Roosevelt Lake – Lakeside Camping in AZ

Roosevelt Lake Windy Hill Campground

Brittlebush flowers light up Roosevelt Lake

April, 2014 – We had spent the winter months in Phoenix, Arizona, enjoying beautiful hikes and gorgeous waterways, and observing pretty birds and wild horses.

But the desert was heating up with the arrival of Spring, and so were we!

So we headed just a little further east to Roosevelt Lake where the temps are always just a few degrees cooler.

The yellow brittlebush flowers that had already run their course in Phoenix were just coming into bloom out by the lake, making for colorful images.


Developed campsite at Windy Hill Campground on Roosevelt Lake

Developed campground sites have lake and mountain views.

Roosevelt Lake was developed as a playground for Phoenix area residents, and it boasts several terrific waterview and waterfront campgrounds.

Yet, for whatever reason — perhaps because of the long distance by highway from Phoenix (although it is a short distance as the bald eagle flies) — there is such a surplus of campsites that whole loops and campgrounds around the lake have been closed due to insufficient visitors.


Boondocking on Roosevelt Lake

Boondocking on the shores of Roosevelt Lake

What a contrast to the Maricopa County Regional Parks system where RV snowbirds have to reserve their campsites months in advance or risk not getting a site for more than two or three nights in a row!

The difference, of course, is the availability of electric and water hookups.

The Regional Parks charge $25 per night for pretty sites with hookups while the Tonto National Forest Service charges $6 ($3 with the Senior Pass) for beautiful dry camping sites.

Well, that’s a no-brainer for us, since we’re not totally sure where our shore power cord is hiding. How did that happen? Solar power on an RV is a wonderful thing that quickly pays for itself, and we can’t recommend that upgrade highly enough…


RV boondocking on the beach

RVs on the beach bask in mountain views on the waterfront

Hedgehog cactus flower

A hedgehog cactus blooms

For those that want to camp on the beach instead of on the paved campground loops (where there are hot showers!), there are loads of spots to set up camp right along the water’s edge for the same fee.

The last time we were at Roosevelt Lake a few years ago, there seemed to be a lot less boondocking along the water.

Now, the water level is so low that we saw tons of people enjoying waterfront property!

Gila Woodpecker

A Gila woodpecker pauses his pecking

Across the highway, visitors can explore two sets of intriguing ancient Indian cliff dwellings at the Tonto National Monument.

Roosevelt Lake view from Tonto National Monument

The hike to the Upper Dwellings has great views of Roosevelt Lake

We had been to the Lower cliff dwellings years ago, so on this visit we took a “Photo Tour” of the Upper cliff dwellings.

Tonto National Monument Lower Cliff Dwellings

Lower Cliff Dwellings – An interesting spot to call home!

This $3 tour was geared towards folks who wanted to take lots of pics.

Tonto National Monument Upper Cliff Dwelling hike

Gary teaches us a little about both photography and the Indian ruins.

The tour was led by Gary and Susan Rait, retired professional photographers and NFS volunteers who happily shared their experience and wisdom with our little group of five photography buffs.

Tonto National Monument cliff dwellings

Upper Cliff Dwellings
at Tonto National Monument

Tonto National Monument Upper Cliff Dwelling

Rooms with a view!

The hike up to the ruins went through a short riparian area and then the trail opened up to spectacular views of the lake far below as we approached the cliff dwellings.

Indian Ruins Tonto National Monument

We all get shots of this ancient room

How on earth did the ancient Salado people manage to live in these aerie perches?

Saguaro and wildflowers

The Sonoran Desert in springtime…

Running up and down these steep cliffs to get between their homes and their farmlands sure must have made them strong and fit!

Mountain biking at Roosevelt Lake Arizona

The mountain biking was challenging…

Back at the campground we enjoyed watching and listening to the wildlife around us.

Red cardinals flitted between the bushes and a Gila woodpecker drilled away on a palo verde tree.

At night we heard the hoo-hoo of an owl just outside our window.

We searched the area for good mountain biking trails, and explored lots of very hilly dirt roads.


Biking on the boat ramp

Biking on the boat ramp!

The terrain was difficult, so when I turned a corner and came across Mark looking quite victorious on top of a rock, I had to get a quick pic.

We rode around the campground loops too, and played for a bit on the boat launches.

The water was so low that only one of several boat launches was open. The others didn’t quite make it down to the water any more!!

This was a perfect area to cool off for a bit, and take some scenic drives in the area too…

Some resources to help plan a trip here:

– Roosevelt Lake National Forest Service Website
– Tonto National Monument
– Water levels at the Phoenix-area lakes

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More blog posts from Arizona’s Salt River area:

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