April 28, 2017

Nestled in the tall, cool pines in east-central Arizona, on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, is Hawley Lake. At just over 8,000 feet, and abundant with spruce, pine and aspen, this 300-acre lake is one of Arizona’s highest in elevation. The climate is cool and refreshing during the spring, summer and fall, making it a great place to escape summer’s heat. You may want to pack a jacket, even in the summer, as average highs hover around 60 to 70 degrees from May to September, the lows can dip down into the 40s and 50s, and there may still be snow on the ground in early spring. Hawley Lake has set records for being one of the coldest and wettest places in Arizona, so you’ll want to be prepared for weather changes no matter what time of year you decide to visit.

This mountain paradise offers something for every type of outdoor enthusiast. The road to the lake is open year-round so when the temperatures drop, the snow comes, and the lake freezes over, you might want to try your hand at ice fishing. In the meantime, one of the more popular warmer-weather activities is boating. Please note that if you bring your own boat, only electric motors are allowed. Gas-powered motors are prohibited. Or skip the motor all together, and lauch your own small rowboat, sailboat, canoe, or kayak. Bring your fishing pole if you enjoy fishing, as the lake is home to Brown, Brook, Cutthroat, and Rainbow Trout.

If you are looking to spend the night, your options include camping, RV sites or renting one of the many cabins. Contact the Hawley Lake store at (928) 335-7511 to inquire about camping or bringing you RV. Cabin rentals can be arranged directly through the White Mountain Apache Tribe at (928) 369-1753 or on their website. Most of the fully-furnished cabins are within walking distance of Hawley Lake, and its sister lake, Earl Park. Laundry facilities are available if you are planning on a longer stay.

P. Burcham captured this beautiful picture of Hawley Lake as part of our 2014 Celebrate AZ Water photo contest.

The lake was partly formed by volcanic activity occurring millions of years ago, but has been artificially extended as a reservoir for downstream irrigation plus trout and ice fishing. Unlike many other mountain lakes, the shoreline is accessible at several spots due to the many cabin access roads. However, swimming is not allowed in the lakes or streams on the reservation. In addition, campfires and firearms are prohibited.

While there, keep your eyes open for the abundant wildlife that calls this area home. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a herd of wild horses that have been known to hang around the lake. If you are a birder, May is an exceptional month to catch sight of many different species, including White-breasted Nuthatch, Osprey, Western Bluebird, and Yellow-rumped Warbler, just to name a few. If you are unable to go in May, July through September also offers great opportunities to observe some of the abundant list of bird species.

This shoreline view of Hawley Lake was submitted by S. Gomez as part of our 2014 Celebrate AZ Water Photo Contest.

If hiking is what you are looking for, there are hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the nearby Apache-Sitgraves forest. Visit the Lakeside Ranger District for trails near Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside. For printable maps of many of the area trails, visit TRACKS (Trail-system Ride and Cycle & Cross-country Ski & Hike the Seasons)

Please note that permits are required for all activities on the Reservation, including fishing, hiking, birding, boating, and camping, and can be purchased at Hon-Dah on the way in, at any of the nearby convenience or sporting goods stores in Show Low or Pinetop-Lakeside, or at the lake store. For pricing or additional information, contact White Mountain Apache Tribe Game & Fish Department. They can be reached at:

White Mountain Apache Tribe Game & Fish Department
P.O. Box 220
Whiteriver, AZ 85941
(928) 338-4385

We have so many wonderful places in Arizona to explore, so go out and Celebrate AZ Water with us. If you’ve already been to Hawley Lake, but are still looking for more adventures, add one of our other amazing places to your list.