Weekend on Arizona’s Apache Lake

We spent last weekend at Apache Lake, dry camping at the Burnt Corral USFS campground. As you probably already know, I’m not a big fan of campgrounds, in fact I hate them. I’d much rather boondock. But occasionally I come across a gem that is well-priced and that is located in a spot that’s simply hard to beat. The Burnt Corral Campground, located six miles southwest of the Roosevelt Dam on the historic Arizona Apache Trail (AZ-88), is one such spot.

The Burnt Corral Campground consists of 79 mostly level sites. Like most USFS campgrounds, you can’t make reservations, it’s first come, first served. Each graveled site consists of a picnic table and a metal fire ring with attached grill. The best camping sites are located right on the lake, and naturally, these go first, so get there early in the day if you want one. You won’t find full hookups at this USFS campground, but if you have a solar powered camper like mine, who needs them. Besides the location, the best thing about the Burnt Corral Campground is that it only costs $6 a night to stay there (for seniors, it’s only $3 a night). Be warned. The campground host doesn’t take cash. You’ll need to purchase a Tonto National Forest day use pass as one of their offices or at an authorized seller (we bought ours at a local gas station here in Mesa).

The Burnt Corral Campground is open year round, but because of the 1,900 foot elevation, it’s simply too hot to camp there from June to September. The best time to stay there is during the spring, winter, and fall. Last week, the temperatures were darn near perfect with a high of 82 degrees during the day and low of 56 during the night, perfect sleeping weather. Because of it’s remote location, and because few people know about the campground, you’ll rarely find the campground full. In fact, when we were there last weekend, I’d say only 20 to 25 sites were being used. For a guy who hates campground noise and the lack of privacy, this is a good thing. The fewer the people the better.

Sign marking the entrance to the campground.
An excellent site located right on the lake.
View of the lake from our campsite.
View of the lake at dusk.
Yours truly hoping to land the big one.
View from our windows.

If you like boating and fishing, you’ll love the Burnt Corral Campground. The campground features a large concrete boat ramp and a small pier. When we were there I’d say half the folks staying at the campground had fishing boats while the other half had kayaks and canoes. Apache lake is stocked with rainbow trout during the spring and winter and you’ll find plenty of large and small mouth bass in the lake, too. In fact, the Saturday we were there, a large bass fishing tournament was being held on the lake. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a boat and had to fish from the shore. No, I didn’t catch anything. Next time, I’ll come prepared to fish for bass rather than trout.

The stay limit at the Burnt Corral Campground is 14 days. The campground policy is to pack it in, pack it out, though the campground provides several well-placed dumpsters where you can dump your trash. There are numerous water spigots located throughout the campground and a few pit toilets. Unfortunately, there is no dump station, but you can find one not too far at the nearby Roosevelt Lake campgrounds eight miles east on AZ-188. Because the Apache Trail is a narrow, winding mountain road, the maximum vehicle length limit is 40 feet with a maximum trailer length of 22 feet. Most of those staying at the campground when we were there were truck campers, small motorhomes, and small travel trailers.

How would I rate the Burnt Corral Campground? On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give it a solid 5 stars. I highly recommended it due to its location on the lake, facilities, and remoteness.

One final note. There is a lower Burnt Corral and an upper Burnt Corral. The campground is located on the lower side. The distance between the two is about a 1/4 mile. The upper Burnt Corral consists of a large dirt boat ramp and a few undeveloped camping sites located on the water. The distance from the Apache Trail to the boat ramp is .6 miles and is completely unpaved. The road is badly rutted from recent rains and will require a high clearance vehicle to traverse it.

Profile photo of Mello Mike
About Mello Mike 298 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure Magazine. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a truck camper and Jeep enthusiast, and has owned and restored several Airstream travel trailers. He enjoys college football, hiking, travel, off-roading, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years and now works as a project manager for a major banking and security firm. He also does some RV consulting and RV inspections on the side.

4 Comments

  1. Hey, thanks for the head's up! I'm sure to invite some family and folks to that getaway spot. With all their provisions and equipment on the ready, as well as their own boat rides, they're bound to get some real special photo moments out of that with some great catch. Thanks for sharing that! I hope you get to enjoy more moments like that. All the best!

    Kent Garner @ Whites Marine Center

Leave a Reply