As temperatures spike throughout the state, locals and visitors alike can find relief on the cool waters of Roosevelt Lake along with plenty of activities both on and off the water.
Enhancing the Arizona outdoor experience, there are several new options for food and lodging that offer local culinary takes and indoor entertainment for the hottest days.
Stagecoach Bar and Grill in Roosevelt
“Local is huge for us: We get all our veggies from the farmers market in Superstition and Mesa when we can,” says Sagan Simonis. “There are times we have to improvise, obviously. We’re working on a deal with some of the local farmers to get some local beef in as well.”
Simonis is the sole proprietor of the Stagecoach Bar and Grill at Roosevelt Resort Park—formerly Roosevelt Lake Resort—located at 358 N. Stagecoach Trail, in Roosevelt about 22 miles north of Globe on State Highway 188.
The resort offers cabins of various sizes, double queen motel rooms, full-hookup RV sites, a 3-bedroom mobile home, as well as kitchenette suites. There are also dog-friendly options in a location with easy access to everything the region has to offer.
The Stagecoach serves guests from the resort and has become a popular hangout for locals seeking a family friendly gathering place.
A truly Arizona experience, the restaurant has been redecorated in southwestern, “John Wayne” style, with a menu that is updated regularly to keep the food interesting for its diverse clientele.
“We’ve revamped the bar and are planning a lot of new things,” Simonis says. “We’re planning to have a retail space, games for the kids, and I’ve got chefs that make really good comfort food with rotating specials.”
Her path to intrepid businesswoman has not been easy for Simonis, a Mesa native who’s spent most of her professional life in the food industry.
It was when she worked at a restaurant in Apache Lake that Simonis fell in love with life on the water and she worked hard to ensure she could take a few days on the water every month.
But four years ago her life was shattered when she was riding a scooter near Sky Harbor Airport and was hit by a large Ford pickup at a speed of about 40 miles per hour.
“It was pretty intense,” Simonis remembers. “I had to learn how to walk and talk again and I took a good lickin’ to the noggin as well.”
Her love of the Lake eventually brought her to Roosevelt and on July 15, 2022 her dream of owning a restaurant came to fruition at the Stagecoach.
The Stagecoach menu changes regularly, but there are staples such as burgers, wings and house-smoked meats. Additionally, there is barbecue, shepherd’s pie and locally famous fish fries and brisket by her “manager/chef” Lonnie, who has taken it upon himself to do what he can to help Simonis succeed.
“I love the work, I love to run the kitchen and I make everybody laugh,” Lonnie says. “Sagan has more heart than any woman I’ve ever seen in my life. I made a promise the first day I met her that I’ll make sure [she] keeps this friggin’ place.”
Lonnie is something of a local legend himself. He was born in Lehi, which was annexed by Mesa in 1970, and aside from being a cook for decades, has worked in mines, been a “cow puncher” and concrete finisher among other various lines of work.
Aside from the food, the Stagecoach features plenty of entertainment, with karaoke, live music and occasional visits from a Doc Holliday impersonator who puts on a show for adults and kids. There are also horseshoe pits, an air hockey table, corn hole and a pond for fishing and creating an atmosphere to enjoy food and drinks.
Simonis has plans to expand her offerings at the Stagecoach, including a bass tournament for kids, a bounce house and she’s even working on hosting Arizona Historical Society Civil War reenactments at some point in the future.
“It’s been quite a journey, but we’ve been received pretty well,” she says. “After all I’ve been through, I just decided since I get a second chance to be here I want to do what I love.”
For information about upcoming menus or events, go to the Stagecoach Bar and Grill Facebook page.
New ownership at Roosevelt Marina
For visitors who want to be directly on the water, a few miles up 188 the Roosevelt Marina is a full-service facility offering slips, boat storage, rentals and an RV park with 50 spaces, 35 of which are full hook-up with the remainder electric only.
The new owners have big plans for future expansion.
“We have massive plans,” says General Manager Chad Duncan. “Starting this fall, we’re going to add roof structures to existing docks that don’t have them and starting in January, we’re adding the first 100 of 200 new slips we’re putting in.”
The Marina also plans to add Wi Fi to the RV park at some point in the near future.
Duncan says that traffic in the summer is mostly day-use, although the RV spaces give visitors a 14-day option from April through the end of September, the limit for summer camping in the Tonto National Forest. From October 1 through April 1, the park is open for long-term stays throughout the winter months.
