White Horse Lake Campground in Arizona offers quiet camping, hiking, and paddling just south of Williams in Kaibab National Forest – here’s why it’s one of our favorite camping spots
Arizona’s most well-known clusters of lakes might be those on the Mogollon Rim or Salt River, but the area around Williams is home to often-underrated lake camping throughout the summer.
Kaibab Lake, Dogtown Lake, and White Horse Lake each have established campgrounds open from May to September, and each offers quiet repose from the heat of central Arizona. White Horse Lake is the southernmost of the three and if you’re up for a drive down miles of washboard dirt roads, it’s a great place to camp and explore.
Related: 17 Best Arizona Swimming Holes to Hit This Summer
At a Glance
|Season||May to September|
|Campsite Types||Tents, RVs|
|Fees||$26+ per night|
|Max RV Length||38 feet|
White Horse Lake is about 19 miles southeast of Williams and just west of Sycamore Canyon Wilderness. It’s part of Kaibab National Forest’s Williams District, an area of more than 560,000 acres of beautiful pine forest.
The campground contains 94 campsites in six loops on the western side of the lake. All have the same amenities and 22 are considered fully wheelchair accessible.
Loops A and B on the southwestern side of the lake offer great water views and easy access to the shoreline. Loops C and D on the lake’s north side are still close to the water, and Loop E is the furthest from the lake but offers spacious sites and several double sites for larger groups.
No matter where you camp, you’ll be just a short walk to the lake and its trails. You can’t beat the lakeside views from Loop A, but the further-set Loop E has excellent scenery and sites within a few minutes of shore.
Loop F is a large group site that can accommodate up to 60 campers.
In the map above, Loop A is on the bottom, Loop B is above it, Loop C is in the middle (by the lone “7”,) Loop D is to the right of that (by the lone “12”,) and Loop E is the top one. Loop F is the area that says “Wgroup.”
Each campsite includes a table, campfire ring, grill, and designated tent area. Space and shade vary by campsite, and you can search the campground’s map to find sites with more room to stretch or spots closer to the water.
Sites fill up fast in the peak summer months, but you can usually snag a last-minute site in September.
Depending on the season, you may need to make reservations in advance. During peak season (early May–late Sep.) reservations must be made in advance online on Recreation.gov. Reservations open six months in advance for individual sites and 12 months in advance for group sites.
In the first week of May and last week of September, reservations are first-come, first-served. If you click on the date on the reservations page, you’ll be able to see the exact date on which the reservation system starts for the given year.
The campground opens in May, when temperatures in Williams usually range from the 40s to 70s. Temperatures in July and August rise considerably, with many summer days in the 80s and 90s.
Fortunately, Arizona’s Monsoon Season in July and August can also bring extremely heavy rain showers that ease the heat on sweltering afternoons.
If you’re escaping Phoenix, even the hottest days at White Horse Lake aren’t unbearable. Many of the sites are sufficiently shaded, mornings and nights are cool, and afternoon showers rolling over the area are part of the appeal of summer in Northern Arizona.
Amenities & Facilities
Each loop includes basic amenities like vault toilets, water faucets, and trash bins. There’s a small paved boat ramp between loops C and D for putting in canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards. There are no RV hookups, though there is a dump station at the campground’s entrance.
On the lake’s west side, a food vendor slings drinks and summer staples like hot dogs and hamburgers. There are two campground hosts and overall, the campground and its facilities are clean and well managed. Even during busy summer weekends the bathrooms, trails and grounds are typically free of trash.
The main recreation at White Horse Lake is chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool – which can take many forms.
Hammocking, for instance.
The lake is best known for hiking, boating, fishing, biking, and wildlife viewing. Rock climbing is popular in Sycamore Canyon just north of the lake, and there are endless off-roading routes in the area.
White Horse Lake Trail wraps the eastern half of the lake and connects to a trail leading to a Sycamore Canyon overlook. The lakeside trail is mellow and kid-friendly and includes plenty of offshoots for exploring.
Some stretches of the trail are out in the open while others are shaded and loaded with spots to take a lakeside break.
For a more challenging hike, check out Sycamore Rim Trail north of the lake. It’s an 11-mile loop that hugs the north rim of Sycamore Canyon with several access points along the trail for shorter hikes.
One access point is near Sycamore Canyon Falls, a popular spot for rock climbing. If you’re lucky, you can catch the falls running after a summer storm.
For more hiking options in the region, check out some of our favorite Flagstaff hikes.
White Horse Lake is open to paddlers and small boats with electric motors of one horsepower or less. You can rent kayaks and paddleboards or put boats in at the paved boat ramp on the north side of the lake. Swimming isn’t permitted at the lake.
White Horse Lake offers brown and rainbow trout, catfish, and bass. If you’re fishing from shore, consider walking further from camp along the shore to escape the crowds. And if you left home without a fishing license, you can pick one up from the camp host.
White Horse Lake Campground is about 75 miles from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, a doable day trip if you plan things right (here’s how to avoid the South Rim’s crowds).
Flagstaff is about an hour away, but if you’re hanging out in Williams, check out Bearizona, a drive-through wildlife park just east of town. If you’re more into trains than animals, swing by the Grand Canyon Railway depot downtown, from which trains have embarked for the Grand Canyon daily since 1901.
Know Before You Go
- Forest Roads 110 and 109 can be slow-going, especially in an RV or with a trailer.
- Williams is only 19 miles away, but the dirt roads out to the lake can stretch the drive up to an hour, so it’s worth stocking up in town before you head out.
- In July and August, passing monsoon storms can roll through in a hurry, so be prepared for rain even if it’s not in the forecast.
- Loops A and B offer the best lakeside camping spots, but the other loops are still within walking distance of the lake.
- For camping options closer to Williams, check out Dogtown Lake or Kaibab Lake.
- If you’re visiting from Phoenix, I-17 is the quickest way to go, but the drive through Prescott Valley and Chino Valley is a more mellow alternative route that winds through small towns and passes by picturesque landscapes.
To get to White Horse Lake Campground from Williams, take 4th Street (S. Perkinsville Road/County Road 73) south and turn left onto Forest Road 110. After about seven miles, turn left onto FR 109 and follow it to the campground. You can also get there from Flagstaff by taking Parks Road (exit 178) south from I-40.
Latitude and longitude: 35° 6′ 55.0001″ N 112° 1′ 1.9999″ W
Phone number: (928) 699-1239
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Seen in: Arizona, Arizona Camping, Camping