It may come as a surprise to those who have never ventured beyond the Phoenix metro area that Arizona is home to many lakes – over 100 in fact. However, only 2 of these lakes (Mormon Lake in Flagstaff and Stoneman Lake near Sedona) are natural. Prescott, a beautiful small town in North Central Arizona with a rare-for-Arizona 4 season climate, is home to 4 scenic lakes which are popular for all sorts of summer recreational activities. With the cooler- than-Phoenix summer temperatures, pretty mountain scenery, and abundance of towering ponderosa pines, Prescott is the ideal place to escape the heat of the Sonoran desert. And, it is just an hour and half away, making it the perfect day trip destination.
Prescott is home to 4 lakes: Willow, Watson, Goldwater, and Lynx. All of these lakes are great for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and picnicking.
Lynx is one of the best options due to its’ peaceful setting amidst the gorgeous ponderosa pines. This 55 acre reservoir is located in the Bradshaw Mountains within the beautiful Prescott National Forest. Due to the high elevation (5500 feet), temps are usually pretty comfortable in the summer, meaning that lots of Phoenix residents visit each weekend to escape the intense summer heat of the desert.
Boating, fishing, camping,hiking, and picnicking are all popular summer pastimes. Unfortunately, swimming is prohibited.
Wildlife watching and bird watching are popular here. You may see a javelina or mountain lion early in the morning and possibly even a bald eagle. You will also see warning signs for black bears which call the area home, although I have yet to see a black bear in Prescott or anywhere else in Northern Arizona.
A must do during your visit is a 2 mile stroll around the Lakeshore Trail. This scenic journey features a walk around a ponderosa forest with unending views of the lake. Because it is heavily treed, it is shaded enough even on a hot summer day. The trail is easy with no hills or elevation changes, making it perfect for casual walkers simply looking for a picturesque place to stroll.
Rainbow trout and catfish are the most commonly caught fish. Limits are 6 trout, 6 bass, and 10 catfish. Sunfish, Carp and Bullheads are unlimited.
When the weather is much too hot to do intense exercise, boating is a great alternative. If you do not have your own boat, the Lynx Lake Cafe offers a variety of rentals by the hour. Canoes and Kayaks ($17 for an hour or $60 all day) are by far the most fun way to explore the lake. Plus, your upper body will get a nice little workout. If you prefer to take it a little easier, electric row boats are available starting at $22 per hour. Paddleboat rentals are another fun activity for kids and anyone who wants to bring back the great memories of summertime camp. Views are spectacular no matter the choice of boat as you take in the incredible scenery of the pines and mountains surrounding the bright blue lake.
If you have a bit of extra time and would like to extend your trip longer than a day, camping is a great option. 39 camp sites are available from April-October.
After all your fun outdoor recreation, you can treat yourself to a German inspired meal at the Lynx Lake Cafe, which overlooks the lake. Try out the German pancakes if visiting during breakfast hours. Highlights of the week include an all you can eat fish fry on Fridays and German dinner specials on Saturday night.
Lynx Lake is a great escape for those who want a day away from the heat of areas like Phoenix and Tucson. The vibe is quite unusual for Arizona: cooler summer temperatures, lots of pretty pine trees, and a beautiful lake. It’s worth the drive to be able to enjoy some summer recreation without sweltering. Despite the popularity (over 125,000 visitors annually), the lake does not feel all that crowded and if you can get out on a weekday, it will be an even more peaceful experience.
Lynx Lake is located at: Lynx Lake Store Rd, Prescott, AZ 86301. The parking fee is $5 or use your annual National Parks Pass. Wednesdays are free days. In addition, those entering by foot or bike are free.