• Activities:

    Photography, Running, Hiking, Fitness

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Year Round

Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic

Fun day hike. Rock formations. Great summit views. Great trail run. 4.2 miles roundtrip. Elevation Gain: ~1,000 feet.

Tom’s Thumb is a super fun, popular hike in the Scottsdale McDowell Mountain Sonoran Preserve. The infamous “thumb” can be seen from most places in the valley – a white burst of rock jutting skyward out of the desert ridgeline.  

The new Tom’s Thumb Trailhead in 2012 has nice restrooms and offers tons of information about the surrounding rock climbing areas, day hikes and desert knowledge about the flora and fauna. Since this area is a bit removed from the city, you are likely to find some fellow wildlife on your travel (lots of bees and rattlers depending on time of year). The only thing this trailhead doesn’t have is water, so make sure to bring plenty.

Starting out on the valley floor, the trail climbs at a low steady grade to the ridge line along a well maintained, smooth gravel trail.  Just over the ridge, the landscape starts to fill with house-sized boulders and takes on an almost moon-like landscape. Follow the well marked signs toward Tom’s Thumb. Take notes of the passing signs directing you to off-shoot trails and rock climbing areas to plan out your next adventure here. After just under two miles of hiking you will reach the signed junction for the East End Trail and the base of Tom’s Thumb. Make a right and head towards the summit.  

This final section of the trail is not as well marked and will require a bit of scrambling, but the trail is still easy to follow – just head towards the largest rock you see!  Once to the top, you are finally greeted by the giant granite tower that is Tom’s Thumb.  The summit area is riddled with small alcoves and caves to explore – take the challenge and see if you can find Oger's Den! This is a great spot to grab your camera and snap some pics of all the rock formations, rest and refuel.  This is a straight-forward out-and-back trail, for a total of approximately 4.2 miles round trip with about a 1,000 foot elevation gain. 

Pack List

  • Plenty of water 3L
  • Hat
  • sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks/Lunch
  • Camera
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Well maintained trail with scenic views of the Scottsdale area. Popular trail with quiet a few hikers throughout the day. Would definitely recommend.

11 months ago
11 months ago

Finally did this hike for the first time after living in Phoenix for 3 years! It's definitely one of those short, must do Phoenix hikes that always has people on it! But the views are beautiful and short but steep hikes are always a good start to the day!

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Hiked in early December and the weather was perfect. The trail is extremely well maintained and views of the area were superb. You can hike it fast or slow... either way you might have some trouble deducting which rock is actually "Tom's Thumb" which is all part of the fun!

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

I completed this trail in the middle of summer (July) and survived. I imagine it's much much better in winter, but I still thought it was amazing regardless of the heat! Lots of great views and Tom's Thumb at the top is a pretty cool site - makes the hike worth it! Cool cacti on the way up, great rock formations, and cool cliffs. I'll be back in the winter as well when I'm sure it's much better!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Those that know Tom Thumb more intimately are able to visit the Ogre's Den and the Miner's Cave! Great hike!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Great place to hike and to photograph.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

I love how the landscape changes about three quarters of the way through the hike. You'll enter a moon like landscape with huge boulders just before reaching the summit. The trail is very well-maintained and can be used for trail running if your a boss. Keep an eye out for bees and rattlesnakes in the warmer months

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

My girlfriend and I hike this trail constantly and we love it! There are so many places to explore and some great rock climbing options as well. We love going to the Oger's Den and the Miner's Cave! The great thing I really enjoy about the McDowell Mountain Preserve is the trail choices, there is always something for everyone. We have seen Family's, Athletes, Kids, Elderly, and all sorts of people in-between hiking to the Thumb. It is so cool how there are areas to mountain bike, rock climb, go horseback riding, and so much more! One of our upcoming trips is the Tom's Thumb Trail head to the other side of the Preserve, it is over 10 miles of hiking!!!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Kevin Kaminski Explorer

My goal is to build a life I don’t need a vacation from! I'm an Architecture Photographer based in Phoenix, and my current job takes me around the world to photograph hotels & resorts. My real passion, however, is outdoor recreation and adventure photography.

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