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
Show More
Activities Photography, Running, Hiking, Fitness
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Features
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Fun, Close By Day Hike

Well maintained trail with scenic views of the Scottsdale area. Popular trail with quiet a few hikers throughout the day. Would definitely recommend.

Another Must Do Hike In Phoenix!

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!

over 1 year ago

Great trail!

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!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Nearby Adventures

More Nearby Adventures

Bike the Pemberton Loop in McDowell Mountain Park

This is a 15.4 mile loop that has 879 feet of elevation gain and descent. We took this trail clockwise. The trail is very well marked and maintained. It starts out flat from the parking lot.

35 Saves

Hike the Wagner Short Loop Trail

Take the Wagner Short Loop Trail for an easy, family friendly loop in McDowell Mountain Park. In the spring, this desert trail takes you through landscapes dotted with wildflowers.

42 Saves

Hike Pinnacle Peak

Pinnacle Peak is a 3.5 mile out-and-back hike along a beautifully groomed trail with a moderate gain of ~1300ft.

556 Saves