Covid-19 has changed the way many of us think about travel. Instead of staying in fully occupied resorts with packed swimming pools, we’re renting RVs to camp in national parks, booking vacation rentals through local hosts, and looking for alternative accommodations like the cabins at several Arizona State Parks & Trails.
I’d heard great things about the cabins, especially the ones at Lake Havasu State Park, so I jumped at the chance to spend the night. Come along and share my experience ina state park cabin on Lake Havasu.
Booking Your Cabin on Lake Havasu
Cabins in Arizona’s state parks are nothing new. Roper Lake and Dead Horse Ranch state parks have had cabins for quite a while. Alamo Lake and Lyman Lake state parks added cabins in 2016, followed by Kartchner Caverns State Park in 2017 and Lost Dutchman and Patagonia state parks in 2018. Lake Havasu State Park opened 13 cabins in December 2019.
Even the older cabins throughout Arizona have heating and air-conditioning as well as ceiling fans and electricity. They all feature porches, picnic tables, and firepits. Each one is designed for families.
Each of the 2- to 3-room cabins has a separate room for a queen bed and a space for either one or two bunk beds. Depending on the park you stay at, your cabin may have a min-refrigerator, microwave, and/or table. Lake Havasu’s cabins have none of these things.
All of the state park cabins, including the cabins at Lake Havasu, require you to bring your own sleeping bag or linens, including bed sheets, blankets, pillows, and towels. Make sure you take a flashlight—or at least a flashlight app on your phone—because the cabins do not have toilets. You’ll have to walk to the campground’s bathrooms to brush your teeth and shower, among other things.
Ensure that you book your cabin on Lake Havasu in advance. You will pay a $10 reservation fee. The charge for each cabin is $99 per night, plus a $10 per night surcharge for holidays. There are a few rules which you must be aware of before you arrive. No pets, smoking, or cooking inside the cabins. You can stay a maximum of 14 nights. There is a 2-night minimum on weekends with a 3-night minimum on holiday weekends. All details are available online.
Camping in a Cabin on Lake Havasu
I have to admit, when I found out I’d have to bring my own linens, I had second thoughts. This wasn’t going quite to be the cozy escape I’d imagined. But I’d grown up camping, and when our kids were younger, we owned a pop-up trailer. My cabin stay was reminiscent of that, in a good way.
Because Go Lake Havasu had arranged my stay, I only needed to show my confirmation to the ranger at the park’s entrance. If I made reservations on my own, I would have gone to the park’s website, selected my cabin, and paid online before I left, just like I would have if I intended to camp at the park. The ranger handed me a parking pass and directed me to the cabin loop.
It was easy to find my cabin. Mine was the only one that didn’t have a pop-up or other small trailer already parked in its driveway. At first, the pop-ups and trailers surprised me. Then, I remembered the cabins don’t have a stovetop or refrigerator. So, why pay for the cabin? If you already have an RV or trailer, why not just camp in the campground?
There are several advantages to staying in the cabins. First, you have extra space. Pop-ups, RVs, and trailers can get cramped. Second, the cabins are air-conditioned. Enough said, especially when temperatures can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. Finally, the cabins at Lake Havasu are right on the water. Spaces at the campground are not as close.
My Stay in a Cabin on Lake Havasu
Pulling into my driveway, I was struck by the view. These cabins are steps from the water and look out over the lake. Each has its own firepit, picnic table, and porch (bring your own porch chair). If I had time after dinner, I made plans to sit at the picnic table and drink a glass of wine.
Inside, I was surprised by just how bare the cabin was but also how clean. I knew the cabins had housekeepers to empty the wastepaper baskets and do some general tidying, but considering that this cabin is on a sandy beach, it was immaculate. I was also impressed by how well the air-conditioning worked.
After bringing my things in for the night and putting the blankets on the bed, I got ready for dinner at Cha-Bones, a local steakhouse and tapas restaurant. You can easily dine out while staying in the cabins or bring takeout food to eat at the picnic tables.
I didn’t return from dinner until after 9 p.m., and by that time, most people had already visited the campground bathroom to get ready for bed. At Lake Havasu, each bathroom is separate and co-ed. You enter a door and lock it behind you. Some have showers; all have sinks and mirrors.
Within the hour, it seemed like almost everyone had gone to bed. (This probably wouldn’t be the case during spring break or on holiday weekends, but then again, the cabins are more likely to appeal to families than to partiers.) I fell asleep soon after and slept comfortably on the queen bed.
Is a Cabin on Lake Havasu Right for You?
Staying in a state park cabin isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s definitely a good choice for families, especially those that don’t have camping gear, an RV, or trailer. These cabins are also good for people who intend to spend most of their time exploring the state park.
What it’s not is a romantic getaway. Although the sunset was amazing from my porch, the cabin certainly didn’t have luxury touches. It had racks for wet towels and a broom. Gnat-like bugs congregated around outdoor lights and tried to get into the cabin every time I opened the door after dark. Not to mention, there’s nowhere to store cold drinks or prepare food.
But I loved it, and I see the appeal of staying in a state park cabin. You are right there, in the park, enjoying amazing views. And, given the location, you can’t beat the price.
Finally, Arizona State Park’s cabins are a great option if you’re concerned about Covid-19. You can socially distance yourself from your neighbors. You don’t have to share an elevator with anyone. You’re outdoors. Yes, you’ll be sharing bathrooms, but you can use hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes in communal areas.
Gear List for Your Cabin Stay
When you head out for your stay in a cabin on Lake Havasu, you might want to include a few of these essentials:
- A sleeping bag is a good alternative to taking your own linens
- A flashlight for walking outside at night
- A cooler for cold drinks inside the cabin
- Take a camp stove for cooking outdoors on the picnic table
- UV protective clothing to prevent sunburn in Arizona sunshine
- Quick-drying shoes for wading in Lake Havasu
I was initially excited about staying in the cabins, then not so sure. In the end, I’m glad I did, and I’d do it again. Especially now. Staying in a cabin on Lake Havasu—or at one of Arizona’s other state parks—is a good option for families who want to get away but also socially distance.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.