Tom’s Thumb

October 5th, 2019

Length: 4 miles

Route Type: Out & Back

Elevation Gain: 1,236 ft

Dog Friendly: Yes

Fee: No

Restrooms at trailhead: Yes


*It is open from sunrise to sunset. There is an access gate that opens and closes based on the changing day length throughout the year*

Tom’s Thumb is located in North Scottsdale and is part of the Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. It is pretty easy to get to from any point in the valley using either Apple Maps or Google Maps. Once you get close to get to the trailhead you need to turn onto Ranch Gate Road from Happy Valley Road. It is important to note that there is a gate that will close at sunset. So you won’t be able to get in after sunset, but you are able to get out. One time I hiked Tom’s Thumb we hiked to see the sunset at the top and by the time we got down it was dark. Obviously the gate was closed, but it did open up for us to get out. But it won’t open up for you to get in.


Tom’s Thumb is an out & back trail located in North Scottsdale. You start at Tom’s Thumb Trailhead and hike up to Tom’s Thumb spur at the intersection of the Windgate Trail. This trail is rated as difficult on All Trails. This trail is a steady incline for the entire hike and it includes a lot of switch backs. Eventually the switchbacks stop and you think you are there, but then it takes you down a long path. At this point there isn’t any incline and you are actually going down a little bit, but then it takes you around and you start to head back up. At this point you are close to the thumb! If you are hiking during warmer weather be cautious of rattle snakes and other reptiles. While we were hiking we saw a rattle snake crossing the path. This trail is clearly marked with signage so it is really easy to follow. It offers amazing views of the southern McDowell mountains and the valley. There are also unique rock structures and large boulders.

Depending on the time of year you hike the weather can vary. I’ve hiked it in December and October and the weather can be completely different. When I hiked it in December it didn’t start off cold, but by the time we approached the top I was freezing and it was really windy. We started the hike around 4:00pm, to catch the sunset on the top. It was absolutely beautiful. But like I said it was pretty cold on top. There also weren’t a lot of other people on the trail at this point anymore. This was the first time I hiked Tom’s Thumb and I found it hard at first to figure out how to get to the Thumb. There is signage at the top, but it is hard to tell exactly where you go, especially since there weren’t other people to follow. In order to get to Tom’s Thumb you need to climb over some rocks. Nothing too crazy, but it’s get to know just incase you don’t know where to go. If you are hiking to see the sunset you need to bring some type of light. Either a head lamp or a flashlight because it does get very dark. Tom’s Thumb was the first hard hike I did in the valley when I after moved to Phoenix in October of 2018. It was this hike that inspired me to get into shape and ever since I have been active. When I hiked Tom’s Thumb in October there was a lot more people on the trail. We started this hike super early. We were at the trailhead by 7:30am. I started this hike with a light jacket, but ended up taking it off because it did start to get warm out. I would recommend to wear proper hiking shoes. On the way down it is very steep and you can easily slip and fall. The first time I hiked this I was just wearing regular tennis shoes and I slipped several times on my way down. Overall, this hike is a great leg and butt workout! There is a reason why this hike is so popular throughout the valley. DON’T FORGET TO BRING WATER. Always bring more water than you think you will need.

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