Escape: Big Lake, Northern Arizona

July 25, 2014 |
Stunning summer sunset on Big Lake, just a short stroll from Cutthroat campground. Photo: Niccole Radha

Stunning summer sunset on Big Lake, just a short stroll from Cutthroat campground.
Photo: Niccole Radha

There is no place like home and no shortage of gorgeous lakes, rivers and creeks right here in Arizona. With just a five hour scenic drive through Arizona’s highways, you can escape from the city heat to a serene high country lake in the White Mountains this summer.

Its a majestic place where you can feel the cool mountain breeze in the quiet pine forest, fish in the crystal clear water, camp under the shade of towering trees and look up into the mesmerizing Milky Way at the end of an awesome day. The White Mountains and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests offer unlimited outdoor adventure during the perfect summer weather.

If you are someone who has a passion for the outdoors and enjoys camping, fishing, swimming, hiking, riding horses, rock climbing and water sports, then this is where the summer fun can be found. Big Lake, with over 600 acres of 30 foot deep water, certainly does live up to its name. Big lake is located 9,000 feet above sea level and there can be found all of the comforts of home that one could possibly desire in their 200 fee-based camp sites ($14/day). The lake and campsites are immaculately maintained and the resident camp host, marina and informative visitors’ centers staff are most friendly and welcoming to help make your stay great. A convenience store is available onsite with limited food items so it is a good idea to stop and get all of your last-minute essentials in Pinetop-Lakeside before heading up the mountain.

There are a few important safety concerns to keep in mind. Most importantly, there are tight fire restrictions throughout Arizona so make sure to bring a propane grill and lantern and get know the fire restrictions for different areas. At Big Lake, located on the Apache reservation, no open flame is permitted whatsoever. Also, be bear aware! We must coexist peacefully and this is their season to come down to camp in search of food. Arizona has had more bear sightings this year than ever before; make sure you secure your campsite and make all belongings bear proof by tying them up in a tree or just leave food and drinks in your locked vehicle.

There are several campsites at Big Lake and Cutthroat Campground is a prime spot to set up. Located right off the shore, it has dramatic views and nearby bathrooms – the best camping spots are numbers one through five. Make reservations whenever possible, summer is a busy time for these quiet little camps and White Mountain towns.

Making Your Escape

From Tucson take North Oracle road/AZ -77 and continue north for about 181 miles. When you get to Globe turn left on US-70 W and after two miles turn right onto US-60 E. Here you will see the signs for AZ-77 N/Show Low/Springfield and continue for about 80 miles until you reach the fun little town of Show Low. Once you get there turn right onto West Whipple Street and shortly after make another right turn on South Central Avenue. Continue straight into East Woolford Road and make a right to follow the AZ-260/White Mountain Road. After about 35 miles you will take a right onto AZ-273 S highway and a final right to your destination on Big Lake Road. Along the way you will find many local businesses, lakes and rivers so stop by and splash around or take a trek in “the other Arizona!”

More visitor and camping information can be found at

Category: Nature, RECREATION