Tom’s Thumb was one of the first hikes Case and I did when we got to Arizona for Spring Training. We had tackled Camelback when we lived in Mesa a few years ago, but I was pretty set on expanding my hiking horizons this time around.
I did some research and kept hearing about the beautiful McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The preserve is home to several different hikes, but the most talked about one is hands down the Tom’s Thumb trail.This hike is pretty heavily trafficked (especially on the weekends!) so the trail is wide, smooth, and has great signage. One of my favorite things about this hike is that you don’t have to wait to get to the top for the great views. You’ll be spotting beautiful rock formations throughout the entire climb.
The first half mile of the trail is pretty tame, but things pick up quickly after that. We got about half way up the mountain and I was almost certain I was done and wanted to turn around. The elevation gain is no joke in this part of the trail. If you can, forge on, because the last 1/3 of the trail is actually quite easy.
You’ll be nearly at the top of the hike, when you have to kind of shimmy through a few large boulders before you see the famous Thumb at the top of the trail. I was legit so proud of myself for completing this hike. It was our first hike when we got to AZ, and in retrospect I probably should have started with something easier. Oh well!
In all honesty, I liked this hike a lot more than Camelback. Mostly because while Camelback features very cool views of the Phoenix and Scottsdale area, this hike features views of a lot of untouched nature. Personally if I’m going to hike, I want to spend some time in nature, not get a view of the city and it’s sprawling metropolis. Just my opinion.
Other things to know:
- The Tom’s Thumb Trail head is located at: 23015 N. 128th St. Scottsdale, AZ 85255. It is beautiful and pretty new (built in 2012). It has lots of parking, bathrooms, shade, and trail maps. It does not have water. I repeat, it does not have water. Make sure you have all the water you’ll need for your hike before you get to the trailhead
- There is no cost to get into the Preserve, and you do not need to pay to park. YAY!
- This trail is rated moderate to hard (depending on where you’re getting your info).
- Dogs are welcome on the trail, but must be leashed, and of course, you need to pick up their poop.
- The trail is an out and back trail, and is just over 4 miles long in total with an elevation gain of over 1200 feet.
- As I mentioned before: the first 1/3 of the hike is easy. The second 1/3 is absolutely brutal. The last 1/3 is pretty easy.
- NOTE: The photos in this post have been edited. Most importantly, people have been edited out of them. From the looks of these pics it probably seems like we were the only people on this entire trail. That’s definitely false. I’ll say it again: this hike is heavily trafficked, especially during the weekends.