When desert temps top 100 degrees, crisp mountain air, alpine lakes, and frosty beverages are suddenly irresistible. Luckily, Arizona offers several refreshing escapes where you can paddle on forest-fringed water, bicycle or practice yoga among the pines, hike at high altitude, and sip wine in the shade of cottonwoods.
Woods Canyon Lake
Nestled into a pine forest at a cool 7,500 feet, Woods Canyon Lake is a popular summertime retreat with ample opportunities for angling, hiking, and water play. If you drive up on a Saturday, you can cobble together a picnic at the Payson Farmers Market. Cruise 35 miles east on Highway 260 and Forest Road 300, which winds over the Mogollon Rim—a dramatic 2,000-foot-high escarpment stretching 200 miles across the state.
At the Woods Canyon Lake Store & Marina, you can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, or canoes (and yes, feel free to bring Fido). Alternatively, circumnavigate the lake by foot on the shady, roughly five-mile namesake trail, where butterflies flutter among wildflowers the colors of papaya, lavender, and lemon. You can lunch lakeside, or head back to one of the viewpoints on FR 300 to picnic perched above the rippling, pine-blanketed mountains.