Amazing Things to do at Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

If you’re an avid fan of water sports and Arizona sunshine, chances are you’ve already heard of Maricopa County’s Lake Pleasant Regional Park. As one of the most sought-out water destinations in the Valley of the Sun, this northwest park has no shortage of activities — on the water and off. 

If you’re not familiar or you’re looking for specific information, this article will tell you all about what McDowell Mountain Regional Park is known for, the must-see spots, available hiking trails, entrance fees and opening hours, camping information, and nearby accommodations.

1. What is Lake Pleasant Is Known For

Lake Pleasant Regional Park is a vast outdoor recreation area northwest of Phoenix. This 23,362-acre park is made up of untouched desert landscape, mountainous views, and crisp blue lake water. Lake Pleasant draws in huge crowds of visitors every year who are looking to partake in the many outdoor activities found within the park, including boating and kayaking, fishing, swimming, scuba diving, hiking trails, and picnic sites.

Boating and Kayaking

If you love water sports, Lake Pleasant is the place to be. Water enthusiasts can spend their days wake boarding, waterskiing, boating, sailing, kayaking, and jet skiing all on the park’s beautiful blue water.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park has two boat launching ramps, a 4-lane and a 10-lane. Both of these launch ramps have restroom facilities, paved parking lots, and are functional to a water elevation down to 1,600 feet. You will find two marinas on the lake as well as a restaurant that serves delicious food after a long day on the water.

While visitors are more than welcome to bring their own boats and kayaks, boat rentals are also available inside the park for full and half days. Ask around about outside vendors who rent jet skis and other fun water sport vehicles by the hour.


Lake Pleasant visitors are invited to partake in individual and club fishing by boat or shoreline. For those looking to avoid the crowds, the park also allows fishing from the floating bridge located on the Pipeline Canyon Trail, roughly half a mile from the trailhead. Night fishing is also permitted within the park and is very popular among overnight campers.


Of course, you wouldn’t come to a lake without expecting to dip your toes in the water. Lake Pleasant is open for all levels of swimmers and the park even invites visitors to freely float the waters in inner-tubes. The popular swimming and floating locations include Fireman’s Cove, Coles Bay, and Humbug Cove. 

As always, take extreme precautions when swimming in manmade lakes and open water. Life jackets are strongly recommended!

Scuba Diving

Who says you need an ocean for scuba diving?Lake Pleasant is famous for offering some of the best inland scuba diving in the western United States. Underneath the water, scuba divers will find intricate rock wall formations, canyons, and historic structures like the old Waddell Dam.

Lake Pleasant’s surface takes up roughly 10,000 acres and it can reach depths of 260 feet when the lake is full. Several external vendors are able and willing to provide visitors with scuba equipment and certification courses.

Hiking Trails

Lake Pleasant Regional Park offers visitors a number of different hiking trails that are designated for pedestrian use only. Trails range from .05 miles to 4 miles and are all classified between easy to moderate difficulty.

Picnic Sites

You’re bound to get hungry after a day of swimming, boating, and hiking. For that reason, Lake Pleasant offers three different day-use picnic areas:

  • Wild Burro Day Use Area: 10 covered picnic tables with grills. Drinking water, restrooms, and parking are available. 
  • Cottonwood Day Use Area: 23  uncovered picnic tables and barbecue grills.  Drinking water, restrooms, and parking are available.
  • Sunset Ridge Area:  21 covered picnic sites with grills. No amenities are available at this location but there are a port-a-john restroom and beautiful lake views!

Lake Pleasant also has two group picnic ramadas for large groups, parties, and other gatherings. Both ramadas contain lights, electricity, large grills. There are nearby restrooms, water access, and parking.  The group picnic ramadas are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

2. Top Spots to See in Lake Pleasant

The breathtaking scenery surrounding the lake is arguably this park’s number one must-see item. Mountains tower around the lake, complemented by clear blue skies in the afternoon and burning fiery orange at dusk. However, the park’s Discovery Center, moonlit scorpions, and stars are certainly worth checking out as well.

Discovery Center

Lake Pleasant’s Discovery Center offers visitors a chance to learn about the history of the lake, the construction of the Waddell Dam, and the surrounding land. Guests are also encouraged to step out onto the center’s balcony for an incredible view of Lake Pleasant in all of its glory, as well as a close look at the historic Waddell Dam. 

From the Discovery Center, you can set out on the Discovery Center Trail. This is an easy-going .05 mile trail connecting Roadrunner Campground to the Discovery Center via interconnecting loops and some interpretive signage which makes it an ideal hike for visitors to stroll while learning about the surrounding ecosystems and enjoying the desert. This is a perfect walk for families with young children. You can access the Discovery Center Trail from the northwest corner of the Discovery Center parking lot.

