Camping at Canyon Point Campground
When I was a kid, my family and I went camping every year. We started small by spending a night or two at a small lake close to the house. Then my dad got a boat. We started camping at Lake Powell every Fourth of July. But once I became an adult, the camping stopped. Hubby and I registered for some camping equipment when we were getting married, but even the few pieces we did get, never got put to use. Our tent, had been used a whole 3 times . . . in our backyard, at the request of Emma. Hubby and I had never even gone camping together, let alone with small children!
My parents and sister reintroduced the annual camping tradition a few years ago. They (and sometimes my sister’s in-laws) started getting together every July and heading up to Heber, Arizona to spend a couple weeks at Canyon Point Campground. The invitation to accompany them had been extended several times, but I’d always passed. I hadn’t loved camping as a kid and trying it again with one – and later, two – small humans seemed like way more trouble than it was worth! So when the topic came up again this year, I was fully prepared to say “No” again . . . until my husband cut in. He seemed interested in the idea and so eventually we decided to give it a try. The group was smaller than usual this year, for various reasons, but during the last weekend in July, we packed up the car and drove the 4 hours up to Heber to begin our adventure.
Canyon Point Campground is a large campground on the Mogollon Rim in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The campground is close to many areas that can provide activities like boating, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking. There are electric and non-electric campsites, all equipped with a fire pit and a picnic table, and all within walking distance of pit bathrooms and non-potable water spigot.
While our family camped out in a tent, my parents (who’s campsite we were sharing) were camping in a fifth wheel trailer. None of us adults had any problem using the pit toilets regularly, but Emma, on the other hand, was terrified of the “hole potties” and refused to use them. Because of my parents’ camper, she was able to use their toilet, but for other parents without that option, there are flushable toilets (as well as showers and dumpsters) located near the front of the campground.
The campsites were located in a beautifully wooded area with plenty of space between campsites. I mean, you could see each other (so don’t go getting all weird) but the girls had plenty of space to run and play without straying into someone else’s campsite.
Things To Do
We spent 4 days (and 4 nights) at Canyon Point and spent most of our days exploring what the surrounding area had to offer.
Onsite, Canyon Point offers a short hike to a sinkhole (marked with blue diamonds on the trees) that was fun for Emma to explore. We took the quick trek to the hole, and once there, Emma insisted that we hike down inside. The path was narrow, but Emma was delighted with all the wild raspberries surrounding us and had fun climbing on the giant logs/stumps that we found at the bottom of the hole.
Canyon Point is close to several lakes, but Day 2 had us heading to Willow Springs Lake (located at Sinkhole Campground) to try out some fishing. It was Saturday so the lake was busy with people kayaking, motoring in small boats (there is a boat ramp available), and – like us – fishing. Emma lost interest in fishing pretty quickly, so she and Charlie spent their time there playing in the water. We weren’t there long before we packed up because of how busy it was. My dad and Hubby went back on Monday and had a much better experience now that the lake was quieter.
Another day, when we were out exploring, we swung by Woods Canyon Lake. Since it was still the weekend, it was also fairly busy. But this lake boosts a waterfront store so if you need bait, snacks, or even baby lotion, they’ve got you covered!
I know there are several other lakes in the area, but those are the only two we visited, so I can’t speak to what the others are like.
Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery produces and stocks over 165,000 catchable rainbow trout and 400,000 brook and cutthroat trout each year, plus 150,000 of Arizona’s State Fish – the Apache Trout. When you visit the hatchery, you can wander the grounds and see the fishes in the tanks. There are a couple machines that dispense fish food for a quarter, so we used those and the girls had a blast getting to feed the fishes. There were extra squeals when the frenzy of fishes made enough commotion that it splashed us a bit if you stood too close. When you’re done with the fishes, you can head up to the Visitor’s Center to learn more about how the hatchery works and a bit about state history. Emma was enamored by the diorama at the end that lit up different areas of the park when you pushed the buttons.
RANCHO TONTO CATCH-A-TROUT
Just down the mountain from the hatchery is Rancho Tonto Catch-A-Trout. At Rancho Tonto visitors can come in and fish for Rainbow Trout without having to worry about dragging around their gear. Pole and bait are provided (and no fishing license required). You pay by-the-inch for any fish you catch (no catch & release). Fish are super easy to catch (practically jumping on the naked hook), so while it’s not the spot for people who like to fish for sport, it was a great place to stop and let Emma have a whirl at fishing. Within a few minutes she’d caught 3 fish and was so darn proud of herself! There’s also BBQs and picnic tables for those looking for a quiet and pretty spot to have a picnic.
MOGOLLON RIM VISITOR’S CENTER
Perched on the edge of the Mogollon Rim, the visitor’s center offers spectacular views of the forested mountains, lakes, and valleys.
Open primarily during the summer season, the center offers examples of wildlife (both stuffed & fossilized), informative literature, souvenirs, and staff available to answer questions about the area. I was pleasantly surprised that there was a “Touch Me Table” available for little hands to feel and examine various rocks and animal skulls.
They also had Junior Rangers Program activity booklets that kids could complete during their visit and turn into a staff member to receive a patch and certificate making them a Junior Ranger.
I know most people probably don’t think about shopping when they’re out camping, but what else are the ladies supposed to do while the men fish? (I’m joking – don’t send hate mail) Since neither my mom nor myself (or my girls, for that matter) had any interest in fishing after our first time out, when the boys went off, we packed up and headed out into Heber-Overgaard to see what cute shops we could find. Our first stop was Bisontown. With brightly-colored, old-timey buildings, you can’t miss it! Most of the property appears to be part of Bison Ranch, a time-share property, but the front of the property has some cute shops with nice souvenirs. There’s also a quilt shop (that was closed) and handmade soap shop and a couple of eaterys. On the way back to camp we stopped at Wild Woods to look at the unique wood carvings and furniture and then at Windy Hills Lavender Farm, where Emma and I stocked up on lots of lavender goodies (like tea and honey). Our final stop was a cute little shop called Aud’s Crafts. The shop was filled with all sorts of unique knick-knacks as well as some homemade jams and salsas. The owner was a doll and Emma really loved chatting with her.
There’s also plenty of General Stores, hardware stores, and restaurants available within a short driving distance. Just in case you forgot something, broke something, or need a bite to eat.
We had a great time! There was plenty to do and see, onsite and off. The weather was beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. I was super worried about not only my first time camping in over a decade, but camping with kids too. The whole thing went super smoothly and we’re already looking forward to our next visit.
What’s your favorite place to go camping?