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Tom's Thumb

Phoenix Metro Area, Arizona

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Tom's Thumb

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  • The entrance sign at the end of the paved road leading to Tom's Thumb Trailhead.- Tom's Thumb
  • The rustic covered breezeway of the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoram Preserve at the Tom's Thumb Trailhead.- Tom's Thumb
  • Access to multiple rock climbing areas off of the Tom's Thumb Trail.- Tom's Thumb
  • Scenic viewpoint after the first few switchbacks overlooking the MdDowell Mountains and surrounding desert area.- Tom's Thumb
  • View toward the top of the initial ascent up a number of switchbacks.- Tom's Thumb
  • Scenic viewpoint after the first few switchbacks overlooking the MdDowell Mountains and surrounding desert area.- Tom's Thumb
  • Watch out for cactus hiding on the edge of the smooth trail.- Tom's Thumb
  • Looking out from the ridge after the initial ascent.- Tom's Thumb
  • Giant cacti are peppered throughout the landscape.- Tom's Thumb
  • Make sure you don't miss this turn for Tom's Thumb. At first look it appears to be a route specifically for climbers.- Tom's Thumb
  • Desert cactus flora at Tom's Thumb.- Tom's Thumb
  • The view from Tom's Thumb looking back at the trail.- Tom's Thumb
  • The prolific granite slab of rock that is Tom's Thumb.- Tom's Thumb
  • The rolling hills of enormous boulders are the highlight of this hike.- Tom's Thumb
  • Desert cactus flora.- Tom's Thumb
  • The rolling hills of enormous boulders are the highlight of this hike.- Tom's Thumb
  • A nest bravely constructed in the middle of a desert cactus.- Tom's Thumb
  • Desert cactus flora.- Tom's Thumb
  • Wandering through the large boulder fields will make you feel like you're on Mars.- Tom's Thumb
  • Amazing views of the desert await you on your hike back to the trailhead.- Tom's Thumb
  • Flowering yucca along the hike to Tom's Thumb.- Tom's Thumb
  • Emory's globemallow along the hike to Tom's Thumb.- Tom's Thumb
  • Desert bahia long the hike to Tom's Thumb.- Tom's Thumb
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- Tom's Thumb
  • Boyce Thompson hedgehog along the hike to Tom's Thumb.- Tom's Thumb
  • Looking out from the Tom's Thumb Trailhead.- Tom's Thumb
  • - Tom's Thumb
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Paved road to the trailhead. Plenty of parking. Great views.
Cons: 
Heavily trafficked. No water. Requires some easy scrambling.
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Region:
Phoenix Metro Area, AZ
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
3,793.00 ft (1,156.11 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Biking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
4.30 mi (6.92 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,792.00 ft (851.00 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

Tom’s Thumb is a heavily trafficked local favorite hike located within the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona, that is accessible between sunrise and sunset.

The Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve was established in 1990 to protect the McDowell Mountains as well as the surrounding 34,000 acres of desert and provide public recreational opportunities for horseback riding, hiking, biking, and rock climbing. The preserve is owned and operated by the City of Scottsdale in partnership with the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.

The Preserve’s rustic breezeway at the parking lot offers rock climbing rules and regulations, detailed trail maps, information regarding local flora and fauna, and a history of mountain formations during the Volcanic Era. There are nice restrooms at the trailhead, but be aware that this is absolutely no running water here, so be prepared!

This moderate hike is relatively flat for the first half mile before starting a steady climb of steep switchbacks. Throughout the next 0.75 miles up you’ll notice a few short hills leading to scenic viewing points overlooking the McDowell Mountains and surrounding desert space.

The hike levels out after the initial steep ascent up the ridge. You'll then hike through rolling hills of enormous boulders and cacti while passing many of the turnouts for rock climbing areas. No question, this is the most beautiful and scenic part of the hike as navigate through car-sized boulders and often feel like you’re on another planet.

The hike is smooth and well marked; however, the sign for the turnout to Tom’s Thumb is somewhat confusing. Be aware that the sign leading to Tom’s Thumb is labeled as a “Rock Climbing Access Route” for Tom’s Thumb and Gardener’s Wall, implying that it is a route intended just for climbers. There were more than a few hikers that confusedly continued past the sign.

From the Tom’s Thumb and Gardener’s Wall sign the route isn’t well-marked but is still easy to follow. By now you’ll clearly see the giant granite slab that is Tom’s Thumb; you just need to keep hiking up toward it. Take note that there are a few spots that require some agility and light scrambling. Kids should have some fun with this part and anyone should be able to make it with some assistance.

You’ll soon reach the prolific granite slab that is Tom’s Thumb. Pull out your snack and water and take a load off while enjoying the sights and sounds before heading back down.

The north side of Tom’s Thumb may be closed to protect local falcons nesting in the areas, and signs advise all visitors to keep their voices down to avoid disturbing them.

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Updates, Tips + Comments

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Location + Directions

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(7 within a 30 mile radius)

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