Yellow Cliffs Campground, is a dispersed campground at Bartlett Lake in Tonto National Forest with lakeside camping and access to boating and other activities. Located on the Verde River, Bartlett Lake, like most lakes in Arizona is a man-made reservoir. While the reservoir stores water for the Greater Phoenix area it also provides some great camping and recreation opportunities.
Yellow Cliffs Campground does not offer much in the way of amenities, but it does have a great view and direct lake access including a nearby boat ramp. Yellow Cliffs Campground does not have a designated number of campsites and the amount of space available for camping will vary with the level of the lake.
Yellow Cliffs Campground Bottom Line
Bartlett Lake is an oasis in the desert that can easily be accessed via a short drive from the Phoenix area. However, this easy access leads to heavy use during the early summer and fall and as such the campgrounds, including Yellow Cliffs Campground, can get littered with trash and debris, despite the Forest Service’s best efforts to keep it clean. So if you go to Yellow Cliffs Campground, do your part and keep it clean, in fact, you should leave it cleaner than when you got there.
While the nearby boat ramp at Yellow Cliffs Campground is great for launching your boat, it can be unusable during droughts due to the low water level in the lake, requiring you to launch boats from shore. At the same time, the lower lake levels provide a larger area for campsites and more space between you and other campers. The best campsites at Yellow Cliffs Campground tend to be right against the lake shore, but they can be hard to get unless you arrive early on peak weekends to claim your campsite.
While ground fires are allowed, you must use a fire ring made of stone or metal.
Yellow Cliffs Campground Features
|Campground Type:||Dispersed, Primitive|
|Number of Campsites:||Not Specified|
|Cost:||$6/day via Required Tonto Pass|
|Fire Rings:||None – Ground fires are allowed with a rock or metal fire ring.|
|Toilets:||Yes – Vault Toilets and Port-a-potties|
|RV/Trailer Length:||Not Specified|
|Cell Phone Service:||Limited on all carriers|
|Operating Season:||Open All Year|
No services. PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT. Glass containers prohibited. Bury human waste 6-8 inches and at least 200 feet away from camp, trails, water sources, and dry drainages.
|Geo Coordinates:||33.873787, –111.615729|
|Nearest City:||Cave Creek, Arizona|
|Location:||Phoenix Area – Maricopa County, Arizona|
|Paved Road Access:||Partial – Recreation Area roads unpaved|
|Proximity to Stores:||Approximately 4 miles at Bartlett Marina|
|Directions:||This site is 24 miles east of Carefree. Take Cave Creek Road 7 miles turn right on Bartlett Dam Road and turn left on FR 459. Continue on FR 459 for 3 miles then turn right to Yellow Cliffs Campground.|
Tonto Passes are required for each vehicle and watercraft. Passes can be purchased in advance online or at retail outlets. The closest retail outlets to Yellow Cliffs Campground are Bartlett Lake Marina or the Cave Creek Ranger District office.
Camping Supply List
|Phone:||(480) 595-3300 – Cave Creek Ranger District||Facebook:||Bartlett Lake Facebook Page|
|Web:||Tonto National Forest||Twitter:|
Maps & Brochures
When To Go
Spring, Early Summer, Fall – Summer temperatures at Yellow Cliffs Campground will exceed 100 degrees daily
Tuesday 10/16 20%
High 63° / Low 51°
Partly cloudy. Lows overnight in the low 50s.
Wednesday 10/17 0%
High 72° / Low 55°
Sunny skies. High 72F. Winds E at 15 to 25 mph.
Thursday 10/18 0%
High 75° / Low 56°
Mainly sunny. High near 75F. Winds E at 10 to 15 mph.
Friday 10/19 0%
High 80° / Low 61°
Mainly sunny. High around 80F. Winds ENE at 10 to 15 mph.
Saturday 10/20 40%
High 81° / Low 62°
Chance of a Thunderstorm
Scattered thunderstorms in the morning. Partly cloudy skies late. High 81F. Winds E at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
Sunday 10/21 50%
High 76° / Low 60°
Chance of a Thunderstorm
Scattered thunderstorms in the morning, then partly cloudy late. High 76F. Winds E at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50%.
Yellow Cliffs Campground Pictures
Image Credits: Justin Wilson