Thanks to one of the best snowpacks in recent decades—the Arizona Department of Water Resources reported in March that the snowpack replenishing the Salt River Project watershed is the second-deepest it’s been in 30 years—Duncan says the lake is at 98% of capacity after hitting 106% in March.
While Roosevelt is a popular highlight for out-of-state visitors, Duncan says in the summer most of the traffic at the Marina is in-state residents escaping the heat. Many are from Tucson, as Valley boaters have closer options such as Saguaro and Canyon lakes.
“It’s been extremely busy, with the lake levels up,” Duncan says. “So there’s no real camping along the shores.”
In addition to providing an array of rental equipment, the Marina also provides a spot for boaters to fuel up, as well as a store and Ffinches Waterfront Restaurant and Bar and a lake-level bar called Pat’s.
“It’s a boater’s dream,” Duncan says. “Visitors can pull right up to the dock and it’s 10 steps from the bar.”
For more information, go to rooseveltlakemarina.com.
Tonto National Forest
The Roosevelt Lake Visitor Center is onsite at the Marina and offers an air conditioned entry point to Tonto National Forest as well as exhibits, videos and information on activities and attractions around the lake.
The Center opened on Nov. 5, 1994 and features a patio with an expansive view of the lake.
Although it’s generally too hot for the myriad trails throughout the region, TNF offers a selection of several hundred developed campsites, multiple shoreline areas, and small, isolated, islands and coves with plenty of opportunities for camping and relaxing.
Surrounded by some of the most stunning examples of untouched Sonoran Desert, Roosevelt Lake is a beautiful body of water that is a sanctuary for migratory waterfowl and raptors that use the lake during the fall and winter.
“There’s boating, there’s day use sites … a lot of our camping is either first come first served or through reservation.gov, where they can reserve sites,” says Forest Service Spokesman Eric Hoskins. “If visitors stop by our visitor center, they can come in, cool off there and learn a little bit more about the area.”
Day-use sites such as Fraser and Vineyard have no camping, but can be used for entry points to the water. Developed campgrounds such as Cholla, Windy Hills and Schoolhouse have boat ramps and other amenities and require nominal fees for use.
Primitive camping in the forest is not subject to fees and is available all across the TNF as long as they’re near an open road.
“The main thing we want to make sure is that people aren’t driving off those main roads, and they’re not damaging things or driving over bushes,” Hoskins says, adding that during the summer there are restrictions on the use of fire and the use of certain roads due to construction.
“That means no campfires unless you’re at a specific rec development that has our metal rings,” he says.
In addition to fire restrictions, Hoskins says visitors must be aware of their surroundings and guard against inadvertently setting off wildfires.
When towing, ensure no chains are dragging that may cause sparks that lead to wildfires and be careful about smoking by not throwing butts out of vehicle windows and ensuring cigarettes are completely stubbed out.
“That’s a huge concern for us,” Hoskins says. “If you are at one of our developed campsites, make sure you have a shovel and water to put it out. Obviously, we don’t want campfires anywhere out in the forest itself because it’s such a high danger right now. Also we don’t want fires during red flag days because of the winds and other dangerous conditions.”
One of the premier attractions in the TNF is the Tonto National Monument and its two Salado-style cliff dwellings that were built about 700 years ago.
The Visitor Center offers an introduction on the people who built the dwellings and contains artifacts and replicas of pottery and textiles that are on display in the museum. Visitors can watch a 20-minute park movie on the upstairs viewing platform on-demand throughout the day.
The park store, operated by Western National Parks Association, sells mementos and educational items.
The dwellings are accessible year-round and the Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
The Lower Cliff Dwelling trail is open daily during summer months from 8 a.m. to noon. Visitors must begin their hike before noon.
The Upper Cliff Dwelling Trail is only accessible by guided tour from November through April, groups are limited, and require a reservation. Reservations open October 1 for the season. To make a reservation, call 928-467-2241. There is a $10 fee to visit the ruins.
Weather during the summer can be extremely hot, but is typically 10 degrees cooler than the Valley. Park staff may close the trail to the Lower Cliff Dwelling due to safety concerns such as lightning, flooding, bee activity or heat.
For more information, contact the Tonto Basin Ranger District at 602-225-5395. For information about fees or road closures, go to www.fs.usda.gov.
Journalist, writer and editor who has worked for community newspapers for more than 15 years. After four years at Davis-Monthan AFB and a few years living in Tucson, moved to California to find his fortune. He is happy to be back in Arizona, in the mountains he loves.