Well, it’s been a pretty hectic last couple of months, but it’s almost spring break, and for many of us in Arizona and Southern California that means one thing – Havasu. If you’ve never been to Havasu for spring break, you’re simply missing out (just do a google search, pictures are always better than words). However, Havasu is actually a great destination year round, and Lake Havasu State Park is the go-to campground. Here’s our latest review from our recent stay in December of 2013. If you’re looking for primitive boat-in campgrounds around the lake, here’s a list of both BLM and AZ State Park managed sites.
|Lake Havasu State Park Entrance|
If you haven’t been to Lake Havasu State Park recently, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the changes that have been made. Arizona State Parks have just completed a total renovation of the campground, mainly installing new electric boxes and running water at each campsite as well as completing a new nature trail (check out a great article on the upgrades from the golakehavasu blog). The new electric outlets will be a godsend for those of you visiting in the summer, as temperatures average above 105 degrees, and often top 115, especially in July. The sites have also been newly graded, and bathroom facilities were improved too.
Besides the new 50 amp electrical boxes, the best part of Lake Havasu State Park is its location. The park is about a 5 minute drive from the London Bridge, and maybe 10 minutes from downtown. Many of the campsites are right on the lake, and most at least have a lake view, yet there’s also a solid buffer of natural area between the campground and London Bridge Road. Also, it’s important to note that Google Maps will really not help you find this place. As of March 2014, it still directs you to a pin point south of town in the middle of nowhere. The park’s main entrance is off of Industrial Blvd., about a mile or so north of the London Bridge on State Route 95 in downtown Lake Havasu City. Route 95 is the only road connecting Lake Havasu to the outside world, but it’s a beautiful drive, especially from the south. If you’re coming from Phoenix or LA, the quickest way is to take the I-10 to Quartsize, where you exit on the 95 and go north through Parker (if you have some extra time, make sure to stop at Parker Dam and the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge). If you’re coming from Flagstaff or Vegas, take the 95 south off I-40.
|Lake Havasu State Park Map (click to enlarge)|
Lake Havasu would be a great place to stay if it was just for location, but the campground is actually really nice, especially since the renovation. We stayed at site #34, which was right on the lake. Our other favorite sites were 16, 10 (great shade), and 7 & 8. Most of the sites in the interior of the campground didn’t have much natural shade, but there is a shade structure at every site. Of course, for those of you staying in RV’s, it won’t make much of a difference, but if you’re planning on sweating it out in a tent over the summer, best of luck! There’s really not too much site to site separation either, so privacy can tend to be minimum. Again, keep in mind this campground hasn’t been renovated to specifically suit tents, but I also imagine that most people who will come here for spring break aren’t necessarily concerned about privacy.
|Our campsite, #37. The lakeshore is about 25 yards to the right of the frame.|
An interesting wrinkle here is that lake-side campgrounds are actually charged a higher fee than the other sites. Beachfront sites are 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 14, 16, 34, 36, 38, 40, and 41, and are charged at $35 per night (the regular rate is $30). Reservations through the AZ State Parks can be made here or by calling (520) 586-2283 (there is a $5 non-refundable reservation fee). I think the extra fee is definitely worth it, if just for the fact that you’re ensured a little more privacy. It’s also important to realize that these are beachfront sites in terms of location, but not every site enjoys beach-y sand. At our site, #37, the same gravel/rock surface stretched all the way to a rocky shoreline, which definitely wouldn’t be ideal to layout or play on.
As you can imagine, this campground gets absolutely packed, and not just at spring break (so you know, ASU, which has the earliest spring break of the major Arizona universities, is on break this year the week of March 10th). Almost every weekend from March to October is full, especially in years like this where summer seems to have started early. The busiest season is from Memorial Day to Labor Day, where almost every weekend is booked solid and there are over 1,000 boat launches per weekend. However, our favorite season to go to Havasu is October-Novmember and February-March. Winter temperatures are definitely cooler, but if you’re fine with 70 degree weather and want to avoid the crowds, that’s the time to go.
If you do go, know the rules. Arizona State Parks strictly enforces a fireworks ban and applicable drinking laws, and will often suspend campfire privileges during particularly windy days. There can be up to 12 people per campsite, but only 6 of them can be adults. Quiet hours are from 10pm to 6am, and the person who registers for the campsite is responsible for all the campsite activities (interesting this is mentioned eh?) Showers are available here, but are only available to registered campers.
Bottom line, if you’re looking to visit Havasu and camp while you’re there, this is your best option. The proximity to London Bridge, downtown Lake Havasu City, and the waterfront location of the campground add up to the best camping experience in Lake Havasu. Make sure you make your reservations early, especially for the busy season, and check out the AZ State Parks list of area attractions.
Think we missed something? Have an additional question? Want to tell us a really awesome story of your last trip to Havasu? Leave us a comment! We’d love to hear from you!