Along with its wonderfully mild winters and piping hot summers, the Colorado River Corridor along the borders of Arizona, Nevada, and California has another claim to fame as well: It is home to a string of lovely state parks that burst into life in the springtime.
Indeed, while most communities would be pleased to have just one or two state parks, the Lake Havasu City and Parker, Arizona, area has an abundance of riches with four state parks within about a half-hour drive from one another. On a recent trip along the Parker Strip between the two towns, I was amazed at the variety, from rugged mountains to large expanses of open water and beautiful coves.
And on the other side of the Colorado — upriver in the Laughlin, Nevada, area — the Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area adds a fifth river playground within just over an hour-long drive.
Springtime tends to bring large crowds of spring-breakers to the Lake Havasu City and Laughlin areas, but the state parks offer a way to get out of the city crush and take in the sweeping views of the cobalt-blue river bordered by rugged peaks.
During my Lake Havasu stay, I was hosted by Go Lake Havasu, but all opinions are my own.
Here are five gorgeous Colorado River state parks to enjoy in the springtime.
1. Cattail Cove State Park
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
For visitors looking for large stretches of blue water and pretty coves, Cattail Cove State Park is the spot to find them. Consisting of 2,000 acres, the park features a beach, boat ramp, scenic hiking trails, and a campground with 61 campsites.
The park’s website notes that whether visitors are interested in swimming, fishing, or lounging and relaxing, “Cattail Cove State park offers you and your family a chance to get away and enjoy tranquility along Lake Havasu.”
Cattail Cove also features several excellent trails that take hikers along the shorelines and through desert terrain. I loved the Dog Beach Trail that started near the campground and closely followed the lakeshore, offering great views of the lake’s coves along the way.
Among the other trails to check out are the Whytes Retreat Trail, an easy half-mile trail that offers views of the Whitsett Pumping Station and the Parker Dam, and the Three Dunes Trail, a moderate-to-difficult 3.37-mile trail.
Pro Tip: In the springtime, after a wet winter, visitors can expect to see wildflowers and flowering cacti.
2. River Island State Park
With a scenic little island right at its entrance, River Island State Park makes a charming statement in the string of Lake Havasu/Parker state parks.
Located on the banks of the Colorado River, River Island is perfect for either an action-packed or laid-back visit. Featuring a three-lane launch ramp for boats, River Island is known as a great spot to fish for bass, catfish, and panfish, or just to boat around and take in the river sights. Families also love the park for relaxing and swimming in the cool river water.
“With so many options here for water recreation enthusiasts, there really is something for everyone to enjoy at this oasis along Arizona’s west coast,” says the park’s website.
River Island has a campground with 37 campsites. Eight of the sites are beachfront campsites on the grass overlooking the river, which are ideal for tents or small campers up to 24 feet. The other 29 sites are suitable for RV camping, but also accommodate tent campers.
For hikers, River Island State Park features the Wedge Hill Trail, a moderate, half-mile network of trails that heads uphill and offers great views of both the Colorado River and the mountains along the Parker Strip.
Pro Tip: The River Island trails connect with those in the nearby Buckskin Mountain State Park, offering the opportunity to hike several miles in the area.
3. Buckskin Mountain State Park
The Buckskin Mountain State Park stands out in the region for its flat-out gorgeous terrain that features craggy mountain peaks set off by vividly blue river water. The park’s website notes that Buckskin “commands one of the finest views along the Parker Strip,” with mountains lining both the Arizona and California sides.
Like the other parks in the region, Buckskin offers a range of camping experiences, with both RV and tent sites. There are 80 campsites in all, some right on the riverfront, and others nearby.
Hiking opportunities are also plentiful and varied at Buckskin, with everything from expansive views to abandoned mines to overlooks of the Colorado River. Among these options are the Lightning Bolt Trail, a moderate half-mile route that starts out with a steep climb, overlooks the park and river, and features wildflowers in the spring; the Buckskin Loop Trail, which is accessed off the Lightning Bolt Trail and takes hikers into desert landscape; and the 2.3-mile Lamb Springs Trail that connects the Buckskin Mountain Trail system to the nearby River Island State Park trails.
