White Horse Lake outside of Williams offers a secluded forest setting

By Joanna Dodder Nellans

Ask some of Prescott’s old-timers to name their favorite local forest hangout, and you’re likely to hear about a place closer to Williams: White Horse Lake.

It’s among Arizona’s rare lakes with a campground in a relatively remote setting, so how can you go wrong?

“I think that’s why it calls to so many people,” related Kevin Lehto, recreation staff officer for the Kaibab National Forest’s south zone. “It brings that classic camping feel.”

The scenic shoreline of the 35-acre lake features rocky outcroppings and tall pines. And at 6,560 feet, it’s a great spot to escape the Arizona heat.

Driving the back way to White Horse adds to the fun. Instead of going to Williams and turning south, you can turn east from Highway 89 onto the unpaved Drake Road (also known as CR 71 and FSR 492), then north on the paved section of Perkinsville Road (CR 73).

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), created in the midst of the Great Depression to provide jobs and boost rural economies, built the White Horse Lake dam and campground in 1935. The CCC crews also built Dogtown Lake dam and nearby roads. It was the first time the feds invested substantial money in national forestlands recreation.

Fishing is a popular pastime at White Horse. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has classified it as a “high-quality bass water with general opportunities for sunfish and crappie.”

Trails in the White Horse area are plentiful, scenic, and often historic. The non-motorized trail that circles the lake connects to a trail to Sycamore Canyon. Nearby is the Overland Road Historic Trail #113. UTV riders love the numerous dirt roads.

The Black Bear Snack Shack next to the lake sells food, drinks, and ice bags; see its Facebook page for more details. It also rents out kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. Swimming is prohibited, however. The closure order cites the lake as a Williams water source, but the city’s 193-page water master plan doesn’t mention the lake. You can always fall off your paddleboard (accidentally, of course) to cool off!

The non-profit Public Lands Interpretive Association manages Kaibab Forest campgrounds at White Horse, Dogtown, and Kaibab lakes. Check its White Horse Lake Recreation Area Facebook page for the schedule of educational programs.

If you decide you’re having too much fun to leave at the end of the day, some of the 94 campsites surrounding the lake are first come, first served.