The Most Beautiful Beaches In Arizona, According To Local Experts

In the sweltering desert sun, the best place to enjoy mind-blowing, otherworldly desert scenery is often amidst the crisp blue waters that surround it. The Grand Canyon State isn't exactly known for its beaches, but one of its best-kept secrets is that it's full of them, and they're some of the best spots to enjoy everything for which Arizona is celebrated. All over the state, rivers have been dammed, creating countless lakes and reservoirs nestled amidst the fiery mountains and canyons. In a hot state, these beaches have become destinations unto themselves, boasting extensive campgrounds, trails, and ample spots to swim, boat, fish, and cool down in every way. We chose 11 out of a surprisingly large list that we felt offered the best scenery, amenities, and nearby attractions.

Our road trip through the southern state starts just south of Las Vegas, in a turquoise lake created by the Hoover Dam. We travel down the Colorado River to the extended playground that is Lake Havasu and continue down the river to two adjacent beaches and campsites offering fabulous swimming and hiking. After stopping in the state's far south, we make our way to the many beaches of the Phoenix area before ending up in the bright blue waters of Lake Powell in the far north. Grab your bathing suit and your hiking boots, and let's go visit some oases.

Willow Beach

Our first stop of many along the Colorado River lies about an hour southeast of Las Vegas and a half hour south of the mighty Hoover Dam. Even though it's part of the larger Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Tripadvisor users rave that it's one of the quieter, secluded spots in a busy area. Willow Beach still offers plenty of amenities, including a swimming beach with mountain views and a boat launch, 28 full-service RV sites and nine tent sites with access to water and electricity, a convenience store, a gift shop, boat rentals, and even the waterfront Black Canyon Grill. Along the beach lie picnic tables, grills, and plenty of quiet, sandy coves for a bracing swim that feels great in the desert heat.

Even though Willow Beach is relatively quiet, it sits in the center of a 30-mile stretch of the Colorado River known as the Black Canyon National Water Trail and is something of a kayaking mecca. About 2 miles downstream lies the enchanting Emerald Cove, also known as Emerald Cave, where kayakers glide over bright green water under an arched grotto. About 6 miles north lies the Arizona Hot Springs, a bubbling hot natural bathtub surrounded by tall red rocks. Depending on winds and currents, kayaking to either of these spots can take upwards of six hours, so we'd recommend going with a guide or hiking along various trails, weather permitting.

London Bridge Beach

Who knew it was so quick from Las Vegas to London? Well, not quite London, but a genuine piece of it. About two hours south of Las Vegas and Willow Beach lies the 928-acre Lake Havasu State Park, a series of beaches and attractions along the popular lake. One of Lake Havasu's top attractions is London Bridge, a stone bridge built in 1831 that once spanned the River Thames. By the 1960s, London Bridge was literally falling down under the weight of modern traffic, and the city eventually sold it to Arizona developer Robert McCulloch, who imagined it as a tourist attraction in his newly-built Lake Havasu City. The bridge was dismantled stone by stone, put on a cargo ship, and reassembled over an artificial canal on Lake Havasu, where it still stands today.

McCulloch's instincts proved correct, even though swimming under a 19th-century bridge isn't the first thing that comes to mind when someone says "Arizona." Thanks to that novelty, the bridge is the centerpiece of a tourist hotspot, which includes a themed "English Village" modeled after a quaint Victorian high street. It includes the beloved London Beach Park, a great spot to swim in Lake Havasu's crystal blue waters while staring at a piece of history. London Beach Park also contains two playgrounds, covered picnic areas, 12 covered ramadas available for rent, a large dog park with tons of fresh water, spots for boat rentals, and even a theater stage for performances.

Rotary Community Park

On the other side of London Bridge lies a recreational paradise known as Rotary Community Park, which is 40 acres of just about any activity imaginable. There are bocce ball courts overlooking the water and the craggy mountains on the other side of them, a butterfly garden, six beach volleyball courts, and even the largest skatepark in Arizona, all for free. The park also boasts three playgrounds, including one for children with disabilities, outdoor exercise equipment, and 16 different picnic areas, which come with a shade canopy known as a ramada, a barbecue, and views of the lake and mountains. If you're interested in a group picnic, reserve well in advance.

