Escape the Arizona summer heat, or at least most of it, at Lyman Lake State Park. The high elevation (over 6,000 feet) and sprawling lake combine to keep daytime summer highs in the upper 80s and low 90s.
Snowmelt from some of the tallest mountains in Arizona feeds Lyman Lake. This huge body of water is one of the only ones in Northeastern Arizona which has no boat size restrictions. So, power boaters can rev it up, even on Memorial Day Weekend and other popular summer boating weekends. Canoers and paddle boaters are welcome here as well. Much of the lake is a no-wake area. The tranquility also makes Lyman Lake an excellent fishing spot for walleye and largemouth bass.
Further inland, Lyman Lake State Park offers a wide range of activities. There are a variety of hiking trails, along with some very old Hopi Indian petroglyphs. Furthermore, much of the park’s wildlife is crepuscular (active between sunrise and sunset). So, there are plenty of opportunities to see some rare wildlife.
Since towering mountains are in the backdrop and the lake is at your feet, Lyman Lake State Park has an excellent RV campground. Its 50-plus sites have plenty of space and no size restrictions.
Lyman Lake State Park is southeast of the Petrified National Forest in scenic Northeastern Arizona. The park is just off Highway 191, which runs north-south from the Utah/Arizona border to Tucson. Highway 191 is a moderately-traveled two-lane highway which has good visibility on all sides and is mostly straight. Even novice RV drivers should have no problem with the road. Whether you approach Lyman Lake State Park from the north or south, you’ll go through some decent-size towns which are not far from the park. The park also has a gas station and convenience store.
Inside the park, there is lots of large vehicle parking near the boat launch, the visitors’ center and convenience store, and the remote Rattlesnake Point ruins. Most of the park roads are paved, but a few are gravel. The largest parking lot is located at the Ranger Station and Market. You'll also find parking near the group campsites and day use area. Of course, if you are staying overnight your campsite will be the place to park.
Lyman Lake State Park’s campground is located almost literally in the center of the park. 38 of the 56 back-in sites have utility hookups. 13 of the hookup sites have water, sewer, and electric hookups; the rest are water and electricity only.
Most of the sites have a picnic table and barbecue grill or fire ring, so you can enjoy those cool Northern Arizona evenings. A huge plus is that even the biggest of rigs are welcome since there are no maximum RV lengths.
The RV campsites are basically on two large loops which are connected by a paved road. The campground is close to major trailheads, a sheltered picnic area, and the park’s Day Use area. Campground amenities include a dump station, horseshoe pit, two restroom areas, and two restroom and shower areas.
In the open water, motorboats rule. There is a water ski course in the northwest part of the lake near the Little Colorado River dam. To get there, use one of the two boat launch ramps near the visitor's center. The north ramp has a double-wide lane; the east ramp is a single ramp. Both ramps are paved and have large parking areas. The area near the boat launch and fishing piers is a no-wake zone. Additionally, there are a number of inlets near the swimming beach and Day Use area. These spots are ideal for sailboaters. There’s no competition with motorboats, and a breeze comes through the east valley. Paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing are all very popular here as well.
The swimming beach, which is located between the petroglyph trail and the park store, is mostly sandy. However, there are some rocky patches here and there. Be sure to wear flip-flops and bring a pad for your blanket. Because boating is so popular here, swimming is limited to the swimming area. If you stay near the shore, the water is usually pretty warm. The further out you get, the colder it gets, especially in spring and fall. Beach facilities include a lakeside camping area, several sheltered picnic areas, and a restroom/changing cabin.
Don't forget to pack your rod and reel in your campervan when you head out to this state park. Largemouth bass are near the dam, channel catfish are near (you guessed it) the lake channels, carp like the moderately-deep water not far from shore, and walleye are pretty much everywhere. Crankbait often attracts hungry walleye that are looking for a meal. Since the water is a bit cloudy and subsurface visibility is limited, if your crankbait rattles, that’s even better. If you fish from shore and basically just want to relax, nightcrawlers and other bait also attract lots of walleye. Consider using a slip bobber to get the nightcrawler at the proper walleye depth.
Many of the hiking trails at Lyman Lake State Park are more like nature trails. For example, there’s the one-mile Point Trail, which loops from the ranger station to a fishing dock. There are some steps and some moderate inclines, but it’s a mostly easy trail that offers great views of the lake. For something more challenging, try the two-mile Buffalo Trail. Back in the day, a bison herd used this same trail, which runs from the park entrance to the RV campground. This trail is steep at parts, especially if you take a side loop which leads to one of the highest points in the park.
Lyman Lake State Park has two different petroglyph areas. Eons ago, the Hopi Indians drew images of animals, men, and other things on cave and mountain walls. No one is sure when they were drawn or what purpose they served. Regardless, they are definitely eerie and cool. The one-mile Peninsular Petroglyph Trail winds near some cliff drawings which are still colorful after all these years. Self-guided tours are available pretty much all the time, and a ranger-guided tour leaves most Saturday mornings. If you’re really into cave drawings, take a boat to the Ultimate Petroglyph Tour Site, which is on the other side of the lake. A hiking trail goes from the lakeshore up into the mountains.
One of the best-preserved pueblos in the Southwest is at Lyman Lake State Park. In the late 14th century, about 15 families probably lived in the pueblo’s 90 rooms. Many of these rooms are open for tours. The Hopi Indians consider this site to be sacred, so visitors are encouraged to treat it as such. To survive in the harsh Arizona climate, these families probably farmed the Little Colorado River’s floodplain. Before embarking on your self-guided tour, stop by the visitor's center and pick up some background information. At Rattlesnake Point, a short trail runs from the parking area to the ruins.