The quiet town of San Carlos is the largest settlement in the 1.8 million acre San Carlos Indian Reservation, which adjoins Fort Apache Indian Reservation in east central Arizona. Although close to the main travel route US 70, the town lies along a side road a few miles north, beside the San Carlos River, so receives little non-reservation traffic. A supermarket (Basha's) and the local high school are both on US 70, as is the only hotel in the area, beside Apache Gold Casino, a location closer to the nearby Globe (8 miles) than to San Carlos (13 miles).
San Carlos Lake is located 10 miles south of US 70; a reservoir on the Gila River, which when full is popular for boating, fishing and beach activities, though in recent years water levels have declined.
Following the 2014 change in management of the Best Western Apache Gold Hotel, there are currently no chain hotels in San Carlos.