Hike Tom's Thumb



4 miles

Elevation Gain

1236 ft

Route Type


Added by Kevin Kaminski

Fun day hike with great summit views near Scottsdale.

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. 

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Know for

Easy Parking
Family Friendly



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🥇Top Contributor

8 months ago

Fun Hike

This is an easy hike close to the city that takes you to Tom's Thumb. It's family friendly and great for all skill levels

🥇Top Contributor

9 months ago

Love this hike in the fall/winter...

This hike is incredibly beautiful, with lots of unique rock features. But know that the incline will have your legs screaming (and I'm in pretty decent shape). But the views are 100% worth the challenge. Be smart - bring more water than you think you need, snacks and leave no trace! There's restrooms at the trailhead, and remember that the parking lot gate is locked at sunrise/sunset (check the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy website for exact times).


🥇Top Contributor

over 2 years ago

Great Hike

Perfect beginner hike for those wanting an easy escape from the city, with some epic views.

over 2 years ago

Fantastic Hike, Great Views, Quality Challenge.

I hiked from the Scottsdale Trailhead to the Gateway Trailhead to train for the Grand Canyon. It is quite the incline going up, but the views and scenery make it absolutely worth it! If you stop when you turn from hiking south to west at the top and look at the view, you can sometimes spot the fountain going off in Fountain Hills! Bring lots of water and snacks. Take breaks on the steep inclines. I did see a desert tortoise once right by the Fountain lookout. Beautiful hike for sure.


about 4 years ago

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.

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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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