Bartlett Lake is in the Tonto National Forest about 23 miles east of Carefree, Arizona. It is the 2nd largest lake in the Phoenix area behind Lake Pleasant and is about 2 or 3 times the size of Saguaro and Canyon Lakes. There is a day use fee and boat launch fee and the National Parks Interagency Pass can be used for just the day use area for picnics.
The reservoir is formed from the Verde River from the North and the Bartlett Dam from the south.
The lake has a marina with boat rentals and eating area, day use areas, boat launches, swimming areas, and a few spots to dry camp. Note that the area can be quite crowded in the summer months when everyone is looking to be near the water but in the spring (April) when we visited it was almost empty.
There are several areas to dry camp along the lake shore. The area is open to camping year round with a 14 day limit. The road into the camping area is paved for most of the way but the last bit along the shore can be rough and bumpy but big rigs manage to make it there.
There is also a campground, called Riverside Campground, with no services about 12 miles further southwest from the Bartlett Lake marina. It is a narrow, curvy dirt road which is easily navigable by a car in the dry season but might be a big of a challenge with a big rig. The sites are small and the campground is next to the Lower Verde River with lots of bush and a few palm trees.
It is a lovely area in the off season!
We’ve often thought of boondocking there but the lack of internet presents a problem for us. Very pretty though and we always enjoy our day trips/picnics when we do visit. The desert is parched this year and water levels seem to be low everywhere.
Yes, it is very sad to see the low water levels everywhere but still a nice place to visit. Hope all is well with you!
My friends and I plans to boondocking there in Cave Creek. The lakes looks lovely for a sunday picnic. Im so excited to build a campsite there. Thanks for sharing those photos, i’m already planning fun activities when we go there.