Moonlight Scorpions

This is something for the adventure-seeker!Lake Pleasant visitors often hunt for scorpions near the lake under the light of the moon. Be sure to bring a flashlight, close-toed shoes, and a pinch of bravery. There’s nothing quite like seeing these desert scorpions in their natural habitat.

Guided moonlight scorpion hunting tours are offered throughout the year by park rangers, consult the Lake Pleasant program schedule for more information. 


While the stars at Lake Pleasant are worth checking out every night of the year, Lake Pleasant park rangers frequently offer visitors the opportunity to stargaze like never before. Utilizing park-provided telescopes, the whole family can view and learn about the moon, the solar system, and the galaxy we inhabit. 

The cost for Lake Pleasant’s stargazing program is included in your park entry fee. Be sure to bring your own chairs and snacks, but leave your pets at home. For more information about park-led stargazing, contact the park office or consult the Stargazing for Everyone event page.

3. Hiking/Trails Information

​Lake Pleasant may be a water park, but don’t forget to pack your hiking shoes! For those visitors looking to spend some time on land, Lake Pleasant Regional Park has nine different trails that are designated for pedestrian use only. We’ve listed four of the most beloved trails below:

  • Pipeline Canyon Trail: A popular 2.0-mile hiking trail with a floating bridge has been installed to connect the trail during high water levels. This trail gets very rocky at certain points, so be sure to wear proper footwear. (Trail Level: Moderate)
  • Roadrunner Trail: A scenic 1.5-mile trail overlooking Lake Pleasant. Along the walk, visitors will notice signage for smaller trails that lead to the lake from this trail. (Trail level: Easy)
  • Wild Burro Trail: An easy 4-mile hike showcasing lakeside views. Some parts of this trail are considered moderate because of loose rock and a soft incline, but it is perfect for beginners or those just seeking some solitude. And yes, there are often wild burro sightings! (Trail Level: Moderate)
  • Beardsley Trail: Lake Pleasant’s longest hike and often the least-populated trail. Hikers will see vibrant green marshland, towering saguaros, and often vibrant wildflowers. (Trail Level: Moderate)

No matter which hike you decide to take, always bring more water than you think you’ll need and let someone know where you’re going!

4. Park and Camping Information

Park Hours

Lake Pleasant Regional Park is open for visitors 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! However, the park’s Visitor Center is open 10:00 am to 4:00 pm daily from October through March, and 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Monday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday between April and October. Always consult the park website for changes to the schedule.

Park Entrance Fees:

  • $7/day per vehicle
  • $2/day per individual or bicycle 
  • $4/day per motorized vehicle (motorcycle, etc.)

Visit Lake Pleasant’s website for information regarding additional fees for hiking and boating.

Camping Information

Campers will be delighted to find that Lake Pleasant offers two campgrounds totaling 148 individual sites for RV and tent camping. The park’s “developed” RV sites have access to water, electricity, a covered ramada, a picnic table, a barbecue grill and fire ring, and a dump station. The “semi-developed” sites and tent sites have a covered ramada, a picnic table, a barbecue grill and fire ring. Restroom and shower facilities are available at both types of campsites. 

Lake Pleasant Campgrounds

  • Desert Tortoise Campground – 76 campsites total. 25 developed Sites, 41 semi-developed Sites, and 10 tent sites. Large groups can reserve areas within the Desert Tortoise campground so long as they commit to utilizing at least 10 units.
  • Roadrunner Campground and Picnic Area – 72 sites total sites. All developed.
  • Shoreline Camping – Lake Pleasant Regional Park also allows for shoreline/primitive camping throughout most of the year, depending on the lake’s water levels. 

All Lake Pleasant campground reservations can be made online at the Maricopa County Parks website.

5. Where To Stay

The closest town to Lake Pleasant is Morristown, Arizona. Visitors looking to stay as close to the park as possible will find a number of hotels there. Additionally, several roads from Lake Pleasant Regional Park connect the area to Phoenix’s main freeway systems. For this reason, many visitors enjoy making a day trip to the lake and spending the rest of their weekend in Phoenix or Scottsdale. Regardless, if you’re not keen to camp, there are a number of hotel and Airbnb options within a short driving distance of Lake Pleasant. 

There’s a reason Lake Pleasant Regional Park is so beloved among Phoenix metropolitan area locals. Not only is the shimmering lake surrounded by larger-than-life scenery, but there’s plenty to enjoy on land too! Next time you’re yearning for some fresh air, pack up the car and spend the weekend at Lake Pleasant. You’ll see what the buzz is all about in no time.