Almost every opportunity Nate and I have to load up our standup paddle boards and enjoy the water, I get butterflies in my stomach as if it’s the very first time. Somewhat like a first date. Except that excitement and passion… is, of SUP!
The geography and altitude changes we have here, and most likely where you live, make for massive amounts of year round adventure. We live close to Phoenix in Arizona, but will happily put extra miles on our car to travel to all corners of the state for a new experience. We have paddled 39 places within the Arizona borders, but here is a list of some of my favorites:
Bartlett Lake – Located north east of Carefree, with a shore length of 33 miles, and elevation of 1,600 feet, Bartlett Lake is a reservoir that is formed by the Verde River in the Tonto National Forest. You can obtain a day pass or purchase a yearly pass. It has pleasant swimming areas, a marina with SUP rentals and other watercraft, scenic camping spots and water view picnic areas. This lake is quieter and less crowded than most of the Valley lakes. Glistening sunrises and sunsets are brilliant to savor in the plentiful coves and open water.
Suzi Highlight: Explore a SUP hike-in with your inflatable board on the Jojoba Trail, that meanders in and out of the ‘shoreline’ for miles!
Lake Powell – Is M-A-S-S-I-V-E! The most southern part of Lake Powell starts in northern Arizona a few miles from Page, and extends into southern Utah. A man-made reservoir on the Colorado River, elevation at 3,635 feet, 186 miles long and nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline composed of red-rock sandstone. Lake Powell is named after Major John Wesley Powell, a one-armed civil war veteran, who charted most of the area during two expeditions in 1869 and 1872. This is the ultimate destination for houseboating, lodging, and camping vacations. Lake Powell is perhaps the most scenic lake in America and research is suggested to really get the most out of your visit.
Suzi Highlight: Rent a boat and pack up the SUPs, and motor to vast amounts of slot canyons and ‘beaches’ to discover. Weather can come in fast, so be mindful and know the forecast before you go.
Fool Hollow Lake – Two miles from downtown Showlow, sitting at 6,260 feet in elevation which makes for cool summer nights and clean, crisp air. Nate and I love this small, pine-tree lined, northern Arizona lake so much that we make it a yearly visit. This place is run by the Arizona State Parks department and is one of the cleanest, most unique campgrounds we have ever visited. Plenty of Class A buses can fit in this wonderfully spaced, diverse campground layout. Nonmotorized water craft as well as a maximum of 10 HP gas engines are allowed. There are SUP rentals right at the boat ramp. When in nature I enjoy the sounds as much as the sights, and to assist the peace, quiet hours start at 8:00pm.
Suzi Hightlight: If you like to learn, every Saturday evening in the summer they have an outdoor amphitheater where they do interpretive programs by the rangers on various topics, for children and adults. Also, I had one of THE BEST ice cream cones in all of Arizona at the Red Barn Creamery in downtown Showlow.
Apache Lake – Within the Tonto National Forest about 65 miles north east of Phoenix at 1,900 foot elevation, Apache Lake is 5 miles downstream from Theodore Roosevelt Lake and upstream from Canyon and Saguaro lake. It is surrounded by the Superstition Wilderness and 17 miles long. It is the most scenic drive on The Apache Trail, on a dirt road, so it will take a little extra time to get there. It was December the last visit to Apache Lake, and we had the most serene and private, 30° sunrise paddle. Cold, YES! But what an unforgettable, saguaro cactus-studded lake, with brilliant sun beams shining down on the steaming water.
Suzi Highlight: I believe this would be a great location for a destination wedding or any special occasion!
Patagonia Lake – Located just southwest of the town of Patagonia, at 4,050 feet elevation. Nate prepares us to have every single necessity possible for whatever day or overnight adventure we are on. We have traveled to this pristine southern Arizona lake a couple times and the most appealing part about it? You can choose from lakeside or boat-in (or SUP-in) places to camp. It is a small lake, but there are plenty of areas to explore.
The first time we went, Nate reserved our own island, and we paddled off into the sunset on a chilly, star-filled night. This is another lake that is managed by the Arizona State Park Department. We got our first experience of the many flathead catfish enthusiasts, some catching up to 60 pound fish! This park is popular for waterskiing, fishing, camping, picnicking, bird-watching and hiking. The most memorable time was when we were there on Halloween night, the birthday of Hobie Alter, and Nate loaded pumpkins and Halloween decorations (and candy!) to transport on our SUPs. In celebration of him, we carved The Flying H and lit it up inside with a beautiful candle. Hobie Alter is the impetus for my continued, lifelong, adventurous SUP spirit.
Suzi Highlight: Site #119 is your own private island… in sunny, gorgeous Arizona!