While 400 miles of stunning coastline form Arizona’s West Coast, 1,800 miles of trails are perfect territory for hiking, cycling and off-roading in Arizona’s Playground—from the ground up. Weather in the late fall through early spring is ideal for earth-based play in the region.
Roger Naylor, a freelance travel writer who writes exclusively about the Southwest, has hiked Arizona for decades. When it comes to his favorite hikes in and near Lake Havasu City, he has two on his do-not-miss list.
Naylor’s favorite local hikes are SARA Park’s Crack in the Mountain, a spectacular, kid-friendly slot canyon in SARA Park near town. Moderate in difficulty, sights along the way include knobby geological formations and, if you’re lucky, bighorn sheep. Your turnaround point is a Lake Havasu cove at Balance Rock.
Naylor also recommends Pilot Rock Trail, a beautiful open country desert hike. “Beautiful any time of year, Pilot Rock Trail has been a favorite of mine ever since I hiked it following a wet winter when the rough hillsides were splashed with colorful wildflowers,” he writes on GoHikeHavasu.com.
Advanced hikers may want to scale a landmark visible from the city—Cupcake Mountain. Cupcake Mountain Trail is a nearly five-mile, out-and-back path with an elevation gain of around 1,700 feet. The five- or six-hour trek yields spectacular views from Lake Havasu City's most famous natural photographic backdrop.
Lake Havasu City’s mountainous terrain, long stretches of open road and numerous trails are perfect for all types of cycling and fitness levels. Tougher trails will challenge the adventurous, while level, well-paved paths are great for those looking for a relaxing ride.
With approximately 80 miles of varied terrain and beautiful views of the lake, city and mountain scenery, SARA Park has routes for every level of rider from kid-friendly to expert.
Watershed Loop is the park’s main trail. With gorgeous views of the lake and rock formations, it’s an intermediate 9-miler with a mix of ups and downs, S-tracks, straightaways and wide curves. You’ll find offshoots like Crool, the highly technical, double-black diamond; or Beer Bottle, the intermediate, which cuts across the middle of Watershed Loop to make it a shorter ride.
Friendly Fair Loop, right beside the parking lot, is as approachable as it sounds. Fun zigzags and switchbacks on undulating terrain give this route a rollercoaster feel. If you’re just looking for a quick taste of casual mountain biking, this one is a good option.
Rent or bring your off-road vehicle and explore more than 20 scenic networks of adventure-filled trails. For the ultimate off-road adventure, Lake Havasu City provides easy access to the Arizona Peace Trail: a 750-mile-long off-highway vehicle (OHV) loop that offers diverse terrain spanning the most beautiful parts of the southwestern U.S. deserts.
If you like to take the road less traveled, here are some popular trails recommended by local off-road riders:
Located right outside city limits on the south side of Lake Havasu City, the Standard Wash area has 7,500 acres open to off-road recreation. The routes are on existing roads and trails in the low desert.
Just 40 miles south of Lake Havasu City near Parker, the South Plomosa Range Trail is a 16-mile route open to ATVs. Also near Parker is the Swansea Loop Trail: a 12-mile route open to ATVs in the Rawhide Mountains.
The Copper Basin Dunes off-road area is 1,275 acres on the California side of the lake and just a short drive from Lake Havasu City. Riding terrain here includes sand dunes, and trails through the desert and up into the canyons. The staging area is about 15 miles down Parker Dam Road.
Check out the Crossroads, a 1,500-acre network of trails just 10 miles or so down the Parker Dam Road. Riding opportunities in this off-highway section include sand washes and trails through the lowlands.
For a rewarding, easy drive, take the Auto Tour Loop at the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a three-and-a-half-mile tour of nature. You’ll see the rich ecosystem thriving by the river from the comfort of your 4x4 or side-by-side. Among other wildlife, watch for feathered wings aplenty.
Both Cienega Springs Road and Buckskin Mountain Trail lead to The Desert Bar. The former is a four-and-a-half mile route that takes about an hour. The latter is slightly rougher with four rocky miles that take about an hour and a half to traverse. Either way will bring you to a solar-powered bar, the Nellie E. Saloon. You’ll find a full bar, a bare-bones menu, plus live music and kitschy art.
Let a local expert take the wheel as you adventure on a Jeep or ATV tour. Options include a Havasu Outback Tour, a Beach Tour and even a brewery tour, which isn’t off-roading, but is quality adventure in a Jeep, so worth mentioning.Find out about off-road rentals.
Nothing beats teeing off or chipping onto iridescent golf greens amongst the scenic red rock mountains and shimmering waters of Lake Havasu and the Colorado River. Located in the heart of town along the water’s edge is the popular Bridgewater Links Golf Course with an executive, 9-hole course right in the heart of the action. For a golfer’s getaway, The Refuge has an awesome 18-hole, championship course with panoramic lake and mountain views. For more details, check out multiple courses with panoramic lake and mountain views in and around Lake Havasu City.
If disc golfing is more your style, head across the London Bridge to the immaculate, 9-hole Grand Island Disc Golf Course with a beautiful setting on the island. Holes vary from shot to shot with some challenging doglegs and tree obstacles, but it’s all about fun here for seasoned pros and first-timers. There’s even a practice basket to sharpen your putting skills, and the course is free to play.