Buckskin Mountain State Park also has a two-lane boat ramp, a designated swimming area, and opportunities to fish for bass, sunfish, and catfish. Visitors can expect to see wildlife like bobcats, ringtail cats, coyotes, and gray foxes, along with desert lizards and snakes. Birders will find red-tailed hawks, Vermillion flycatchers, great horned owls, turkey vultures, and egrets.
4. Lake Havasu State Park
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
Located in Lake Havasu City, Lake Havasu State Park offers an exceptionally convenient spot for exploring the community. It is just minutes from Lake Havasu’s famous London Bridge in the Bridgewater Channel area, and it is also close to many dining spots.
Along with being a great base, Lake Havasu State Park boasts excellent outdoor amenities as well. It is known as a world-class bass fishing destination and is popular both for beginner and experienced fishermen. The state park’s website notes that largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass all thrive in the lake, which is a reservoir of the Colorado River.
Visitors also gravitate to Lake Havasu State Park for its wildlife viewing, which includes coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, and squirrels, as well as birds like quail, roadrunners, great blue herons, red-tail hawks, hummingbirds, and turkey vultures.
The park is known to be one of the best spots to watch the sunset over the lake. In fact, it features a trail for just that purpose. The 1.75-mile Mohave Sunset Trail winds its way along the shoreline, offering a number of spots to watch as the sun sinks behind the rugged peaks, casting off glowing reflections on the lake’s surface. The trail is relatively flat and is rated as easy.
Pro Tip: Another beauty of Lake Havasu State Park is that it is among the handful of Arizona state parks that offer cabin rentals. Located alongside its campground with its 54 campsites, Lake Havasu State Park’s 13 cabins offer a gorgeous lakefront setting with easy access to nature trails and a buoyed swimming area. For other state park cabin options, see my story, My 6 Favorite Arizona State Park Cabins Perfect For a Winter Retreat.
5. Big Bend Of The Colorado State Recreation Area
Located about 65 miles northwest of Lake Havasu City is another opportunity for Colorado River fun at Nevada’s Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area. The recreation area is located on Nevada’s southern tip, near the state’s convergence with Arizona and California.
The recreation area is about a 10-minute drive southwest of Laughlin, the town known for its casinos and gaming opportunities, and it is about a 20-minute drive from Bullhead City, Arizona, which has plenty of river access of its own.
Big Bend features about 2 miles of sandy shoreline and is a popular spot for camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, hiking, and bird watching. Because the park is just downstream from the Davis Dam, the recreation area’s website notes that “the river is clear and cool year-round,” making for great swimming opportunities.
A large variety of birds makes Big Bend a popular spot for birders as well. Mallards, coots, herons, and geese can be found in the area, along with hawks, roadrunners, quail, hummingbirds, doves, and owls.
The recreation area features 24 campsites that are accessible year-round, and all sites are on a first come, first served basis with no reservations. With its shade ramadas located along the shoreline and its two-lane boat ramp, the recreation area is also a popular place for day-use and picnickers.
For hikers, the recreation area features about 4 miles of trails that weave throughout the developed park areas. “The canyons in the area of the park west of the Needles Highway offer plenty of undeveloped areas to hike and explore,” adds the park’s website.
When To Visit The Colorado River Area
Spring and fall are the most pleasant seasons to visit the Colorado River Corridor, with both seasons featuring warm days and sunny skies. In Lake Havasu City, the month of March posts average highs of 79 degrees Fahrenheit, while April has average highs of 86 degrees. Temperatures rise dramatically after that, with highs of 96 degrees in May and upwards of 100 degrees in June, July, August, and September. Things start to cool down in October, with an average high of 89 degrees, and 60s and 70s through the rest of the fall and winter.