If you live in Phoenix or spend an extended period of time there, you know that for the most part of the year it a frying pan. Unless you are immune to high temperatures, often around 11o F, outdoor activities are practically impossible. So where do you go take a break from the heat? Most people head north to attractive but overcrowded Sedona or Flagstaff but there is a better choice – Watson Lake Park near Prescott. This perfect day trip from Phoenix is closer, less expensive, serene, and beautiful!
Perfect Day Trip from Phoenix – Watson State Park
I spent a good part of summer 2017 in Phoenix so I know first hand how the heat could paralyze your daily activities. The temperature stayed solid at around 110 F, with whooping cooling down to 95 F at night. I felt trapped in my hotel room and desperately needed to escape even just for a few hours. I found Watson Lake Park on the map and decided to check it out.
First Impression of Watson Lake Park
I did not expect much, just wanted to see the body of water and hopefully some greenery, but to my surprise I found the park to be strikingly beautiful. It could be a destination on its own, not just a place to cool down, but this is Arizona where famous national parks overshadow little gems like that. I had the place to myself.
Watson Lake, practically Prescott’s city park, is the most unusual and photogenic of central Arizona reservoirs. Most of its shoreline and surroundings are formed of huge, rounded granite boulders, some of which are semi-submerged forming tiny islands or narrow promontories. Contrasting with the blue-grey waters and the brownish rocks are the emerald green leaves of aspen trees, found scattered among the boulders.
Location of Watson Lake Park
Located about 100 miles north of Phoenix and just 4 miles north of Prescott, this beautiful lake is an oasis when you are looking to escape the desert heat. The park is easily accessible from the major roads, therefore a great destination for a day trip.
Hours of Lake Use
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, hours are 6 AM to 10 PM. From Labor Day to Memorial Day hours change from 7 AM until sunset. There is a daily parking fee of $3.
Things to Do at Watson State Park
Boats with gas powered and electric powered motors are permitted on Watson Lake. Kayaks and canoes are available for rent.
Visitors can fish from boats or from the banks of Watson Lake. State laws regarding fishing licenses apply.
Hiking at Watson Lake is phenomenal. The Peavine Trail runs along the southeastern side of the lake into the scenic Granite Dells region. The trail is level and easy and caters to hikers, joggers, horseback riding and bicycling. Peavine runs into Iron King Trail and runs about 4 miles toward Prescott Valley. You will find lots of nooks and crannies to escape any people you may encounter.
Watson Lake Park is an Audubon endorsed bird watching area where you will spot hundreds of bird species including eagles and pelicans. The 140 acre Watson Woods Riparian Preserve is located near the Peavine Trail.
Swimming is prohibited at Watson Lake Park. That is something hard for me to understand. There are so many little beautiful places that seem to be just perfect to jump in.
Rock climbing is allowed but I did not see anyone doing it. The park offers great climbing for beginners and experienced climbers.
Camping at Watson Lake at Watson Lake
Campsites are available during the summer season. Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grills, ramadas, fish cleaning stations, boat ramp and children’s playground are provided.
When I set at the picnic table overlooking the lake, I felt like a city dust was washing off me with the gentle breeze. I was feeding my body with food while the view was soothing my mind.
At the end of my hike, right next to the trail, I found a beautiful meadow. I lied down among the flowers and looked up at the sky. It felt it was a heaven on earth. What a beautiful ending of my day trip from Phoenix.
Dogs are allowed in the park.
I met a few people and their well-behaved dogs on the lake trail. Watson Lake is not just a body of water, but a perfect getaway that the whole family can enjoy!
Where to Stay In Phoenix for Easy Access to Watson State Park
After a glorious day at Watson Lake Park, I had a hard time to head back to Phoenix to continue my medical treatment. I found some comfort in the fact that I was going back to my home away from home at extended stay Residence Inn Phoenix North/Happy Valley by Marriott. The hotel made my stay in Phoenix as good as the circumstances allowed.
Just a short distance from I-17, the hotel is located down the street from Shops at Norterra and just 5 minutes from Wet’n’Wild Phoenix. Other nearby sites include Reach 11 Sports Complex, Outlets at Anthem, Peoria Sports Complex and downtown Phoenix.
The staff went above and beyond to help me with my daily struggles. They even remembered my birthday and put me to tears with a beautiful card and a nice fruit box.
I ended up staying in Phoenix longer than I anticipated. To keep my cost down I used my Marriott point, credit card anniversary nights, and even miles. As a result, I made many different reservations often for a lower grade room. Despite that, the wonderful staff let me keep my initial suite for all seven weeks of my stay!
I also loved the convenience of the free shuttle service. Again, my sincere thank you to all the staff for meeting all my various shuttle requests.
Rooms at the Residence Inn Phoenix North Happy Valley
Hotel’s pet-friendly apartment-style suites feature fully equipped kitchens, free WiFi, and 32-inch flat-screen TV’s. I stayed in a one bedroom suite, clean and modern. It had everything I needed for my extended stay.
I really liked breakfast included in the price of my room especially a variety of fresh fruit. The buffet offers a wide variety of options such as healthy yogurt, hearty oatmeal, Belgian waffles and much more.
The Residence Inn Mix™ Social
The Residence Inn Mix offers a fun and relaxing way to unwind, socialize and connect. Three nights a week the hotel features a different way to socialize in the lobby or outdoor space. On many occasions the food provided served as my dinner. Soft drinks, beer, and wine were available also free of charge.
Outdoor facilities at the hotel include a nice outdoor pool with a hot tub and an inviting barbecue area.