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Lake Pleasant Camping
Get back to nature at one of Phoenix, Arizona's most popular lakes!
Not every county in the USA has a great system of camping parks, but that can't be said about Maricopa County, home of Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa County Parks and Recreation system offer a selection of fine camping parks, all directly in or close to the huge Phoenix, AZ metropolitan area.
One of the most popular of the Maricopa County campgrounds is at the delightful Lake Pleasant, northwest of the central area of Phoenix. Lake Pleasant's name "says it all." It's got boating, fishing, nature viewing, hiking, picnicking and sweeping views of both the desert countryside as well as the man-made lake formed by the Waddell Dam. Except during the extreme heat of summertime, it's indeed very pleasant to camp at Lake Pleasant. (Naturally, those enjoying water sports at this park have found their OWN way to "beat the heat.")
On this page, you'll see photos of the Lake Pleasant camping sites and discover the practical information you need to plan your overnight excursion to this gem of the Maricopa County park system.
Lake Pleasant Campground: The Campsites
Lake Pleasant accepts all sorts of camping vehicles plus tents in its 2 spacious campgrounds. RV's, 5th wheels, pop-up campers, pickup trucks with camping shells or camper tops, and tents are all welcome here.
Campsites come in 3 types here: full hookups, no hookups, and tent-only. The park has its own "official" names for these types of campsites. What most people generally call a camp site with full hookups (water, sewer and electricity,) Lake Pleasant brochures call "Developed Sites." Each of these full hook-up developed campsites has a paved parking space, its own picnic table and BBQ grill in addition to the hookups. MOST of the developed sites at Lake Pleasant are back-in camp sites. There are a few pull-through campsites at the Lake Pleasant camping grounds, but these number less than a dozen between its two campgrounds. Recommended RV length maximum is 45 feet long.
The camping sites without hookups are called "semi-developed campsites." These sites have a paved parking space, covered picnic table, and bar-b-que grill. Tent sites are similar to the semi-developed sites with the exception that you'll have to walk just a little ways to get to your campsite. (A mini-parking lot is provided for your car back on the campground loop.) The fact that these sites are off-road is the reason why they're tent-only sites; it does not mean that these camping spots are inferior. In fact, the tent sites are closer to the lake, making them sought-after spots by tenters! Tent campers are also welcome in the developed and semi-developed camping sites within the park.
There are 2 campgrounds at Lake Pleasant: the hilltop Roadrunner Campground, and the down-at-water's-edge Desert Tortoise Campground. (By the way, all the photos on this page were taken at the Roadrunner camp ground. The views at both camping grounds are good. It just depends on whether or not you want to enjoy a stunning, panoramic overview of the lake, or an "up close & personal" experience.)
At either campground, the outer tier spots (closest to the lake) have the best lake views...naturally. Nevertheless, you'll get good lake views at almost any of the sites you select. If you manage to get a camp spot without much of a lake view, at least you'll get some good glimpses as you get out & about the campground. If you're particularly looking for a pull-thru site to accommodate your rig, then head directly to the top of the hill, because the Roadrunner Campground has the lion's share of these limited spots.
There are 148 Lake Pleasant camping spots in total, 76 of them at the water's-edge Desert Tortise campground. The other 72 sites are at the Roadrunner campground at the top of the bluff. The campsites are spacious and not so packed together that you'll feel overly crowded next to your neighbors.
There are plenty of camping spots at Lake Pleasant. If you arrive mid-week, you'll have a good chance of finding a wide selection of open campsites almost anytime of the year (except perhaps during January and February, the peak season for visiting "Snow Birds.)
Weekends are another story. Those heading to Lake Pleasant for a weekend...especially a long holiday weekend...would do well to take advantage of the park's new reservations system! Thankfully, the days are now gone when the park's strict "no reservations" policy was in force. You can now know in advance whether or not you'll get a spot...and in which campground it will be located.
Camping fees at the Lake Pleasant camping grounds are the same for both the Roadrunner and the Desert Tortise locations. As of January, 2013, the campsite fee schedule is as follows:
1.) Developed campsites (full hookups) cost $25 per night
2.) Semi-developed campsites (no hookups) cost $17 per night
3.) Tent-only walk-in campsites (no hookups) cost $10/night
Lake Pleasant Reservations: For many years, Lake Pleasant did not accept reservations...which led to plenty of frustration amongst would-be campers. The park IS taking reservations for Lake Pleasant campgists now. Here's a link to the Maricopa Parks reservation page where you can not only make reservations, but also see photos of the specific campsite that you're reserving! There will be an $8 per campsite reservation fee included in your total payment.
In addition to the family campsites at Lake Pleasant, there's also a group campsite for the use of reunions, youth groups, etc. The group campsite reservation fee is $35; the fee (for your actual campsites) is due at the time of the camping event. Please see the camping fee schedule for the actual amount you'll have to pay for your campsites. AS of January, 2013, this is $15 per site with a 10-site minimum. (Other Maricopa County parks have a 5-site minimum; however, Lake Pleasant is a more popular campground. So, if your party needs only 5 sites, you'll have to pay the regular rates.)