Rotary Park is also perfect for anyone interested in just swimming, walking, boating, or lazing around on the grass. The park offers a half-mile sandy beach and a large, protected swim area near a non-motorized boat ramp. Right next to the beach lies the Shoreline Trail, a 2-mile walking and jogging path that loops around the entire park. Finally, the park offers plenty of open grass, shaded by tall palm trees, from which to take in the stunning scenery and the many ways everyone is enjoying it. The only things that can't join you in this enjoyment are dogs or alcohol.

That probably won't change any time soon, but other changes are afoot. The park plans to expand the boardwalk, and add more lake viewpoints, kids play areas, a sandy beach area, restrooms, and parking.

Cattail Cove State Park

If you'd like to stay overnight, head about 20 minutes south of Rotary Drive to Cattail Cove State Park, a camping paradise nestled between the bright red rocks and the Colorado River. This 2,000-acre park offers 61 traditional campsites for either tents or RVs, which can be hooked up to electricity and water. Visitors who'd prefer to spend the night on the Colorado River can dock their boat at one of 28 ports along the beach. With the park's numerous showers, restrooms, and dump stations, visitors will be able to fully relax while lighting a fire and gazing up at pristine night skies.

After a fiery desert sunrise, visitors can enjoy fantastic swimming, boating, and hiking. There is a white sandy beach with a protected swim area perfect for marveling at the beautiful expanse of flaming red cliffs towering over bright blue water. Near the beaches are a four-lane boat ramp for motorized and non-motorized boats. Visitors can also rent kayaks, paddleboards, or fish in designated spots. The Cattail Cove shorefront boasts just as many amenities as Rotary Park: beaches also have volleyball courts, barbecue grills, fire pits, and shaded picnic areas. Cattail even has one major advantage: Dogs are welcomed and even get their own beach.

Hikers can enjoy six total trails along the mountains and lake. The Whytes Retreat Trail is an easy, flat half-mile trail along the shoreline, while the other five snake through the mountains and eventually loop back to the shore.

River Island State Park

Just 17 minutes south of Cattail Cove along Arizona's famous Route 95 lands you at River Island State Park, another amenity-rich camping ground on the banks of the Colorado River that Tripadvisor reviewers say is notably quieter than many of the nearby spots. Visitors can choose from 37 campsites, including eight in front of the beach. Like Cattail, each campsite can accommodate RVs and comes with electricity, water, a barbecue, and a picnic table. In the morning, visitors can find a sandy turquoise beach tucked away in a cove to enjoy beautiful mountain views and graceful waterbirds, though be warned: Desert water is often cold, and no lifeguards are on-site.

If you'd rather enjoy the water from a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or motorboat, head to the wide, uncrowded boat launch, which visitors say is nice and far from the swimming area. Visitors can also fish, play with their dogs at a dog park, or feast under the many ramadas. A number of trails formerly used by miners connect to nearby Buckskin Mountain State Park. Along the way, hikers can explore abandoned mines, which are sometimes occupied by a host of desert wildlife, including bighorn sheep, desert mule deer, and coyotes. Nearby, enjoy driving the Parker Dam Road, which hugs the river while traversing through stunning desert scenery.

Buckskin Mountain State Park

Just a mile and a half away from River Island lies Buckskin Mountain State Park, a 1,677-acre promontory jutting into a bend in the Colorado River that might be Arizona's most underrated state park. The park's position within the river blesses it with commanding views of craggy red mountains and turquoise waters. Visitors can enjoy these spectacular desert views from a wide range of amenities, including 80 campsites, spacious picnic areas under tall trees or ramadas, basketball and volleyball courts, a playground, boat launches, a dog park, and store. The park also boasts an extensive visitor center offering exhibits, libraries, and, from January to March, ranger-led hikes.

