Knoll Lake A knoll without a JFK Conspiracy! We kayaked, fished and camped at this Arizona gem.

The Proper Function

The Watery Knoll

Knoll Lake is part of the Blue Ridge Ranger District and lies peacefully within the Coconino National Forest. Located northeast of Woods Canyon Lake, this picturesque landscape sits upon the Mogollon Rim in Leonard Canyon. The dam was constructed in 1963 by the Arizona Game & Fish Department, funding primarily by the purchasing of fishing licenses. The dam forms a 75-acre lake with a depth of 50 feet and is fed by Clear Creek. Named appropriately from the rocky island (knoll) that resides in the center, it is accessible by kayak, boat or swimming. The water also serves as source to Horton Springs, a unique natural spring that gushes from the face of the rim wall.



The Mogollon Rim was named after Don Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon, who was the Governor of New Mexico from 1712 to 1715. Characterized by high dramatic limestone cliffs that drop 2,000 feet, it is a popular destination for those living in the hot summer desert.  As you drive FR300 you are driving upon a trail that was utilized by one of America’s great military leaders, General George Crook. General Crook and his army built this trail in the 1870’s. Starting at Fort Whipple (Prescott), it winds over towards Fort Verde then covers 200 miles eastward ending at Fort Apache in Whiteriver, Arizona. It was used as a supply route by wagons and served as a tactical view to track the Apache’s. The Battle of Big Dry Wash (34.4541952, -111.2506913), which ended the lives of 20 warriors and 2 calvary soldiers, was fought near FR300 near general springs. A few old growth trees can still be seen with the original blazes that mark the mileage from the various forts. In fact, many landmark names come from these blazes which include Thirteen Mile Rock and Twenty-Nine Mile Lake.



It’s Time to Rock n’ Knoll

Solitude & tranquility. If those two words strike a chord with you, then you must pack your gear and travel to Knoll Lake today!  When you finish your trip, be sure to tell all your friends how much you love Woods Canyon Lake!  A tactical response to keep the masses at bay!  The lake is surrounded by majestic tall Ponderosa Pine that serves as a barrier from the civilized world. The water is crisp, clear and stocked full of trout.

The Campground is seasonal and located on the left just before the lake. There are 33 well-developed units that offer fire-rings, grills, drinking water and vault toilets. No reservations are accepted and you will need to check in with the camp host (RIP Grizz) and pay a nominal fee. For those interested in a more proper function, the good news is that Knoll Lake is the only lake on the rim which you can legally camp upon – though, the host will tell you different. With that, I recommend that you pack all your gear into your kayaks and paddle northeast where you will find three separate back-fingers. As the water begins to narrow, you will see one camp spot located to the right on top of a hill, while the most western finger will dead end near an extremely secluded camping spot.



If you prefer backpacking, you can backpack to Knoll Lake by hiking the Babe Haut Trail #143. The trail begins below the Mogollon Rim near the Tonto Fish Hatchery. It offers a variety of diverse landscapes, lush vegetation, access to remote campsites and can be combined with the Horton Spring Function. This particular trail was built by a pioneer named “Babe” Haught who used the road to deliver supplies over the rim from Winslow. The first two miles is a rather steep climb but the reward is a picturesque view of the Green Valley. The terrain will eventually level as you ascend over the rim reaching FR300 (General Crooks Trail). The trail becomes well marked at this point and you will trek down towards a creek where Lake Knoll will start to emerge. This area is full of game. Herds of elk can often be seen or heard during the rut season (Oct-Nov). During the rut, I recommend you pack a cow call so you can call in the bulls. If you are uncomfortable using a mouth reed, other products like the Primos Hoochie Mama is a decent alternative. Here is a photo of a six-point bull I called in:


“I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.” – Geronimo


From central Phoenix, take Loop 202 east to Arizona 87 (Beeline Highway and go north to Payson. From there, take Arizona 260 east about 29 miles to Forest Road 300. Turn north (left) and go about 17 miles to FR 295E. Turn north (right) and drive about 3 miles to the signed turnoff for the lake.



This Proper Function
(Approximate Data)
Party Cloudy
2,315ftElevation 13.7hrsDistance From You
State, RegionArizona,Northeast
Coordinates34.426925°, -111.093266°
DirectionsView on Google Maps


Dan is an explorer for The Outbound and founder of The Proper Function, an outdoor editorial. He is passionate about exploration and can’t stay put for more than a week.