Lake Pleasant Camping -- Amenities
Most individual camping sites at Lake Pleasant feature paved driveways, though there are a few which are graded gravel. Each campsite has its own picnic table and cooking grill. There is no wood nor charcoal for sale within the park, so don't forget to bring your own. All spots have a space where a tent could be set up, but the configuration of each campsite is different, so you'll want to visually inspect the spots for your choice of layout.
All roads within both campgrounds at Lake Pleasant are fully paved 2-lane roads. Restrooms feature flush toilets and running water, which makes this an ideal campground for families with children who prefer these sanitary conditions over an outhouse! Restrooms are dotted amongst the campgrounds within walking distance of the campsites. Showers are available, as well. As you can see in the photo to your left, the bathroom buildings at Lake Pleasant are modern and attractive.
Children will enjoy playing on the campground play structures in the Lake Pleasant park. As you can see in the picture to your right, the play structures are colorful and inviting. What's more, they're shaded by a canopy so young, tender skin will be less likely to give kids an "ouchie" on hot days.
LAKE PLEASANT PARK AMENITIES---
While some like to camp at Lake Pleasant just to enjoy the thrill of getting "back to nature," many other visitors choose Lake Pleasant because of its outstanding recreational facilities.
Naturally, boating and water sports are a huge draw, but you don't need a boat to enjoy Lake Pleasant County Park. You may enjoy swimming in the lake, or hiking along one of the park's trails. You may take the family into the park's visitor's center to enjoy interpretive exhibits. Or, you may move over to the day-use area to get together with friends at a shaded group picnicking area. In the image to your left, you're viewing a multi-table picnic ramada in a hilltop day-use area of Lake Pleasant Park. (Note: unlike camping spots, day-use picnic ramadas ARE reservable.)
Lake Pleasant has a huge 10-lane boat ramp, as you can see in the photo to your right. This photo was taken on a mid-week day in mid-April...so the ramp was getting little use that day. You can place a winning bet on the fact that this ramp gets hopping on weekends! A large parking lot accompanies this boat ramp, and there are restroom facilities, as well. There is also a 4-lane boat ramp at the northern end of the park.
Fishing is also enjoyed in Lake Pleasant, which is stocked with 12 different types of fish (several species of bass, sunfish, crappies, catfish, for example.) In addition to fishing from a boat, you're welcome to use a pier or simply fish from the shoreline.
For those of you who will be visiting greater Phoenix from out of state, and are using Lake Pleasant as a base for exploring the area, you may wish to know that Lake Pleasant is in an isolated location. There are no shopping centers nearby, no restaurants, no movie theaters, etc, nearby. It's a 15-mile drive to get to Interstate 17, one of the main traffic arteries of the greater Phoenix area.
Nevertheless, if you don't mind the driving distance into town, Lake Pleasant is a lovely, well-kept campground you will enjoy using as your base. To find stores and restaurants, head over to Interstate 17. After driving east to I-17, you may head north on the interstate visit the popular Outlets at Anthem, where you'll enjoy some of Arizona's best factory outlet shopping...and get to choose from a variety of fast food restaurants in the outlet mall's food court. (To see photos and discover the juicy list of stores awaiting you there, head to the Anthem Outlet Mall page of our website.
If you head south on I-17 instead, you'll get to the brand-new, HUGE Happy Valley Town Center. Once you're at this attractive "power center" you'll have a choice of restaurants, snack shops and stores, including the ever-popular Walmart. (Check out the Happy Valley Towne Center page of our website to find out what stores & restaurants may interest you there.)
If you keep heading southbound into Phoenix on I-17, you'll reach a large, modern movie theater, the all stadium-seating AMC cinema, AND an IMAX theater at the Deer Valley shopping center (in the SW corner of the I-17/Loop 101 junction.) You may view the AMC Theaters page of our website for further info. Naturally, there are shopping centers and attractions to explore all over the Valley of the Sun; these are just some of the closest to the Lake Pleasant campground, so that you can find the supplies and services you need without traveling too great a distance.
Lake Pleasant Camping -- Address, directions, contact information
The Lake Pleasant phone number is 928-501-1710 By this telephone number, you'll reach a ranger on-duty at the Lake Pleasant County Park itself. He or she will be able to tell you information about any of the park's features, including its campground information.
The Lake Pleasant address is: 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd, Morristown, AZ 85342. Directions to Lake Pleasant: It's not hard to find this Maricopa County Park...because the route is so well-marked with road signs! From Interstate 74 north of Phoenix, you'll want to take the Highway 74 (Carefree Highway) exit. Head WEST...which is away from the town of Carefree. Travel approximately 15 miles, then simply follow the signs into the park.
Lake Pleasant official website: Before actually embarking on your vacation, you'll want to thoroughly read through the Lake Pleasant website to find out about all of its many features you may enjoy. You may use the following link to access the Lake Pleasant Park's web pages on the Maricopa County official website.