it’s open.

At this small town station,  the pumps are “old school”:

Back to fishing. For a novice angler – or for a kid’s first fish – try putting a small piece of a worm on a small hook (No. 12 or smaller) and dangle it in shallow water between rocks for sunfish. Don’t forget about catching crawdads, too.

The best bet for anglers with boats or kayaks (the Woods Canyon Lake Store has boat and canoe/kayak rentals and necessary camping amenities) is to hit the water just before sunrise and troll, or slowly work, small in-line spinners 15 feet deep. Any deeper, and you’re typically fishing below the thermocline where during the summer there is no oxygen.

Anglers could have no problems getting a six trout daily bag limit or hooking into a rod-rattling tiger trout.

Directions: From Phoenix, take Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) northeast to Payson and then Highway 260 east to Forest Road 300 (Rim Road). Then turn north onto paved Forest Road 105 and proceed about a mile to the lake. The lake is about 30 miles east of Payson. See a Google map.

1. Big Lake

An Arizona summertime family staple.

Cutthroats have been biting on and off, and there are plenty of rainbow trout along with lots of crawdads for kids if the trout are not biting. The best part may be the excellent and plentiful campground amenities.

Shore-angling is still an option, but as the summer goes along, you might want a boat (rentals are available at the store) because most trout will be deep.

Trolling from a boat is the most productive method during the summer.  If shore fishing, get out early or late in the day, and take cover in your vehicle or camp during monsoon/lightning storms.

Directions: Big Lake is accessed via state routes 260 and 273 (Forest Road 113).  See a Google map.


Remember to check fire restrictions, as well as any special regulations, that are in place.

So grab a license online (that helps conserve all species of wildlife, not to mention provides funding that goes back into fishing opportunities) and go.

You won’t regret the memories.

19 thoughts on “Top-5 AZ family camping and fishing spots for August”

  1. Can you help us get the Forest Service to reopen the Westfork Campground of the Black River. We have been trying for 2 years to get it open with no results. It is the BEST campground in AZ. No good reason to have it closed except for SOMEONE up high for no good reason not letting the public enjoy this wonderful place. Please Help Us! Will you stock the stream once again?

      1. Tell Mike Lopez he’s a Good man, as I met with him on the West Fork last year. We look forward to see you all up stocking when it re-opens. Take Care, Bryan Barrett

  2. Agree with the Barrett’s 100%! I have camped there (West-Fork) since I was a child and now take my kids for visits – though not as frequent as when I was younger. My aunt and uncle were hosts a few summers! Best and most place in Arizona! Please reopen and restock this beautiful stream!

  3. Please reopen West Fork Campground 50 years of memories they’re my family my children my dad my grandfather Generations have camped there and have enjoyed their many have learned to fish there please consider reopening the campground

  4. West Fork of the Black River in Arizona was the happening spit to vacation every year since 1987! Families and friends traveling to reach this perfect campground. You packed in and pact out for a vacation that was a memory made each year. Please Open West Fork of the Black River in Arizona up for all of us to enjoy again! Karen McQuarrie

    1. The West Fork is the Best! We are hoping to get in there for the first time in 6 years over the Labor Day weekend. Not sure when the Forest Service will open the campground but we are excited and waiting for the day. The closure since the Wallow Fire has been toooo long! Now we just need some fish to be stocked and we’ll be set fore pure enjoyment!

      1. I was a campground host in summer of 2004. Prior to that summer our family and friends from all over would gather for fishing, camping, hiking, creekwalking and eating Dutch oven cuisine, along with an occasional bear, deer, skunk to add to the many wildlife in the area. I long to be able to vacation there or be a campground host again sometime soon.

      2. It is my understanding that the West Fork of the Black River Campground is going to be opened for Labor Day weekend. The only thing that could possibly make this more perfect is to have Fish and Game stock the creek. It has not been stocked for 6 years, so I am pretty sure the fishing will not be good. Oh to just get to be there once again! Come on Fish and Game!

      3. That will be awesome!!!! Take pictures please! We live up in Washington State now but our hope is to come to West Fork of the Black River next summer!

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