Aquaphiles will enjoy the grassy area near the water, where they can swim, picnic, relax under a cabana, or launch boats. Like River Island, Buckskin Mountain sits at the base of a number of excellent hiking trails, some of which bring hikers 813 feet into the air for panoramic desert and river views. Stare long enough, and you're likely to see a red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, or egret flying over the majestic territory. Visitors will also enjoy the many attractions of the nearby Parker Strip, including the Parker Dam, the world's deepest dam; Swansea Ghost Town, an abandoned copper mining town from the Wild West days; and the Colorado River Indian Tribes Museum, located near the Ahakhav Tribal Preserve.

Patagonia Lake State Park

Nearly all of these beaches have campsites for tents and RVs, but travel to the far south of the state, just a half-hour from the Mexican border, and you'll find seven delightful, air-conditioned, fully-stocked cabins overlooking bright blue waters graced with happy swimmers, fishers, and even the occasional great blue heron or whitetail deer. Patagonia Lake sits on 265 acres nestled within the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area, but despite its remote location, it offers anything one could want from an Arizona beach: peaceful swimming in front of gorgeous mountains, 100 fully-equipped RV and tent camping sites, boat-in sites, picnic areas with ramadas, tables, and grills, boat ramps and rentals, a marina, a lakeside supply market, and even a graceful pedestrian bridge in the middle. The lake is also divided into sections for motorboats and for non-motorized boats and swimmers. It's also renowned as a fisher's paradise, full of largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, rainbow trout, and flathead catfish weighing as much as 60 pounds.

After you dry off — not hard to do under the desert sun — take a walk along the Sonoita Creek that feeds into the lake. The Sonoita Creek State Natural Area offers 5,000 acres of pristine desert wilderness that are part of the 800-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail traversing the state from north to south. In addition to invigorating hikes, the Sonoita area offers horse riding and delectable local wines.

Tempe Beach Park

Tempe Beach Park is as bustling as Patagonia Lake is remote. Travel east from Phoenix along the Salt River to Tempe Town Lake, one of the river's widest spots, to find miles of sandy beaches with volleyball courts, riverside bike and scooter paths looping around the lake, food trucks, picnic tables, street musicians, boat rentals and launches, and the busy, buzzy, vibrant air of a 25-acre urban park. Swimming isn't allowed in the lake, but just about everything else is, so glide down the river in a kayak, paddleboard, pontoon, or even swan boats or circular donut boats.

As the beating heart of a vibrant university town, Tempe Beach Park is home to numerous parades and festivals. Visit in the holiday season for the famous Fantasy of Lights Parade, when beautifully lit boats glide down the river at night, or come in March, when a series of colorful Chinese dragon boats race each other. Rock out at music festivals like the Innings Festival, grab your lederhosen for Oktoberfest, your sports gear for Ironman, or simply your imagination for fireworks at New Year's and the Fourth of July.

Surrounding the lake is Tempe, one of the Phoenix area's most exciting cities. Home to the massive Arizona State University, Tempe is renowned for excellent shopping, restaurants, and nightlife centered around Mill Avenue. It's also renowned for its ample public art and galleries, notably the Tempe Center for the Arts at Tempe Beach Park.

Canyon Lake

Keep following the Salt River east of Phoenix along the incomparably beautiful Apache Trail, a former stagecoach route that provides picture-perfect views of stunning desert rock formations and wilderness. The trail, an Arizona Scenic Byway also known as Route 88, leads to four exceptional reservoirs, each created in the 1920s by dams. The first, located about an hour east of Phoenix, is the lovely Canyon Lake, which offers roughly 950 acres of bright blue water against a staggeringly beautiful backdrop of craggy red rock.

