Bartlett Lake Paddleboarding and Kayaking

Head just 50 miles to our favorite Northeast Valley gem: beautiful Bartlett Lake. It’s the second biggest lake in the Phoenix metro area — right behind Lake Pleasant being the largest — and so close to home!

Bartlett Lake offers exceptional views of the golden Vermillion Cliffs across the water. If you’re lucky (cross your fingers!) you might catch a glimpse of bald eagles teaching their young to fly in this protected area. The dazzling sunsets are spectacular on the cliffs, as your day dims toward evening.

Directions to Bartlett Lake

From Phoenix or Tempe, head through the unique and entertaining western towns of Cave Creek and Carefree. Then, enjoy a delightful 13-mile drive down Bartlett Dam Road until you come upon the expansive lake and marina in the distance.

At the first lake parking lot, you’ll see the sheriff’s station to the left and boat ramp. This is the first easy drop-in location. The marina to the right is private, but take advantage of the all-access general store for supplies! Frequently in the wintertime, like most lakes, you will have this body of water all to yourself.

Riverbound tip: This lake does require a Tonto National Forest pass.

Bartlett Lake

Where to paddle at Bartlett Lake

Before paddling out, check the wind flag at the sheriff station. Conditions can actually make for great SUP skills of strength and technique, if you are comfortable with that aspect. Don’t forget: Kneeling or sitting to get through wind is a safe option. For a distance paddle, start from any of the drop ins, and go the north end which serpentines up the Verde River to Horseshoe Reservoir, eventually ending in a desolate section.

Rattlesnake Cove
Beyond the first boat ramp going north is Rattlesnake Cove. Here you’ll find plentiful shaded ramadas and a tiered parking lot, but it’s a little walk to a waterfront drop-in. It is a wonderful, protected family-friendly cove.

Snakebite Cove
The next drop-in spot, further north down the road, is Snakebite Cove. This is prime lakefront paddling — pull right up to the water’s edge and get in!

Bartlett Flat
Finally, just beyond Snakebite Cove you’ll hit Bartlett Flat. Hang out all day or weekend with beach chairs, umbrellas, your SUPs and a BBQ! You can even drive a Class A motorhome right up to the water’s edge and camp out for an extended period of time.

Riverbound tip: Wherever you choose to get in, paddle to the east side with a little snack and hydration. There are many places to rest your board and sit under the shade of one of the many saguaro cacti and rock formations.

Hiking at Bartlett Lake

From the first parking lot by the sheriff station, start the scenic, easy-moderate Jojoba Trail, that takes you in and out of coves all the way to Bartlett Flat. There are many opportunities to cool off at the water’s edge while enjoying this beautiful hike. Or what a great inflatable SUP hiking adventure, too!

Kayak and SUP Paddleboard Rentals

Pickup a paddle board or kayak rental at Riverbound Sports Tempe shop location and get on the water at Bartlett Lake starting at $40 a day. Check out our pricing and options for Paddleboard Rentals in Arizona.

Rent A Paddleboard or Kayak Now

Bartlett lake in Arizona panoramic picture of the mountains and water.

Directions from Riverbound Sports

Bartlett Lake

This is a 1 hour and 10-minute drive from the shop. Simply get onto AZ-101 Loop N, N Pima Road and Bartlett Dam Road to Horseshoe Dam Road for 47 miles. Continue on Horseshoe Dam Road to Dam Acc for 2.7 miles.  Click this link for Google Directions:











Author: Suzi DeMaio-Parmentier

Photo by Nat Parmentier