San Carlos Lake lies within the 3,000 square mile San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, the second largest in the state (after the Navajo) and so is subject to tribal regulations - a permit is required for all hiking, fishing, camping and off-highway driving. It is close to US 70, a main route between Phoenix and Lordsburg, NM, and is reached by IR 3 which loops around the south side, over the dam then north towards the capital town of San Carlos.
Much of the land bordering the north and east shores is dusty, featureless and rather flat - gently undulating mounds with palo verde trees, assorted bushes and scattered, often somewhat unhealthy-looking saguaro, amongst which run numerous dry sandy washes. Many dirt tracks criss-cross the arid landscape, leading eventually to beaches and promontories right next to the shoreline - nice places to camp or spend a hot summers day by the water. The beaches are mostly stony, some with an interesting mixture of multi-colored pebbles but some have sand, the gradient is often quite gentle and the water is warm. The one drawback seems to be the amount of litter - often a problem with sites nearer Phoenix with easier access such as Lake Pleasant
and Saguaro Lake this is unfortunately also often associated with the Indian Reservations.