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
Use Level: High
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Fire Rings: None – Ground fires are allowed with a rock or metal fire ring.
Drinking Water: None
Toilets: Yes – Vault Toilets and Port-a-potties
Showers: None
Trash/Dumpsters: Yes
Hiking Access: None
Beach/Lake Access: Yes
RV/Trailer Length: Not Specified
RV/Trailer Amenities: None
Cell Phone Service: Limited on all carriers
Wifi: None
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.

Getting There

Geo Coordinates: 33.873787, –111.615729
Nearest City: Cave Creek, Arizona
Elevation: 1780’
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:
Reservations: Not Accepted

When To Go

Spring, Early Summer, Fall – Summer temperatures at Yellow Cliffs Campground will exceed 100 degrees daily

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Yellow Cliffs Campground Pictures

Image Credits: Justin Wilson


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