Horseshoe Lake

Cave Creek, Arizona (Maricopa County)

Last Updated: 10/19/2021
4.3 / 5 ( 8 reviews )
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Typically Open: Year Round
Permit Information: Permit Required - Click Here
Length: 8.8 miles
Highest Elevation: 3541 feet
Duration: About 1 hour
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Cave Creek
Nearest Town w/ Services: Cave Creek
Official Road Name: 205
Management Agency: Tonto National Forest
District: Cave Creek Ranger District


Highlight: Horseshoe Lake
Water in the desert means life. The beautiful and wild Verde River flows 170 miles through the center of Arizona before emptying into the Salt River. Two dams create broad lakes near the river's southern terminus, the first being Horseshoe Dam. Less crowded than the lower Bartlett Lake, Horseshoe Lake offers boating, kayaking, fishing, camping, wildlife watching, broad desert vistas, and quiet relaxation, The sandy saguaro lined road to Horseshoe Lake passes below St. Clair Mountain on its descent through the rugged Tonto National Forest into the Verde River's deep valley and then on the lake. Numerous trails branch off for those looking for some adventurous wheeling. The K A Ranch appears wonderfully bucolic on the eastern bank of the river. Easy access to the Verde River below the dam offers fishing and dispersed camping opportunities. Numerous species of catfish, crappie, and bass along with bluegills and carp are plentiful. Anglers may find themselves competing with bald eagles who frequently fish the river and lake. The trail ends at a boat ramp often used as a takeout for kayakers coming down the Verde as well as those wishing to troll the lake. Be sure to take the short detour to visit the dam and Catfish Point, a great place to watch the river's precious water cascading from the dam's spillway.


Route Information

Technical Rating

( EASY )

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1. Trailhead (0 mi)
Pavement ends and the trail begins.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Cave Creek, Arizona

From the intersection of Tom Darlington Road and Cave Creek Road Cave, proceed east 6 miles on Cave Creek Road. Turn right onto Bartlett Lake Road. Proceed 6.3 miles and turn left onto Horseshoe Lake Road at the well-marked intersection. The paved section of Horseshoe Lake Road ends in 2 miles and the trail begins.



Trail Reviews (11)

Questions & Answers (0)

Writer Information

Wade May

Hi! I'm Wade. After 43 years as a pilot, split evenly between flying fighters for the Air Force and Boeing 737s for the airlines, my feet are firmly planted on the ground. Seems I spent a lot of my flying time looking out the cockpit window thinking, "Yep, I could drive that trail." My trips range from a few days to a month. Most are solo in my silver 4Runner named Bullit. We range over all the southwest exploring remote places and trying to get as much dirt under the wheels as possible. Occasionally I get in some hiking, backpacking, and bushcraft as well. My most ambitious Overlanding plans include a trip to Tuktoyaktuk and Dead Horse when travel restrictions permit. Sharing my experiences as a member of the Trails Offroad crew, instructing at Overland Expo, and hosting the Gaia GPS Offroad podcast are true pleasures. Hope to see you on the trail soon.
For individual use only, not to be shared.