Canyon Lake boasts a swimming beach, campgrounds for RVs and tents, a boat launch, a fishing pier, and nearly 30 miles of shoreline trails. Some of the trails lead out into the larger Tonto National Forest, where hikers will enjoy sightings of bighorn sheep, deer, javelina, hawks, and eagles amidst the canyon walls and boulders. One of the ambitious trails leads 15 miles to Tortilla Flat, an old stagecoach stop with a general store, throwback Wild West saloon, ice cream shop, and another campground. Nearby lies Goldfield Ghost Town, a former Wild West mining town that now boasts a museum, horseback riding, zip lining, ghost tours, and even a mock cowboy gunfight.

Canyon Lake is open to all varieties of motorized and non-motorized boats, but one of the most unique and iconic ways to enjoy the beautiful lake is the nearly century-old Dolly Steamboat cruises, which offer 90-minute guided daytime tours, twilight dinner cruises, and nighttime astronomy cruises.

Apache Lake

If you're tired of roughing it in RVs or tents, travel about an hour further east along the Apache Trail to arrive at Apache Lake, a stunning reservoir with its own on-site resort. The Apache Lake Marina & Resort offers three motels, and most of the pet-friendly rooms look out onto the lake and incredible mountains. As its name suggests, the resort also has its own marina offering private slips to guests. The resort also manages the site's RV pads and lakefront campsites, offers an on-site general store, and remodeled lakefront bar and grill.

From the marinas and swimming coves, visitors can glide into the 2,568-acre lake, the second largest of the four Salt River reservoirs. It is also lauded by many as the prettiest, where the water looks the bluest, and the Superstition and Mazatzal mountains surrounding it catch the sun at the best angles. It's a great spot for swimming, fishing, sailing, paddleboarding, waterskiing, or just marveling at the incredible scenery. The lake can be just as audibly appealing: each October, it hosts the Apache Lake Music Festival.

Visitors can also hike along the lake and into the mountains. One of the trails leads about 4 miles to Tonto National Monument, two well-preserved mountain cliff dwellings inhabited by the Salado people roughly 700 years ago. Rangers offer guided tours, while visitors can marvel at views of Roosevelt Lake, and the deer, javelinas, and coyotes who now call the area home.

Wahweap Beach

For a spectacular grand finale, we're heading north to Lake Powell, the second-largest artificial reservoir in North America, clocking in at a staggering 162,595 acres. There are about 162,595 things to do along its shimmering blue waters and bright red rocks. We're docking at Wahweap Bay, bordered by a protected swimming beach, marina, picnic area, ranger station, and large campground and RV park, all overlooking the incomparable desert scenery.

Wahweap is also home to the Lake Powell Resort, a swanky resort offering two lakeside swimming pools, a hot tub, gym, lakeview rooms, and more. Guests who prefer slightly funkier accommodations can book a room at the Defiance House Lodge, which offers a beautiful lakefront veranda or stand-alone cabins called "Family Units." Guests who want to get even closer to the lake can literally stay on the lake with houseboat rentals. The resort also offers three different lakeview restaurants at the Wahweap Marina, as well as dinner cruises and boat tours. At nearby Antelope Point, guests can enjoy Jádí'Tooh, Lake Powell's only floating restaurant, in addition to more boat rentals, tours, marinas, and houseboat rentals.

This is just the bottom of the butte in terms of all the attractions of the larger Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Whatever you do, wherever you stay, don't miss the iconic Horseshoe Bend, a towering rock formation formed by a sharp meander in the Colorado River, or Antelope Canyon, a hike that will transport you deep inside a psychedelic painting.


Arizona's beaches are all beautiful and well-equipped, so it was tough to choose the best ones. We scoured expert and visitor reviews for scenic beaches that also offer all the beauty and majesty of the Arizona desert. We took into account amenities like large, well-equipped campgrounds, and searched for beaches that allow a wide array of recreational activities, like swimming and all forms of boating. We also searched for beaches close to other beaches, just to double or triple the fun, and for beaches close to the hiking, towns, and cities that make Arizona so special. We hoped to choose a diverse list of spots close to all of the state's best attractions.