If Arizona conjures up visions of a sandy desert with tall saguaro cacti, this place will seem out of place. Blue Ridge Reservoir camping reveals an unexpected side of the state.
The name Blue Ridge might make you think of the scenic mountains that stretch from southern Pennsylvania down into Georgia. However, this gorgeous area in Central Arizona has a similar name but offers an outdoor experience that couldn’t be more different.
About Blue Ridge Reservoir
The Blue Ridge Reservoir is a picturesque canyon lake created in 1965 along the Mogollon Rim. At an elevation of just under 7,000 feet, it is in a mostly undeveloped area in the beautiful Coconino National Forest. The closest populated community is called Clint’s Well, and the larger town of Payson is 23 miles away.
In 2004, this dam and reservoir were officially renamed after a longtime public official named C. C. Cragin. It’s a shame to give up such a descriptive moniker, so many people have just kept calling it Blue Ridge.
The narrow, winding waterway resembles a river in places. It has a thick cover of mature ponderosa pine trees along its hilly banks down to the water’s edge. Because of this lack of sandy shores, the reservoir is not suited for swimming or sunbathing. However, it has excellent access for kayaking and canoeing.
Fishing is a big draw, as well. The reservoir is well stocked with rainbow, brook, and brown trout. Blue Ridge Reservoir camping also means excellent opportunities for hiking and biking and observing wildlife.
Blue Ridge Reservoir Camping
The best time of year to experience Blue Ridge Reservoir camping are the summer months. The water is usually warm enough to enjoy from May through September.
There aren’t many campgrounds right on the reservoir, but there are many nearby. This unique area offers lots of dispersed camping opportunities. You shouldn’t expect lots of amenities or great cell service, however.
Rock Crossing Campground
Hwy 87, Happy Jack, AZ 86024
Just four miles from the lake is Rock Crossing Campground on FR 751. It has 32 single-unit sites and two double-unit sites. All have tables, fire rings, and pedestal grills. This U.S. Forest Service campground has drinking water, vault toilets, and spacious dirt pads.
There is a boat ramp and nearby hiking trails. Camping is for tents as well as RVs up to 32 feet long. It’s first-come, first-served, and it’s just $8 a night.
Blue Ridge Campground
E Blue Ridge Rd, Wrightwood, CA 92397
With just ten designated sites, Blue Ridge Campground offers a peaceful setting for tents and RVs. It is located off FR 138, approximately one mile off State Highway 87.
The amenities are basic and typical of what you’ll find in the area. There are tables, fire rings, and grills, along with drinking water and vault toilets. There are lots of hiking trails, too. Rates are $8 per night.
Moqui Group Campground
Happy Jack, AZ 86024
The Moqui Group Campground is for big groups. There are three different camping areas, and each of them can accommodate up to 50 people. They are for tents as well as RVs up to 22 feet long. There is a limit of 12 vehicles per site.
The campground has plenty of shade, and there are vault toilets and drinking water. There are also grills, fire rings, and tables. Also, there is an amphitheater on the premises.
Cost is $30 per night Sunday through Thursday and $50 per night Fridays and Saturdays.
Nearby: Clints Wells Campground
National Forest Road Route 3, Flagstaff, AZ 86024
Located on FR 3 in the Happy Jack area, the Clints Wells Campground is a dispersed camping site that offers the same amenities as others in the area. Although it is about 10 miles from the reservoir. There are seven sites with dirt pads plus tents and RVs up to 22 feet are welcome.
(Note: It’s not to be confused with the similarly named Clint’s Wells RV Resort, a private facility with full hookups).
Nearby: Happy Jack Lodge and RV Park
53878 Lake Mary Rd, Happy Jack, AZ 86024
Happy Jack Lodge & RV is a family-friendly full-service resort with 107 campsites. It’s on Lake Mary Drive and is about 12 miles from the reservoir.
Rates are $42 per night for full hookup RV sites and $25 for dry camping (tents or RVs). There are also weekly, monthly, and longer-term rates for RVs as well as cabins for rent.
Other amenities are available for additional fees. Showers are $6, and dump station use is $20. There is also a restaurant/steakhouse and a small general store on the grounds.
Blue Ridge Reservoir Kayaking
Kayakers love the Blue Ridge Reservoir because it’s easy to launch there, and the view is impressive. It’s free, too – there are no access fees.
These aren’t the only reasons that kayaking is such a great component of Blue Ridge Reservoir camping.
With those steep slopes on either side, it feels almost like you’re paddling a lazy river. There are multiple bends and beautiful scenery – including unusual rock outcroppings – around every one of them. There are lots of great shady spots along the banks to sit and relax.
Also, only small boats are allowed, with motors limited to 10 horsepower. This means you’re not likely to get swamped by a heavy wake. They probably won’t bother you at all.
The waters are deep, too (up to about 150 in some places), so there’s not a lot of current. You can also go cliff diving in areas.
There are many terrific places to visit in Arizona, but the Blue Ridge Reservoir stands alone in many ways. If your passion is the outdoors, and you love to put a kayak in the water, it’s a top-notch destination.