Just eighteen miles north of Fountain Hills is a hidden place to play near the Verde River. Needle Rock Recreation Site is a popular water recreation area that attracts many people trying to escape the heat.
Entering Needle Rock requires a Tonto Pass. This can be purchased at a kiosk at the entrance to the area, or at any gas station or Safeway in Fountain Hills. The short road into the park is narrow and twisty, but well-maintained. The drive is scenic, offering beautiful vistas of the lush desert landscape and the Mazatzal Mountains, Four Peaks, and the Superstitions.
There are three main areas where you can park for recreation and relaxation. The first is a walk-in site with vault restrooms and picnic tables tucked under towering shade trees. Keep following the trail and listen for the sounds of the river below.
The second site offers more parking, vault restrooms, and several ramada picnic areas. These are large enough for group gatherings and have grills and trash service (no drinking water available). The ramadas are tucked into the edges of the riparian area. This unique, biological riparian preserve has a stand of enormous mesquite trees. Bald eagles and great blue herons are frequently seen in this area.
Past this site, the paved road ends. It’s just a short drive over a hill on a rocky dirt road to reach the main recreation area for water and off-road activities. There is a river access point here for kayaks (no motorboats allowed) and plenty of trails for ATVs and ATCs. Please be sure to observe all posted off-road rules to preserve our natural desert.
For fishing enthusiasts, the Verde River offers rainbow trout, large and smallmouth bass, sunfish, and channel and flathead catfish.
The beach on the Verde River is generally rocky but the water is refreshing. The area is noted for its unusual rock formations that provide a spectacular backdrop for your time in the river.
Whether you want to play in the water, blaze across the desert trails, or enjoy a picnic in nature, Needle Rock is a fun gem in the Tonto National Forest.